Born in Essen, Germany, he studied musicology, sociology, anthropology and philosophy at the Freie Universität, Berlin, obtaining an M.A. in 1974 and a Ph. D. (Ethnomusicology) from the University of Cologne, in 1978, also doing a Dr. habil. (Ethnomusicology), at the University of Cologne (1991) and a Dr. habil. (Anthropology)at the Freie Universität Berlin (1994).
Erlmannn spent seven years in South Africa, beginning as an Assistant Professor in Ethnomusicology, University of Natal, Durban, (1981-1985), Visiting Professor, Dept. of Social Anthropology, University of the Witwatersrand and Senior Research Officer, African Studies Institute, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa (1986-87). He then went on to stints as Assistant Researcher, Ethnographic Museum, Berlin, (1987-1989), Visiting Associate Professor, Department of Music, University of Chicago (1990-1991), Heisenberg Fellow, Department of Anthropology, Freie Universität Berlin, (1991-1996) and finally Endowed Chair of Music History, University of Texas at Austin (1997-)
He has done fieldwork in Ecuador and in several African countries including Cameroon, Niger, Ghana, South Africa, Lesotho and West Sumatra, Indonesia.
Contribution to SA theatre, film, media and/or performance
Besides his teaching and a number of articles in a range of journals on music and performance, his long term contribution has been three books on South African music and performance: The early social history of Zulu migrant workers' choral music in South Africa(published 1990 by Das Arabische Buch, Berlin), African Stars, Studies in Black South African Performance (University of Chicago Press, 1991), and Nightsong: Performance, Power and Practice in South Africa (University of Chicago Press, 1995). He later also did a research project on Music and Copyright Law in South Africa (2009-2016).
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