The Playlist

The Fieldwork Playlist – 25/10/13

The Playlist

Venue: Room 137, Richard Hogart Building, Goldsmiths

9:00-9:30 Registration

Panel One – Fellowship: Chair Muriel Swijghuisen Reigersberg

9:30-9:45 Introduction

9:45-10:00 Simon Procter – ‘Help Me Make It Through The Night’

10:00-10:15 Louise Laverty – ‘Your Man’

10:15-10:30 Cassandre Balosso – ‘Jota des Vermar’

10:45-11:00 Discussion

Coffee break 11:00-11:30

Panel Two – Alienation? Chair: Helen Cornish

11:30-11:45 Gavin Weston – ‘Oh Señor…’

11:45-12:00 Will Tantam – ‘British Love (Anything for You)’

12:00-12:15 Jennifer Parr – ‘The Lady of Shallot’

12:15-12:30 Discussion

Lunch/Interlude – 12:30-1:30

(Video presentations from Patrick Alexander – ‘Dare’; Samantha Bennett – ‘Fan It’, Julie Jenkins – ‘Africa’; & Stephen Van Wolputte – ‘Indaba’).

Panel Three – Evocation Chair: Mark Lamont

1:30-1:45 Catherine Allerton – ‘Sahabat’

1:45-2:00 Marlene Schäfers – ‘Dewran’

2:00-2:15 Mark Jamieson – ‘Wild Gilbert’

2:15-2:30 Discussion

Coffee break – 2:30-3:00

Panel Four – Performance Chair: Dominique Santos

3:00-3:15 Ole Jonannes Kaland – ‘Voir Sur Ton Chemin’

3:15-3:30 Rafal Zaborowski – ‘Melt’

3:30-3:45 Maria Chiara Miduri – ‘I Giorno’

3:45-4:00 Alexandra Balandina – ‘Sham’ va Parvāne (Candle and Butterfly)’

4:00-4:15 Discussion

Coffee break – 4:15-4:45

Panel Five – Reflection Chair: Gavin Weston

4:45-5:00 Stephen Nugent – ‘Feelings’

5:00-5:15 Dominique Santos – ‘You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine’

5:15-5:30 Julian Henriques – ‘You Don’t Love Me (No, No, No.)’

5:30-5:45 Discussion

5:45-6:15 Kieran Fenby-Hulse – Our Playlist (closing remarks)


Help Me Make It Through The Night’: Kris Kristofferson/John Holt

Dr Simon Procter, Nordoff Robbins – London /Department of Sociology – University of Exeter

(starting 8:01 – above clip)

Throughout my fieldwork in an urban UK mental health community setting, songs were of paramount importance. The focus of my study was the provision of music therapy, considering not only how interactions occur in and around this professionalised provision, but also how people attach value to it and extend its work beyond that of the professional therapist. One of the key strategies in this was people’s use of songs, which were not only sung in and out of sessions but also discussed passionately, and used to establish identity and influence people’s conception of each other. Song choice was a key aspect of this. However, it became increasingly evident that what was important was not simply the choice of the song but the way in which the song was sung. Therefore songs which were known in a number of cover versions presented opportunities for experience of cultural difference – and for conflict.

I will exemplify this using “Help Me Make It through The Night” – a song originally written and recorded as a country ballad by Kris Kristofferson, but covered many times in various styles, including by John Holt as a reggae song. I will focus on a transition from initial hostility towards alternative versions of the song in the direction of musical flexibility in conceiving of the song and I will argue that this can be considered in itself an act of mental health. I will situate this in relation to DeNora’s “everyday life” perspective on music sociology, seeing music not simply as something symbolic or representational, but as a form of social action replete with affordances and opportunities for appropriation.

Your man’: Willie Jones

Louise Laverty, 3rd year PhD student. University of Liverpool

The fieldwork site of this ethnography was a youth club in the North West of England. While the music and soundtrack is not indigenous, or necessarily representative of a particular place, it is an example of the temporal and visceral nature of music in identity work and belonging (Anderson 2010). Music in the youth club is about providing atmosphere, controlling mood, but also as a resource for young people to perform gendered and racialised identity work, of demonstrating their musical knowledge, authenticity and heritage (DeNora 2000). Music is selected through youtube and the task of choosing music is both precious and precarious. There are strict unspoken rules about the type of music that must be selected; not too white, not too black (no swearing!), as well as having to gauge the appropriate music for the mood of that particular evening. Getting the choice right means approval, getting it wrong results in shaming, being chastised and removed from future choices. Throughout fieldwork I collated a personal playlist, mostly encompassing classic r’n’b, contemporary chart music and dance music which provided the backdrop to the youth club, often reflecting both the youth workers and young peoples’ preferences and values. It was the one song that challenged these normative values, however, that has been selected. This song became the soundtrack of September 2012, and because of its unusual nature became a temporal symbol of belonging resulting in the collective experience of “moving together and coming together of bodies…” (Massumi 2002). Although no longer on repeat it is now used as a way of revisiting that time, of collecting those ‘who were there’, resulting in distinct reactions. This experience will be discussed alongside music’s role in creating capital and status within the youth club.

