• View author and book videos on our YouTube channel.

  • Rumba Rules: The Politics of Dance Music in Mobutu’s Zaire

    Author(s):
    Pages: 328
    Illustrations: 59 photos, 3 illustrations
    Sales/Territorial Rights: World
  • Cloth: $94.95 - In Stock
    978-0-8223-4091-1
  • Paperback: $26.95 - In Stock
    978-0-8223-4112-3
  • Quantity
  • Add To Bag
  • Preface xi

    Note to the Reader xxi

    1. Popular Culture's Politics 1

    2. The Zairian Sound 27

    3. Made in Zaire 65

    4. Live Time 97

    5. Musicians and Mobility 131

    6. Live Texts 165

    7. The Political Life of Dance Bands 195

    8. In the Skin of a Chief 225

    Notes 253

    Bibliography 271

    Discography 287

    Index 289
  • Winner, 2009 Leeds Prize in Urban Anthropology from the Society for Urban, National, and Transnational/Global Anthropology (SUNTA)
    section of the American Anthropological Association.

    Winner, 2010 Joel Gregory Prize from the Canadian Association of African Studies

  • [R]umba Rules is a text that will be central to the Anthropology of African popular music and contemporary music culture in Kinshasa. . . . This was a book worth reading.”

    “[W]hite’s command of the literature and his endearing narrative lends his book a convincing air of authority as it contributes greatly to our understanding of the mutual “contamination” between music and politics.”

    Rumba Rules adds to a growing literature on the culture and politics of post-colonial African nations. . . . [An] illuminating study. . . .”

    “[White’s] intense focus on a particular epoch in Congolese history in no way detracts from the relevance of his topic to broader implications within Africanist scholarship and within the larger fields of ethnomusicology, cultural studies, and political science. Rather, such a tight focus provides the reader with both a sense of actual events and the ability to extrapolate from those events, based on the theoretical framework which the author provides.”

    “Although White’s book is about music (the music industry, the activities and lifestyle of musicians, and the audience), the study’s most important contribution is in the realm of politics. . . . Bob White has produced a powerfully insightful study of the dynamic relationship between charismatic leaders and their dependents.”

    “Despite Congolese rumba’s status as the continent’s premiere music, it has been woefully understudied, as White points out. But Rumba Rules does much more than fill a gap in the literature. It builds on and advances the study of popular cultural practices on the African continent. . .”

    “If you’re at all doubtful about whether music can illuminate politics, this book is a good place to start. White writes engagingly, with plenty of personal anecdotes and almost no jargon. . . . He confines his theorizing to a few brisk, cogent pages per chapter and omits the name-dropping, leaden quotes that exhaust so many ethnographies. Yet he manages to trace multiple ways in which politics and music intersect, and to deepen our understanding of both the music and the politics.”

    “Other books have provided a greater insight into the functioning of musical patronage under Mobutu, but the strength of [Rumba Rules] is that it captures the voice of the musicians themselves.”

    “What an enchanting ethnographic study! This book deserves to be widely read. . . . [M]y comments on this book are based on my understanding of its significance in terms of the contribution it makes to debates within the field of cultural anthropology, in particular the anthropology of performance, the anthropological study of music, political anthropology and the anthropology of popular culture. . . . It was indeed a joy to read. Right now I am going to go out to buy a Congolese music CD to dance to!”

    Rumba Rules: The Politics of Dance Music in Mobutu’s Zaire by Bob W. White should be a welcome addition to the library of any fan of Congolese music. This book has descriptive passages that give a delicious insight into the everyday workings of a modern Kinshasa orchestre. Furthermore there is some fascinating information and research that helps explain how Congolese music sits within the national culture and everyday social life of the Congolese people. The book can be justifiably described as an essential read for anyone wishing to gain an extended appreciation of the Congo, its politics and its quirky obsession with music.”

    “[A] pioneering study of its subject.”

    “[A]n important source of information about one of the most celebrated genres of dance music in Africa. Highly recommended.”

