Since returning to Kigoma, Tanzania on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in central Africa for my Fulbright research, I have been looking for two of my Congolese friends. I was told that they crossed the Lake, and returned to two of the cities in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo to live– to be together with their family and relatives.
People should not be reduced only to suffering, and narratives only to exodus, which I recognized in my anthropology classes at California State University, Chico. Nevertheless, many popular media narratives, especially those coming from the West, reduce Congolese in eastern Congo only to victims, without agency or the power of creation. Still border areas are not like the interior or coastal areas of nations. Even in the grievous violence and fear and Ebola, the people and the stories coming from DR Congo are much more complicated, or as the Congolese will say in French, compliqué.
Often, at the heart of this compliqué and tenacity, are the music and songs in all their places, and in all their forms. This is where my Fulbright research about Congolese music traditions will hopefully take place.
One sister with her boyfriend at a club in Goma, tells NPR journalist Eyder Peralta, “Rumba is good, even through war, through Ebola. Rumba is still there, and Congolese keep living.” Read or listen to the story here at NPR.org.
Christina Lauren Quigley is a vlogger at Laurelin the Other and review editor and web developer of Ethnography.com. Christina is a 2019-2020 Fulbright Research Alumna and Ethnography.com’s latest author. She began working and writing as an ethnographer–anthropologist in the mountains of northern California as an activist alongside Native American Mountain Maidu communities. Christina has also been known to work for minimum wage in America, selling booze to ordinary Americans at a neighborhood liquor store to further study cultural transmission of Americans’ methods of coping and wellness through alcohol and illegal drugs.
Christina has since fallen under the influence of Congolese rumba music, and lives at the shores of Lake Tanganyika in East Africa to research the ways that music and song traditions diffuse from eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo to Tanzania. As modern Congolese music traditions move across the Tanzania-Congo border, refugees and migrants from DR Congo are charismatic masters of their own musical heritage within the African continent. In-country and abroad, Congolese rely on nightlife music transfigured into religious settings. Christina is a Swahili speaker and postgraduate (MA) in music and anthropology at the University of Dar es Salaam.