“Moorman’s incisive study argues that the medium of radio is central to the history of human actors, political movements, wars, as well as the struggle for and the exercise of power in southern Africa. Yet radio has not heretofore been an object of systematic analysis in connection to Angola. Following her groundbreaking Intonations, Moorman once again proves herself to be one of the leading scholars on this key southern African nation.”
Fernando Arenas, author of Lusophone Africa: Beyond Independence
Powerful Frequencies details the central role that radio technology and broadcasting played in the formation of colonial Portuguese Southern Africa and the postcolonial nation-state, Angola. In Intonations, Marissa J. Moorman examined the crucial relationship between music and Angolan independence during the 1960s and ’70s. Now, Moorman turns to the history of Angolan radio as an instrument for Portuguese settlers, the colonial state, African nationalists, and the postcolonial state. They all used radio to project power, while the latter employed it to challenge empire.
From the 1930s introduction of radio by settlers, to the clandestine broadcasts of guerrilla groups, to radio’s use in the Portuguese counterinsurgency strategy during the Cold War era and in developing the independent state’s national and regional voice, Powerful Frequencies narrates a history of canny listeners, committed professionals, and dissenting political movements. All of these employed radio’s peculiarities—invisibility, ephemerality, and its material effects—to transgress social, political, “physical,” and intellectual borders. Powerful Frequencies follows radio’s traces in film, literature, and music to illustrate how the technology’s sonic power—even when it made some listeners anxious and frightened—created and transformed the late colonial and independent Angolan soundscape.
Marissa J. Moorman is associate professor of African history and cinema and media studies at Indiana University. She is the author of Intonations: A Social History of Music and Nation in Luanda, Angola, 1945 to Recent Times. She is on the editorial board of Africa Is a Country, where she regularly writes about politics and culture. More info →
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Intonations tells the story of how Angola’s urban residents in the late colonial period (roughly 1945–74) used music to talk back to their colonial oppressors and, more importantly, to define what it meant to be Angolan and what they hoped to gain from independence. A compilation of Angolan music is included in CD format. Marissa J. Moorman presents a social and cultural history of the relationship between Angolan culture and politics.
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