Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationPennsylvania, U. of
Grant numberGr. 9893
Approve DateOctober 25, 2019
Project TitleBrody, Bina (Pennsylvania, U. of) "Competing voices: Subversive songs and the unraveling of traditional gender hierarchies in Senegalese wrestling competitions"
BINA BRODY, then a graduate student at University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, received a grant in October 2019 to aid research on ‘ Competing Voices: Subversive Songs and the Unraveling of Traditional Gender Hierarchies in Senegalese Wrestling Competitions,’ supervised by Dr. Asif Agha. This project studies the interrelation of language and music in Senegal’s national wrestling competitions, asking how performers employ music creatively to comment on social transformations and shifting gender norms in the country. To answer this question, three musical/performative practices have been explored, that form the core of wrestling music: Sabar drumming, singing, and self-praise poetry. Fieldwork among musicians and wrestlers has uncovered processes of erosion in musical repertoires, alongside substantial simplification of song texts. At the same time, new performative practices are emerging, such as dance choreographies and complex rhythmic compositions. This research argues that changing musical practices in L’mb are emblematic of greater societal shifts in Senegal. The emphasis on spectacle and simplification of the musical repertoire are tied to the recent commercialization of the sport; the transition from localized practices to a homogenous, professional industry reflects attempts to formulate a unified national narrative. Furthermore, this project seeks to situate the sport within contemporary debates about gender roles. It shows how performative strategies of singers and wrestlers promote conceptual shifts regarding gender. Finally, it argues that the ‘playful’ discourse in L’mb music has become a productive site for exploring traditional gender roles, commenting on them, and at times unsettling them.