Marceline Saibou

Assistant Professor of Music

Teaching this semester

MUS 1101. Sound, Self, and Society: Music and Everyday Life

Explores the role of music and sound as social practice, political catalyst, market commodity, site of nostalgia, environment regulator, identity tool, and technology of the self. Enables students to communicate about sound and music. Addresses music in relation to: mood manipulation; signification and noise; taste and identity; race, class, gender, and sexuality codes; repetition and form; urban tribes and subcultures; the cult of the expert; economics and politics; power; authenticity; technology; and multi-nationalism. Musical genres primarily within American popular music. Case studies may include gym, study, road trip, and party playlists; karaoke; tribute bands; music in film; music revivals; cock rock; the gendered nature of instruments; suburban punk; Muzak; advertising jingles; and Starbucks.

MUS 4040. Senior Project in Music

All senior majors must take this course, which involves either a single semester of independent work or the second semester of an honors thesis. In addition to weekly individual meetings with a faculty advisor, students meet as a group with the entire faculty several times during the semester. Must be taken in the spring of the senior year. Open only to senior music majors.

Teaching next semester

AFRS 1211/MUS 1211. Introduction to Music in Africa

Introduces students to the rich and diverse musical traditions of sub-Saharan Africa. Covers traditional and modern musical practices from various regions, and explores their roles in social, cultural, and political contexts from historical and contemporary perspectives. Students will learn to identify basic regional musical properties and characteristic musical styles. Case studies may include West African dance-drumming, Ghanaian highlife, musical oral historians, “African Ballets”, South African a cappella, the protest music of Nigerian Fela Kuti and Zimbabwean Thomas Mapfumo, as well as contemporary hip hop and religious pop music. Course is based on lectures, readings, performances by visiting artists, discussions, and audio and video sources. No prior musical knowledge necessary.

Prof. Saibou is an Africanist ethnomusicologist; her research interests include the region of West Africa, popular music, musical nationalism, and representations of Africanness through music and musical discourse. Her primary area of research is Togo, with a particular focus on local popular music and its articulation with state power. Prof. Saibou enjoys introducing students to her discipline, its theories and methods, and their application in the study of music as a social and cultural phenomenon. Courses she will teach in upcoming semesters include “Music and Everyday Life,” “Musical Cultures of the World,” “Musical Ethnography,” and seminars that examine traditional and popular music in a variety of African social, cultural, and historical contexts.


  • M.A., Columbia University; New York, NY
  • M.A., Columbia University; New York, NY
  • M.M., Hochschule für Musik Köln-Germany; Cologne, Germany

Recent and Upcoming Presentations

“The Study of Popular Music in Africa: Towards a Fuller Geographical Coverage” Upcoming paper to be presented at the 2nd Symposium of the ICTM African Musics Study Group on “African Music Scholarship in the Twenty-first Century: Challenges and Directions,” the Department of Music, School of Performing Arts, University of Ghana, Legon, Ghana. 9-12 August 2018.

“Experiencing Absence and Alienation: Musical Longing in Postcolonial Togo.” Paper presented at the 62nd Annual Meeting of the Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM), the University of Denver, the University of Colorado Boulder, and Colorado College. 26 October 2017.

“From Propaganda to Silence: Popular Music, Lyrics, and Politics under the Eyadéma Regime”. Invited talk given at the Multidisciplinary Colloquium “Poésies – Politiques/Poetries – Politics”, the Department of French in Collaboration with the Departments of Amesall, Comparative Literature, Spanish and Portuguese, and the Center for African Studies, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ. 9-10 November 2017.

“Togolese Animation Politique: Anatomy of a Musical State Spectacle.” Department of Music, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine. 1 March 2017.

“Revisiting Hybridity: Africanist Ethnomusicology, Postcolonial Theory, and the Study of Popular Music.” Paper presented at the International Symposium on “Valorizing African Cultural Heritage and Thought II: Migration, Mobility, Epistemologies, and Alternative Histories,” Dakar Institute of African Studies, Senegal. 2 July 2016.

“Creativity under Authoritarian Rule: Popular Music and State Power in Postcolonial Togo.” Invited talk given to the Emeritus Professors In Columbia (EPIC), Columbia University, New York City. 6 October 2016.

“Musical Evisceration under State Patronage – The Curious Case of Togo.” Paper presented at the 35th Meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Society for Ethnomusicology (MACSEM), University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA. 5 March 2016.