Reception follows in Brooks Hall Commons
In the Republic of Guinea, a sweet voice is not necessarily a good one. Sweetness can be suspect – too obviously emotional, too manipulative, too eager to please. In local understanding, such a voice comes from the mouth, an unstable site for the production of meaning. In contrast, the voice that is most prized comes from the stomach, controlling words and denoting authority through its raspy hoarseness. In men and women alike, a rough voice is a trustworthy one. In this paper, I will explore ideas of color, power and force in Guinean voice, considering how vocal aesthetics interact with political ideals and realities. The sound environment of Guinea has long been dominated by the single voice of the dictator, amplified, broadcast and reproduced by both state channels and ordinary speech. Today, as authoritarianism shifts uneasily to democracy, multiple voices demand to be listened to: the soothing, statesmanlike speech of a newly-elected president, the angry shout of protesters on streets and airwaves, the sweet persuasions of musicians calling for ‘peace’ and status quo. The contest over whose voice is the loudest, who has the best ability to amplify and be imitated, who is the most truthful, can be heard daily in the struggle to define the present. Building on recent work on political emotions and the ethnography of public life, I explore here sonic and aesthetic ideals of voice, and consider how these sounds capture various strategies to negotiate political crisis in Guinea today.