Tony PermanJul 15, 2022
Signs of the Spirit
Music and the Experience of Meaning in Ndau Ceremonial Life
University of Illinois Press 2020
In 2005, Tony Perman attended a ceremony alongside the living and the dead. His visit to a Zimbabwe farm brought him into contact with the madhlozi, outsider spirits that Ndau people rely upon for guidance, protection, and their collective prosperity.
Perman's encounters with the spirits, the mediums who bring them back, and the accompanying rituals form the heart of his ethnographic account of how the Ndau experience ceremonial musicking. As Perman witnessed other ceremonies, he discovered that music and dancing shape the emotional lives of Ndau individuals by inviting them to experience life's milestones or cope with its misfortunes as a group. Signs of the Spirit: Music and the Experience of Meaning in Ndau Ceremonial Life (U Illinois Press, 2020) explores the historical, spiritual, and social roots of ceremonial action and details how that action influences the Ndau's collective approach to their future. The result is a vivid ethnomusicological journey that delves into the immediacy of musical experience and the forces that transform ceremonial performance into emotions and community.
Tony Perman is an associate professor music at Grinnell College.
Marshall Poe is the founder and editor of the New Books Network. He can be reached at email@example.com.