Jota des Vermar’: A Mallorcan bagpipe tune
Cassandre Balosso-Bardin, Ethnomusicology – SOAS

Know the culture by becoming part of it to the best of your ability”

(Mantle Hood in Trimillos, 2004:287).

With this quote in mind, I will explore how my fieldwork changed and developed through one bagpipe tune, the Jota des Vermar. This Jota was the first Mallorcan tune I played on the bagpipes, two years before starting my PhD, and it followed me throughout my year on the field and beyond. The Jota, I quickly learned, was a very common tune, played by groups all around the island. As a performer it was therefore the perfect tune to play everywhere I went, linking all the different musicians with this one piece of music. Groups and individuals were often in conflict, directly or indirectly, creating tension in the musical world. Common repertoire was one unifying link but, as I soon came to realise, so was I in my capacity as an ethnomusicologist from the outside world. I was granted freedom of movement and speech, allowing the research to grow with testimonies from people who had little to do with each other.

This paper explores how a researcher from the outside can sometimes gain more knowledge and insight than any person directly involved in the field. This would not be possible, however, without a certain knowledge which in this case was translated through the knowledge and performance of Mallorcan music. Through different performances of the Jota des Vermar I will explore participant observation in Mallorca, showing the incredible freedom I was allowed but not forgetting the limitations I often felt on the field.

Song featuring lyrics ‘Oh Senor…’ quite a lot’: Mayan Evangelical Singer

Dr Gavin Weston, Anthropology – Goldsmiths

SONG DEFIES FINDING – sorry, no video

After months of looking for a field site where people would be willing to openly discuss lynchings I found myself in Todos Santos in the North-Western Highlands of Guatemala. After mistakenly attacking a Japanese tourist international attention and prosecutions led to a level of openness and self-scrutiny that other possible research sites had lacked. The first few months of my research were spent capturing the diversity of narratives concerning this attack – having the same conversation over and over.

In these first few months excitement and unease regarding my new life as an anthropologist fed an epic bout of insomnia exacerbated by a mouse who shared my shed-like sleeping quarters. Drawn by unknown forces (probably the warmth of my face but possibly food in my beard) the mouse was driven to climb onto my face mid-sleep on a regular basis. As sleeplessness piled up and delusions crept in, the mouse’s existence became less important than my expectation of his coming. I lay awake in bed replaying the ever-increasing number of overlapping but subtly different accounts of violence waiting for the mouse. A nearby Evangelical Church provided the soundtrack.

A song, largely in Mam, but with two words in Spanish was played with disturbing frequency through crackly loud speakers late into the night and from early in the morning. As a non-Mam-speaker the words meant nothing to me until the refrain of ‘Ohhhhhhh seññññoooooorrrr’ came around again. My sleep deprived brain would sing along with words it didn’t understand. I now recognise through others that the sense of sinking or losing the plot is a relatively common experience in fieldwork – each person’s shaped by the specificities of their situation. This song was the soundtrack to my madness.

British Love (Anything for You)’: Vybz Kartel

William Tantam, Anthropology – Goldsmiths

 In this dancehall tune, Jamaican artist Vybz Kartel takes the part of a man smooth talking a British woman.  Replete with references to Britain, and London in particular, he also puts on what is meant to be an ‘English’ accent.  My first experience of the song was drinking in a bar one evening, with only myself and the bar girl in the place.  She put on the track, asking if I’d already heard it.  I hadn’t, and smiled hearing references to home such as ‘I’m just a youth from the ghetto, like Brixton.’  The song was littered with references to ‘home’; cups of tea, pubs, even ‘Princess Kate and Prince William.’ 

 The song was to take on greater meaning as my fieldwork progressed, as I was given the nickname ‘World Boss’ by players on the football field, the focus of my research.  ‘World Boss’ is also the nickname of Vybz Kartel.  I was given the nickname partly as a joke as I was “preacher”-like in my comportment on the pitch while Vybz was (and remains) in custody on charges of torture and murder. The nickname also grew out of racial issues, as Vybz famously bleached his skin, and also issues concerning migration and class relations which he refers to in ‘British Love’.

