Category Archives: Ethnomusicology

Lydia Mendoza lived it

Lydia Mendoza

From the age of 12 through a career that spanned eight decades, Lydia Mendoza was a beacon to Mexicans and Mexican-Americans, showing them that no matter how humble their situation was they had a culture worth celebrating.

In a 2004 interview, asked what happened to make her the first Mexican-American singing star, she replied “Whether I was singing a bolero or a waltz or a polka it didn’t matter. When I sang, I sang it so I felt like I was living that song. Every song I ever sang I did with the feeling that I was living that song.”

This according to “Lydia motion” by Garth Cartwright (fRoots XXVI/9:261 [March 2005] pp. 30–35, 41).

Today would have been Mendoza’s 100th birthday! Above, the singer in 1948; below, performing in 1975.

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Filed under North America, Performers, Popular music

Punta and Garífuna culture

Pen Cayetano and the Turtle Shell Band

The dance-song genre punta and its derivative, punta rock, are iconic of Garífuna ethnicity and modernity. Punta permeates performances of both secular and semisacred rituals, and it is the genre most often used for social commentary.

Punta rock arose from the need to create a new genre fusing elements of Garífuna culture and music that express both indigenous and urban social ideals. As such, it maintains its popularity because it incorporates both the traditional and the contemporary.

This according to “Ethnicity, modernity, and retention in the Garifuna punta” by Oliver N. Greene (Black music research journal XXII [fall 2002] pp. 189–216).

Above and below, Pen Cayetano and the Turtle Shell Band—the originators of punta rock.

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Filed under Central America, Popular music

Early sources for African instruments

Le triumphe de la noblissement des Gentilhommes

Among the various musical instruments depicted in early documents (bells and double bells, drums, scrapers, horns, flutes, xylophones, and bow-lute), the double bell is of particular interest because of its relatively good pictorial documentation.

In 1687 a double bell from the Congo-Angola area called longa was first mentioned in print. Even today the Ovimbundu people call the double bell alunga (sing. elunga), and give it an important role in the enthronement of the king.

Early pictorial sources and later reports indicate four types of double bell—those with stem grip, bow grip, frame grip, and lateral bar grip—and of these the stem grip double bell, found in the Congo-Angola areas as well as Rhodesia, represents the older type of double bell and probably has its origin in Benin-Yoruba. It appears that the Portuguese, who got to know the double bell as an important court instrument in the Guinea area, brought this instrument, together with other court appurtenances, to Luanda, their new base of operations after the breakdown of the Congo kingdom.

This according to “Early historical illustrations of West and Central African music” by Walter Hirschberg (African music IV/3 [1969] pp. 6–18).

Above, Le triumphe de la noblissement des Gentilhommes, published by Pieter de Marees in 1605. Below, Nigerian double bells and other instruments.

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Filed under Africa, Iconography, Instruments

Bismillah Khan and Varanasi

Bismillah-khan

The renowned Hindustani śahnāī player Bismillah Khan lived in Varanasi for all of his adult life, and never wanted to leave the city even for a day—for example, complicated negotiations were required to persuade him to travel to Eluru to receive a prestigious award.

An American patron once invited him to come and live in California, but he replied that he could not bring himself to leave his beloved house. When the patron offered to build him an identical house and create a similar neighborhood, Khan asked him whether he could also bring the Ganges River!

This according to “The legend that was Bismillah Khan” by Pappu Venugopala Rao (Sruti 264 [September 2006] pp. 20–21).

Today would have been Bismillah Khan’s 100th birthday! Below, a live performance; can anyone help us to date it?

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Filed under Asia, Performers

Kabuki animals

kabuki

In the eiri-kyōgenbon (illustrated editions of kabuki plot synopses) of the Genroku reign (1688–1704), evidence is found for the representation of exotic animals on the kabuki stage: tigers and elephants, regarded as Chinese animals, in plays of the Edo tradition, as fierce opponents of the protagonist; and peacocks in the Kamigata (Kyōto-Ōsaka) style, in kaichō scenes (the unveiling of a Buddhist image).

It is not clear whether stuffed prop animals were always used or if actors portrayed the animals; it seems certain that real animals were not used.

This according to “元禄歌舞伎に登場する動物” (Animals in Genroku kabuki) by 鎌倉 恵子 (Kamakura Keiko), an article included in Kabuki: Changes and prospects—International Symposium on the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (Tōkyō: Tōkyō Kokuritsu Bunkazai Kenkyūjo/National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo, 1998, pp. 135–47).

Above, Bandō Mitsugorō I as a samurai subduing a tiger; below, a modern-day kabuki dragon.

