Andrew J. Eisenberg

Assistant Professor of Music Affiliation: NYU Abu Dhabi
Education: BMus New York University; MA, PhD Columbia University

Research Areas: anthropology of music; anthropology of sound; African popular music; sound and space; ethnicity and citizenship in urban Africa; music and capitalism; East Africa, Swahili coast, Indian Ocean


Andrew J. Eisenberg is an ethnographer of music and sonic culture who has conducted extensive research in East Africa. His research focuses on the intersections of sound and subjectivity in urban Kenya.

Eisenberg’s monograph in process, Sounds of Other Shores: The Musical Poetics of Identity on Kenya’s Swahili Coast (manuscript under review), takes an ethnographic ear to appropriations of Arab and Indian styles in popular musics of the Kenyan port city of Mombasa during the twentieth century. The book reveals how Swahili-speaking Muslims in Mombasa engaged with musical style as a medium for reflecting on and mediating the complexities and contradictions of being “Swahili” in late-colonial and postcolonial Kenya.

Eisenberg’s second book project is an ethnographic study of music and capitalism in Nairobi. Interim publications related to this project include the chapter, “Soundtracks in the Silicon Savannah: Digital Production, Aesthetic Entrepreneurship and the New Recording Industry in Nairobi, Kenya,” in the forthcoming volume Music and Digital Media: A Planetary Anthropology (UCL Press); and a co-authored article entitled “Mobilising African Music: How Mobile Telecommunications and Technology Firms are Transforming African Music Sectors” (2020), which is currently the “most read” work in the Journal of African Cultural Studies.

In addition to music, Eisenberg’s research also focuses on sound culture. His writings on the Islamic soundscape as an arena for struggles over citizenship on the Kenyan coast appear in the interdisciplinary volumes Music, Sound, and Space: Transformations of Public and Private Experience (Cambridge University Press, 2013) and Worship Sound Spaces: Architecture, Acoustics and Anthropology (Routledge, 2019). Eisenberg also penned the entry on “Space” for the landmark sound studies volume Keywords in Sound (Duke University Press, 2015).

Since arriving at NYUAD, Eisenberg has worked collaboratively to bridge the divide between humanistic and computational approaches in music studies. He is one of the founders of NYUAD’s Music and Sound Cultures (MaSC) research group, which develops hybrid methodologies blending computational and humanistic approaches for the understanding of the music from the Gulf, East Africa, and South India. In collaboration with MaSC and the NYUAD Library, he established the Andrew Eisenberg Collection of East African Commercial Sound Recordings, which houses digital copies of hundreds of recordings produced for East African audiences between the late 1920s and the first decade of the twenty-first century. He also leads the MaSC project entitled “The Swahili Musical Imagination,” which combines computational and humanistic methods of musical analysis to explore transculturation in Swahili taarab.

Eisenberg received his PhD in ethnomusicology from Columbia University, and undertook postdoctoral work from 2011 to 2013 with Prof. Georgina Born’s European Research Council project “Music, Digitization, Mediation.” Among his recent awards and fellowships are the Society for Ethnomusicology’s 2018 Jaap Kunst Prize for the most significant publication in the field of ethnomusicology during the preceding year, and a residential fellowship with the Bayreuth Academy of Advanced African Studies (2021). Before joining NYUAD, he taught at Northwestern University, Stony Brook University, and Bard College.

At NYUAD, Eisenberg serves as Assistant Professor of Music and Associate Program Head for Music at NYU Abu Dhabi, and administers the minor in Arab Music Studies. He is also a Global Network Assistant Professor at NYU New York, affiliated with the departments of Music and Anthropology.

Courses Taught