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2019 Amu Memorial Lecture Abstract

Re-imagining Us: The Role of Popular Music in Self-Actualization


To find our social bearing we need a cultural compass. In this keynote, I explore the importance of popular music in how we see ourselves. Additionally, I examine self-actualization as an important factor in this conversation. How does our ability to act on an understanding that how we know and see ourselves is critical in shaping behaviour move us forward as individuals and as a collective? 

In this era of the millennial, I assert that popular music is one of the most significant influencers in shaping the thinking and behavior of young people. It is used as a stimulant in consumer culture, politics, and religion, and therefore the remarkable power it wields is clear. 

In tandem with this is how popular music is shaping the relationship between Africans at home and in the diaspora. In the last decade alone, we’ve seen the emergence of homegrown popular music forms having a wide-reaching impact in Western countries with a sizeable African diaspora population. Through this wave, currently culminating in the Afrobeats movement, there has been a shift in how diaspora Africans self-identify. A cursory look at some of the U.K’s biggest music stars reveals a burgeoning citizenry that is unafraid to speak of themselves as British and African. This lends itself to what Dr. Ephraim Amu espoused – how we see ourselves affects how we act and develop.

Contemporary musicians on the continent and in the diaspora, having laid claim to their roots, are shifting the gaze of aspiration from a western prism to an African one. In the ’60s, during the wave of African independence, the African identity was linked to political ideology and today we are seeing a more fluid and multidimensional framing of what it means to be from and of the African continent and music is at the center of this discourse.

In this keynote, my aim is to further the conversation on the importance of popular music in the self-actualization agenda. To center popular music with intention and outline the socio-cultural power that comes with the music.