Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Communication and Information

Major Professor

Benjamin Bates

Committee Members

John Shefner, Bharat Mehra, Robert Sundasky


Historically, traditional music in Africa was attributed to the collective society and not to individual musicians. Given the changing socioeconomic, cultural and political environments prevalent in most African societies, collective ethos are increasingly problematic to the very survival of expressive cultures like music. Individual musicians cannot effectively live off the traditional music they make without offending their traditional societies. Without meaningful incomes from traditional music, musicians cannot contribute to traditional music because it is difficult in a collectivist environment to exploit the opportunities of the global intellectual property regimes. This situation is likely to undermine the future of traditional expressive cultures. Given the problematic nature of the collective ownership of music, this study examined the perspectives of traditional musicians towards ownership of traditional music in Uganda in light of the changing socioeconomic, cultural and political environments. The study framed the collective approach to ownership of traditional music as problematic to musicians. Three central questions were examined: What are the traditional musician’s life experiences and work environments in Uganda’s current socioeconomic and cultural environment? What are the perceptions of Uganda’s traditional musicians towards ownership of creative works or expressions? How do musicians’ life experiences and work environments shape their perceptions and construction of ownership of creative expressions? The study employed a critical cultural analytical and theoretical framework to question the value of collectivism that requires musicians to live by an increasingly misplaced cultural practice. Qualitative data was collected using a phenomenological tools and procedures to capture musicians‘ life experiences and impact of those experiences on their views on ownership of traditional music. Nine individual and two group interviews were collected over a period of one month in two regions in Uganda, Busoga and Buganda. It was established that the current socioeconomic environment calls for a break from, or flexibility in, certain traditional views and approaches to traditional music. Specific legal remedies were recommended to enable musicians live off traditional music at the same time attempting to preserve the cultural elements in the music. That entails striking a balance between economic interests of individual musicians and the cultural values of their societies.

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