 In my presentation, I look at the importance of this track in relation to bringing me back to the field now that I’m ‘home,’ as well as bringing me ‘home’ while I was in the field.  Further, I explore the issues around being given the nickname ‘World Boss,’ and the relationship I continue to have with this track. 


Dare’: The Wedding Present

Dr Patrick Alexander, Education – Oxford

This paper will explore the emerging findings and fieldwork experiences of an on going, long-term ethnography of the indie rock band The Wedding Present. The ethnography focuses on the interface between music and imaginings of age as an aspect of social identity, and in this paper I will address these issues both in relation to the substantive questions of the ethnography and in terms of my personal reflexions on participant observation as an active member of the band.

The most recent review of The Wedding Present performing live (This is Cornwall, 11-7-2013) begins: ‘There is nothing quite like music for helping you mark the passage of time… it is an odd sensation, a simultaneous wave of nostalgia combined with a realisation of your own inevitable ageing – and it can feel a little disconcerting.’ This quote speaks to the complex interplay between music consumption and imaginings of age as an aspect of social identity. Music consumption, and the consumption of rock music in particular, has been long associated with the construction of teenage identity and so-called youth subcultures. However, in the twenty first century, the relationship between age, identity and music consumption is far more complex. The Wedding Present is one of an increasingly large number of long-standing musical groups whose appeal is at once intergenerational, nostalgic, and fundamentally premised on its significance as a medium for constructing ideas about ‘youth’, even among fans who are well beyond the chronological limits of being ‘young’. Drawing on the concept of age imaginaries (Alexander 2010), on the work of Simon Frith (1996), and on Small’s idea of ‘musicking’ (1987), I consider that ways in which music frames ideas about age and social identity, as much for fans as for band members and the social anthropologists that they occasionally tolerate. I do so within the context of an ethnographic vignette that describes performing the Wedding Present song Dare during a 20 year anniversary tour of their 1991 album Seamonsters.

Fan It’: Pokey LaFarge & The South City Three

Dr. Samantha Bennett, School of Music – The Australian National University

This paper situates Pokey LaFarge & The South City Three’s1 ‘Fan It’2 in its broader, technological and processual context. ‘Fan It’ exemplifies the presence of past musics, vintage recording technology and pre-vinyl ‘shellac’ releases in an almost entirely digitised musical age. The significance of ‘Fan It’ became apparent following 2 visits to The Evangelist Recording Company,3 incorporating Evangelist Recording Studios, in Kentish Town, London, in late 2011 and early 2012. The fieldwork formed part of a wider, post-doctoral study into the technological and processual practices of sound recordists and studio owners, with focus upon the use of technological precursors in contemporary recording practice.4 ‘Fan It’ was recorded, produced and released by recordist and founder of the Evangelist Recording Company, Lewis Durham.

The significance of ‘Fan It’ is multifaceted. A rare example of a 78rpm ‘shellac’

release in the 21st Century, the early jazz, ragtime and bluegrass musical performance aesthetics were matched by Lewis Durham’s mechanical production methodology, thus challenging notions of obsolescence in both sound recording and format technology. An example of a ‘performance capture’ recording approach with no postrecording intervention, ‘Fan It’ was recorded and manufactured entirely in the analogue domain; from the 1950s Ampex 300-8 tape machine used to record it, to the hand-made record sleeves.

This paper features first-hand interview material with recordist Lewis Durham, as well as rare photographs of Evangelist Studios’ sound recording and production technologies. The discussion focuses on Durham’s background as a recordist and performer with the group Kitty, Daisy & Lewis, as well as the ‘place’ of vinyl, vintage technologies and early recording techniques in today’s computer-based recording climate.

Africa’: Toto

Dr Julie Jenkins, Anthropology – Ball State University

As an anthropologist of Africa, I have ambivalent feelings towards the song ‘Africa’ by Toto. It is a song that lyrically does not make sense, although powerfully draws its audience into a (problematic) romanticised mental imagery of the continent with “drums echoing,” “wild dogs crying,” and “old men” with “long forgotten words or ancient melodies.” Regardless of my intellectual critique of the lyrics and the colonial stylized music video, during my fieldwork in south-eastern Ghana I often found myself putting the song on repeat and singing along to the lyrics, “I bless the rains down in Africa,” to the amusement of my informants. Rather than recalling the devastating droughts that affected much of West Africa during the early 1980s, for me, the song spoke to the practicalities of long-term research and the desperate need for privacy and down time that was only possible during the torrential down-pours of the rainy season. This paper explores how the song acted as both a plea for disconnection from field relations and a celebration when that disconnection was achieved – by way of being able to isolate myself and “take the time to do some things” that was not typically possible with the social demands of my research.