    Awards

  • Winner, 2009 Leeds Prize in Urban Anthropology from the Society for Urban, National, and Transnational/Global Anthropology (SUNTA)
    section of the American Anthropological Association.

    Winner, 2010 Joel Gregory Prize from the Canadian Association of African Studies

  • Reviews

  • [R]umba Rules is a text that will be central to the Anthropology of African popular music and contemporary music culture in Kinshasa. . . . This was a book worth reading.”

    “[W]hite’s command of the literature and his endearing narrative lends his book a convincing air of authority as it contributes greatly to our understanding of the mutual “contamination” between music and politics.”

    Rumba Rules adds to a growing literature on the culture and politics of post-colonial African nations. . . . [An] illuminating study. . . .”

    “[White’s] intense focus on a particular epoch in Congolese history in no way detracts from the relevance of his topic to broader implications within Africanist scholarship and within the larger fields of ethnomusicology, cultural studies, and political science. Rather, such a tight focus provides the reader with both a sense of actual events and the ability to extrapolate from those events, based on the theoretical framework which the author provides.”

    “Although White’s book is about music (the music industry, the activities and lifestyle of musicians, and the audience), the study’s most important contribution is in the realm of politics. . . . Bob White has produced a powerfully insightful study of the dynamic relationship between charismatic leaders and their dependents.”

    “Despite Congolese rumba’s status as the continent’s premiere music, it has been woefully understudied, as White points out. But Rumba Rules does much more than fill a gap in the literature. It builds on and advances the study of popular cultural practices on the African continent. . .”

    “If you’re at all doubtful about whether music can illuminate politics, this book is a good place to start. White writes engagingly, with plenty of personal anecdotes and almost no jargon. . . . He confines his theorizing to a few brisk, cogent pages per chapter and omits the name-dropping, leaden quotes that exhaust so many ethnographies. Yet he manages to trace multiple ways in which politics and music intersect, and to deepen our understanding of both the music and the politics.”

    “Other books have provided a greater insight into the functioning of musical patronage under Mobutu, but the strength of [Rumba Rules] is that it captures the voice of the musicians themselves.”

    “What an enchanting ethnographic study! This book deserves to be widely read. . . . [M]y comments on this book are based on my understanding of its significance in terms of the contribution it makes to debates within the field of cultural anthropology, in particular the anthropology of performance, the anthropological study of music, political anthropology and the anthropology of popular culture. . . . It was indeed a joy to read. Right now I am going to go out to buy a Congolese music CD to dance to!”

    Rumba Rules: The Politics of Dance Music in Mobutu’s Zaire by Bob W. White should be a welcome addition to the library of any fan of Congolese music. This book has descriptive passages that give a delicious insight into the everyday workings of a modern Kinshasa orchestre. Furthermore there is some fascinating information and research that helps explain how Congolese music sits within the national culture and everyday social life of the Congolese people. The book can be justifiably described as an essential read for anyone wishing to gain an extended appreciation of the Congo, its politics and its quirky obsession with music.”

    “[A] pioneering study of its subject.”

    “[A]n important source of information about one of the most celebrated genres of dance music in Africa. Highly recommended.”

  • Rumba Rules is a really exciting book, definitely worthy of the ‘groundbreaking’ and ‘sorely needed’ labels it is bound to attract. It is full of the basics and the nuances; deeply informative about a place, a scene, a local history, and lived realities; and deeply accountable to debates and discussions about how popular culture encodes a feeling of and for modernity.” — Steven Feld, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology and Music, University of New Mexico

    Rumba Rules ties dance music to dictatorship, band leaders to politicians, in ways that are sensitive to the struggles of Congolese musicians and their fans in Kinshasa. Bob W. White neither diminishes the artistry and entertainment value of musical performances nor over-determines their role in political culture. This is a book that finely theorizes the relationship between aesthetics and political culture through vivid and often amusing storytelling.” — Louise Meintjes, author of Sound of Africa! Making Music Zulu in a South African Studio