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Filed under Animals, Asia, Dance, Dramatic arts

Translingual discourse in ethnomusicology

TDE

 

Translingual discourse in ethnomusicology is a new peer-reviewed scholarly e-journal aiming at encouraging discourse across language barriers by publishing English translations of ethnomusicological papers that have originally appeared in other languages and therefore probably not received their due recognition.

Papers are selected from proposals made by our Editorial Board and undergo a double-open peer-review process. The English translations are usually accompanied by the original version and are freely available (open access) in both HTML and PDF format.

This journal is jointly published by the musicology department at Universität Wien and the ethnomusicology department at Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst Graz, and is sponsored by the Fonds zur Förderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung.

Below, the Dubrovnik-area linđo, the subject of one of the articles in the inaugural issue.

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Filed under Ethnomusicology, New periodicals

Gender wayang music of Bapak I Wayan Loceng

Loceng

Gender wayang music of Bapak I Wayan Loceng from Sukawati, Bali: A musical biography, musical ethnography, and critical edition by Brita Renée Heimarck (Middleton: A-R Editions, 2015) is at once a memorial to I Wayan Loceng (1926–2006) and a tribute to his great musical genius.

This new critical edition documents nine compositions from the esteemed Balinese gender wayang repertoire. The music derives from the musical mastery of Loceng, arguably the most renowned gender wayang expert in Bali, who lived in the village of Sukawati.

This edition places the music within a historical, cultural, and biographical context and introduces a broad theoretical framework that contains a new definition for the discipline of ethnomusicology, and substantial discussion of the genres of musical biography, musical ethnography, and ethnomusicology of the individual.

The book also introduces pertinent scholarly perspectives, offers biographical information pertaining to Loceng, delineates the cultural concepts and contexts for performance and background of the shadow play tradition in Bali, and clarifies key aspects of the music itself.

Above and below, I Wayan Loceng in action.

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Filed under Asia, New editions, Performers

William Kimber and the morris revival

kimber

Happy Boxing Day! On this day in 1899 Cecil Sharp witnessed a performance by the Headington Quarry Morris Dancers at the home of his mother-in-law. Intrigued by the tunes, he invited William Kimber, the group’s concertina player, to return the next day so that Sharp could notate them.

Sharp did not begin his folk song collecting until four years later, and in 1905 Mary Neal, an organizer at the Espérance Club for girls, asked Sharp if there were any dances to go with the tunes he had collected. Sharp referred her to Kimber, who traveled to the club to teach the dances, thus beginning the revival of traditional dance in England.

This according to “Absolutely classic” by Derek Schofield (English dance and song LXI/2 [summer 1999] pp. 8–9). Above, the Headington Quarry Morris Dancers in 1916, With Kimber and his concertina front and center. Below, Kimber plays Getting upstairs in 1946.

BONUS: The Headington Quarry team in 2008.

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Filed under Dance, Europe

Wampanoag music and dance

mashpee wampanoag powwow

On this U.S. Thanksgiving Day, let’s pay our respects to the Wampanoag people, who helped the refugees at Plymouth Colony through their first winter, taught them to fish and grow corn, and attended their celebration of thanksgiving after their first successful harvest.

Wampanoag music is wrapped up in dance. The beat of a hardwood stick, water drum, and corn rattles is the music of their lively social dances, while appreciation and gratitude are expressed in their ceremonial dances.

“It is part of our nature is to be in thanksgiving” said Ramona Peters, a Wampanoag woman. “It’s sort of our philosophy, so it gets threaded through both the social and ceremonial dances.”

This according to Music on Martha’s Vineyard: A history of harmony by Tom Dresser and Jerry Muskin (Charleston: History Press, 2014).  Above and below, the 2015 Mashpee Wampanoag Powwow.

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Sound of the Faroes

faroe islands

The Faroese people sing a lot. The fact that young people from the Faroe Islands are extremely successful in the multitude of popular singing contests on television is not accidental.

The Faroese have always been diligent singers, especially regarding the various genres of traditional singing, which for centuries have formed an important part of Faroese culture. With the increasingly globalized everyday life of the past 50 years or so, music from all over the world has permeated everywhere, including the Faroe Islands; nevertheless, traditional Faroese singing and dancing are still alive and well in the 21st century.

Following in the wake of four separate volumes of Faroese traditional music, a new edition, Føroya ljóð í kvæðum, vísum, sálmum og skjaldrum/Sound of the Faroes: Traditional songs and hymns (Hoyvik: Stiðin, 2014) is a  single volume covering all of the topics. Part I is on Faroese dance with melodies for both kvæði and Danish ballads, part II is on spiritual singing and Kingo singing, and part III is on skjaldur. Each part describes the genres in question and offers a comprehensive selection of melody examples with an accompanying CD.

Below, the celebrated Faroese chain dance after the total solar eclipse on 20 March 2015.

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Filed under Europe, New editions