Indaba’: Soul Brothers

Prof. Steven Van Wolputte, Social and Cultural Anthropology, Leuven

When on my first fieldtrip in northwest Namibia, my field assistant always had two tapes with him. Both were by the Soul Brothers, a South African jive band immensely popular in their home country and in Namibia. He played them whenever he could. Those first weeks, I couldn’t wait for his battery to run down. I really hated those tapes.

The first thing I did when back in Belgium, was to buy a Soul Brothers record (the BBC sessions, the only I could find). I had grown fond of that Hammond organ and that sparkling guitar sound, even if I did not have a clue what they were singing about. And I cherish that record, if only because it was the start of my interest in African music. Apart from that, it symbolizes my initial estrangement, and reminds of the idiot I was. At the same time though, the Soul Brothers became the soundtrack of one of the best times of my life. Hearing that Hammond organ stills puts me in fieldwork gear.

But there is more. To me, that record also marked an epistemological and methodological turn towards phenomenology: things have meaning on different levels, of which the discursive (the lyrics) is only one. It oriented me towards practices and performance, and towards the anthropology of the body (a course I still teach). Secondly, that record –and music in general– could be regarded as a metaphor of knowledge, and certainly of the way I understand all things cultural (as improvised, yet patterned; as syncopated; as “glocalized”, and so on). Thirdly, it has provided me with a great teaching aid to illustrate all the above.

Sahabat’: Najwa Latif

Dr Catherine Allerton, Anthropology – London School of Economics

From August 2012 to August 2013, I conducted fieldwork in the East Malaysian city of Kota Kinabalu, with the children of Indonesian and Filipino migrants and refugees. The majority of these children were born in Malaysia, but because of state policies that legislate against children’s rights to education, or the right of migrants to family life, are unable to attend Malaysian schools. Fieldwork involved meeting children, parents and teachers at various alternative learning centres, as well as visiting children at their homes in squatter settlements, or in makeshift housing attached to their father’s place of work. Fieldwork also involved, reluctantly on my part, many hours of driving around the sprawling and log-jammed city. To entertain myself I would search for different radio stations, rejecting the English-language and American rock-dominated stations favoured by my daughters on the school run, and eventually settling on ‘Era’, a Malay-language station that played contemporary Malay music as well as the occasional English pop song for good measure. After some time, I realised that my traffic-soured mood would lighten when one song – Najwa Latif’s ‘Sahabat’ – was played. Najwa’s sweet voice sings of love in terms of ‘becoming your friend’, just as I was becoming a particular kind of friend to the stateless and marginalised children I knew. In this paper, I explore this song’s ability to articulate the complex emotions that I felt towards Malaysian society, as I spent time with those who were denied its membership. ‘Sahabat’ (‘Friend’) managed, like no other song, to re-motivate me as I drove to different locations, and helped me to emotionally bridge the gap between modern, multicultural ‘Malaysia’, as it was represented on radio stations, and the reality of the lives of the children I knew.

Dewran’: Gazin

Marlene Schäfers, Social Anthropology – Cambridge

Alternative track by artist:

A group of Kurdish women sit in a tent, chatting, drinking tea. It is the winter of 2011/2012, and the city of Van in Eastern Turkey has been hit by two devastating earthquakes in the fall. The quakes have claimed hundreds of lives, left thousands injured and damaged the homes of the population of an entire region. “Bad fortune, mother, bad fortune has hit us,” one of the women starts intonating, swaying back and forth her upper body as she continues to pronounce her lamentation. Gazin sings about children buried under the rubble of collapsed buildings, about the hardship of spending the winter in snow-covered tents and the hostility expressed by the Turkish public against Van’s Kurdish earthquake victims. The women in the tent silently start crying. Tears run down my cheeks, too.

Carrying out fieldwork in Van about Kurdish women singers this performance of Dewran by Gazin was a key experience in coming to an understanding of why Kurdish singers are praised for making their audiences cry. The tears running down my cheeks as I listened to Dewran afforded me an insight into how Kurdish singers make affects circulate – an insight that went beyond representational knowledge. My body became part of an assemblage of affects, bodies and sound (re)producing technologies. Pain came to circulate, entering constellations that allowed it to be transformed into political claims, into complaints about ethnic discrimination and into demands for justice. By enveloping me into the collective suffering of Kurdish women, Dewran allowed me to phenomenologically experience what I had set out to study, to bodily experience why such songs are so important to Kurdish women. So important, in fact, that audiences demand singers to perform them over and over again, creating an economy of pain while at the same time forging distinctively political and gendered subjectivities.

