Jennifer W. Kyker received her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. Supported by a Fulbright-Hays Fellowship, her doctoral research explored issues of audience reception in postcolonial Zimbabwean popular music, with a special focus on vocalist and guitarist Oliver Mtukudzi. In addition to her work on popular music, Professor Kyker has a long history of involvement studying the mbira dzavadzimu, an instrument played at various ritual events within Zimbabwe. Among her research interests are how women navigate expectations of gender in mbira performance, as well as the evolution of neo-traditional musical styles, such as the contemporary Zimbabwean marimba.
As an undergraduate, Professor Kyker received a Fulbright Fellowship to conduct research on musical performance at the kurova guva ceremony, held in order to reincorporate the spirit of a deceased family member into the family’s lineage as a mudzimu spirit elder. After this experience, she became deeply involved in HIV/AIDS research and activism, and upon returning to the United States, founded the nonprofit organization Tariro, which works to educate and empower teenaged girls in Zimbabwean communities affected by HIV/AIDS (www.tariro.org). In recognition of her work on HIV/AIDS, she has been honored with several fellowships and awards, including a Leboy-Davies Fellowship in Women’s Studies from the University of Pennsylvania, as well as an alumnae fellowship from Mount Holyoke College.
Working with musicians from Zimbabwe, Professor Kyker has produced several albums featuring music in a variety of genres, ranging from her field recordings of the chipendani, a single-string mouthbow, to a compilation of songs featuring studio recordings by a new generation of Zimbabwean popular artists. Her interviews with Zimbabwean artists have additionally received national exposure through their inclusion on the radio program Afropop Worldwide.