Rumba under fire: Music as morale and morality in music at the frontlines of the Congo

Verweijen, Judith (2016) Rumba under fire: Music as morale and morality in music at the frontlines of the Congo. In: Dumitrescu, Irina (ed.) Rumba under fire. The arts of survival from West Point to Delhi. Punctum Books, pp. 201-230. ISBN 9780692655832

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The lower ranks of the armed forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo are among the poorer segments of Congolese society. Small radios and mobile phones, allowing them to listen to music, figure among their most important personal belongings. What songs do these troops listen to? What lyrics of the rumba most resonate among them and why? Exploring both soldiers’ narratives on music and the lyrics of their favored songs, this contribution shows that music does not only figure as a fleeting opportunity to hold on to humanity/humanities amidst the dehumanizing conditions of Congolese army life, but also provides a stock of tropes to think about notions of good and bad, success and failure, in a morally convoluted universe. Music at the frontlines is at once a palliative for and a painful reminder of permanent loss, which both alleviates and incites, seduces and cures. As such, its effects on soldiering are as ambiguous as soldiering itself.

Item Type: Book Section
Schools and Departments: School of Global Studies > International Relations
Research Centres and Groups: Sussex Centre for Conflict and Security Research
Depositing User: Judith Verweijen
Date Deposited: 25 Feb 2019 14:46
Last Modified: 21 Mar 2019 16:16

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