Christopher Waterman

Christopher Waterman

Professor Emeritus


Christopher Waterman joined the UCLA Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance in 1996. An anthropologist and professional bassist who specializes in the study of popular music in Africa and the Americas, Waterman has conducted field research among the Yorùbá people of Nigeria, and is the author of numerous books and scholarly publications on music and culture. He has provided important leadership for the School of the Arts and Architecture, serving as chair of the Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance from 1997-2002 and dean of the UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture from 2003–2015.


Anthropology of music; ethnography of performance; urban and popular musics; and Africa and the Americas.

Creative Practice & Research

  • Recent courses include: African Popular Arts; Introduction to Culture; and Listen—The Poetics and Politics of Sound.
  • Publications include: Jùjú: A Social History and Ethnography of an African Popular Music (University of Chicago Press, 1990); American Popular Music: From Minstrelsy to MP3 (5th ed.) (Oxford University Press, 2018); and Rock: Music, Culture, and Business (Oxford University Press, 2012).
  • Waterman’s scholarship has been recognized with Fulbright and Social Science Research Council fellowships, a post-doctoral fellowship at Cornell University’s Society for the Humanities, among other awards.
  • As a professional bassist, Waterman has performed in a variety of genres with musicians such as Zoot Sims, Larry Coryell, Mike Stern, Don Lanphere, Jim Knapp, the Glenn Miller and Jimmy Dorsey orchestras, I.K. Dairo MBE and the Blue Spots, Dumi Maraire, and Chatta Addy.
  • Current research interests include music and the politics of identity in New Orleans, Louisiana; critical historiography of popular music “cover versions.”