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Dr. Andrew J. Eisenberg

Eisenberg Dr. Andrew J. Eisenberg

Short Bio

Andrew J. Eisenberg is Assistant Professor of Music at NYU Abu Dhabi. A musician and ethnographer, his research focuses on music and sound culture in urban East Africa and the Indian Ocean world. He has carried out extensive field research in the Kenyan cities of Mombasa and Nairobi, and is currently completing a monograph on music and ethnic subjectivity in Mombasa.

Selected Publications

  • Eisenberg, Andrew J. 2017. The Swahili Art of Indian Taarab: A Poetics of Vocality and Ethnicity on the Kenyan Coast. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 37, no. 2: 336-354.
  • Eisenberg, Andrew J. 2017. Taarab. In Shades of Benga: The Story of Popular Music in Kenya, ed. Ketebul Music, 287-307. Nairobi, Kenya: Ketebul Music.
  • Eisenberg, Andrew J. 2013. Islam, Sound, and Space: Acoustemology and Muslim Citizenship on the Kenyan Coast. In Music, Sound, and Space: Transformations of Public and Private Experience, ed. Georgina Born, 186-202. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Eisenberg, Andrew J. 2012. Hip-Hop and Cultural Citizenship on Kenya’s ‘Swahili Coast’. Africa 82, no. 4: 556-578.

To access the lecture by Dr. Eisenberg, please click here.


Project Description

My research project is a monograph entitled Sounds of Other Shores: The Musical Poetics of Identity on Kenya’s Swahili Coast. A work of cultural history grounded in ethnographic fieldwork and musicological analysis, the book explores the aesthetic, social, and political resonances of Arab and Indian musical expressions on the Kenyan coast between the 1930s and the first decade of the twenty-first century. Over this period, the Kenyan port city of Mombasa saw the emergence, flourishing, and decline of a popular music scene centered on a genre of instrumentally accompanied sung Swahili poetry known as taarab. I focus on a particular tendency among musicians in this scene over the years to use humor, irony, or nostalgia to draw attention to borrowed Arab or Indian sounds in their performances, and to pose questions about the particular resonances of these sounds in “Swahili” spaces and bodies. This gesture, I argue, remained meaningful for Swahili-speaking Muslim audiences over generations because of how it enabled collective exploration of the complexities of Swahili cultural identity in the Kenyan post/colony. Developing an approach to musical analysis grounded in Bakhtin’s “sociological stylistics,” I examine various iterations of the gesture over seven decades, working in each case to draw out what it reveals about local understandings of social identity and belonging on the Kenyan coast.

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