    “What began with an extraordinary feat of immersion into Kinshasa’s music scene toward the end of Mobutu’s regime has been honed and crafted into a study of Congolese popular culture and politics that is bound to become a classic. A feat of ethnography and a much-needed ray of hope in these messy and tragic times.” — Johannes Fabian, author of Memory against Culture: Arguments and Reminders

  • Permission to Photocopy (coursepacks)

    If you are requesting permission to photocopy material for classroom use, please contact the Copyright Clearance Center at copyright.com;

    If the Copyright Clearance Center cannot grant permission, you may request permission from our Copyrights & Permissions Manager (use Contact Information listed below).

    Permission to Reprint

    If you are requesting permission to reprint DUP material (journal or book selection) in another book or in any other format, contact our Copyrights & Permissions Manager (use Contact Information listed below).

    Images/Art

    Many images/art used in material copyrighted by Duke University Press are controlled, not by the Press, but by the owner of the image. Please check the credit line adjacent to the illustration, as well as the front and back matter of the book for a list of credits. You must obtain permission directly from the owner of the image. Occasionally, Duke University Press controls the rights to maps or other drawings. Please direct permission requests for these images to permissions@dukeupress.edu.
    For book covers to accompany reviews, please contact the publicity department.

    Subsidiary Rights/Foreign Translations

    If you're interested in a Duke University Press book for subsidiary rights/translations, please contact permissions@dukeupress.edu. Include the book title/author, rights sought, and estimated print run.

    Disability Requests

    Instructions for requesting an electronic text on behalf of a student with disabilities are available here.

    Rights & Permissions Contact Information

    Email: permissions@dukeupress.edu
    Email contact for coursepacks: asstpermissions@dukeupress.edu
    Fax: 919-688-4574
    Mail:
    Duke University Press
    Rights and Permissions
    905 W. Main Street
    Suite 18B
    Durham, NC 27701

    For all requests please include:
    1. Author's name. If book has an editor that is different from the article author, include editor's name also.
    2. Title of the journal article or book chapter and title of journal or title of book
    3. Page numbers (if excerpting, provide specifics)
    For coursepacks, please also note: The number of copies requested, the school and professor requesting
    For reprints and subsidiary rights, please also note: Your volume title, publication date, publisher, print run, page count, rights sought
  • Description

    Mobutu Sese Seko, who ruled Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo) from 1965 until 1997, was fond of saying “happy are those who sing and dance,” and his regime energetically promoted the notion of culture as a national resource. During this period Zairian popular dance music (often referred to as la rumba zaïroise) became a sort of musica franca in many parts of sub-Saharan Africa. But how did this privileged form of cultural expression, one primarily known for a sound of sweetness and joy, flourish under one of the continent’s most brutal authoritarian regimes? In Rumba Rules, the first ethnography of popular music in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bob W. White examines not only the economic and political conditions that brought this powerful music industry to its knees, but also the ways that popular musicians sought to remain socially relevant in a time of increasing insecurity.

    Drawing partly on his experiences as a member of a local dance band in the country’s capital city Kinshasa, White offers extraordinarily vivid accounts of the live music scene, including the relatively recent phenomenon of libanga, which involves shouting the names of wealthy or powerful people during performances in exchange for financial support or protection. With dynamic descriptions of how bands practiced, performed, and splintered, White highlights how the ways that power was sought and understood in Kinshasa’s popular music scene mirrored the charismatic authoritarianism of Mobutu’s rule. In Rumba Rules, Congolese speak candidly about political leadership, social mobility, and what it meant to be a bon chef (good leader) in Mobutu’s Zaire.

    About The Author(s)

    Bob W. White is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Montreal.

Spring 2017
Explore More
Share

Create a reading list or add to an existing list. Sign-in or register now to continue.


Contact Us

  • Duke University Press
  • 905 W. Main St. Ste 18-B
  • Durham, NC 27701
  • U.S. phone (toll-free): 888-651-0122
  • International: 1-919-688-5134
  • orders@dukeupress.edu