Wild Gilbert’: Lovindeer

Dr Mark Jamieson, Anthropology – University of East London

My first fieldwork, undertaken while I was a postgraduate student at London School of Economic, was conducted in 1992 and 1993 on Nicaragua’s Mosquito Coast amongst Miskitu-speaking people. The song I have chosen to represent this fieldwork is Lovindeer’s ‘Wild Gilbert’, written for the hurricane of that name that hit Jamaica some while ago. With its hilarious lyrics and acute social commentary, highlighting hubris, pride and self-righteousness amongst the great, the good and the not so good, it was widely played when Hurricane Juana (or Joan) hit the Mosquito Coast a few years before I first arrived there, and quickly became a favorite amongst the local Caribbean English-speaking Creole and Miskitu population for whom reggae (along with country and western) was already massively popular. Since then other, those less destructive, hurricanes have hit the coast and the song remains popular. It represents for me the dark humour expressed by local people in the face of the numerous vicissitudes (besides hurricane damage, poverty, civil war and narco-terror) that they have faced in recent decades.

‘Vois Sur Ton Chemin’: Les Choristes

Ole Johannes Kaland, Anthropology – Sussex

‘Vois sur ton chemin, gamins oubliés égarés, donne-leur la main, pour les mener, vers d’autres lendemains…’

The first verse of the song “Vois Sur Ton Chemin” instructs the listener to look out on ones path for children that have been lost and forgotten, to give them a hand and lead them towards another  future. It is the theme song for Les Choristes, a movie about a French boarding school for ‘difficult’ boys, and how a teacher, through engaging the students in a choir, changes and empowers them and the school for the better. In this paper I show how this song not only held significance in relation to the intra-dynamics of my fieldsite in China and my experience and representation of it, but also how the fieldsite would never have existed had it not been for this song. The paper discusses the relationship between music and my fieldwork in three interconnected parts – prelude, performance and postlude.

In the prelude I show how this music was crucial for the possibility of the fieldwork itself. In 2006, Zhang Yichao saw the movie Les Choristes while doing volunteer work in Shanghai for the city’s vast number of rural migrant children. Due to the way in which policies on migration, welfare and citizens’ rights structurally marginalize migrant children, they suffer from low self-esteem and lack aspirations for the future. Being inspired by the movie, Zhang decided on emulating it by forming a choir of migrant children in order to empower them. Gradually, the choir grew into a charitable NGO catering to over 150 children, the only one of its kind in Shanghai, where I did fieldwork for 15 months.

The second part of the paper, the performance, discusses the performative (Judith Butler)aspect of this music in relation to my informants. It was a standard part of the repertoire when the NGO would arrange concerts to appeal for contributions from benefactors. Wearing crisp school uniforms or traditional Chinese costumes while singing the song, the youths would both emulate ‘the difficult’ adolescents in the movie, and distance themselves from such subjecthoods by demonstrating their musical, lingual and cultural prowess. As I relate this to Chinese development discourse, a central point I accentuate is the uneasy relationship my informants had with such performances, as they were not comfortable with the paradoxical victimization this entailed.

In the postlude the paper discusses how this song continues to have meaning for the work the NGO does in empowering the youths, and for my subsequent work in representing them. I contend that while there is a marked tendency in the academic literature and public discourse on migrant youths in China to focus on their dynamics and problems as a group, this victimizes and robs them of agency. I therefore argue that a way in which scholars can help ‘children who have been lost and forgotten, lend them a hand and lead them to another future’ is by focusing an on their individual lives and senses of agency.

Melt’: Supercell feat. Hatsune Miku

Rafal Zaborowski, Media and Communications – LSE

I don’t recall having listened to “Melt” before I embarked on my fieldwork in early 2012. I had known that vocaloid music was popular in Japan, but the scale of the phenomenon, tracked via chart rankings, message boards and video channels, had eluded me; instead, I had focused on inter- and intra-generational reception of mainstream idol pop or the “band” sound. In February 2012, after a number of focus groups, a pattern began to emerge: vocaloid audiences were present and engaged, and Hatsune Miku was more than a holographic persona – she represented the industry change, the shift toward crowdsourcing, the voice of participatory culture.

A true revelation came in the next research stage, when I followed my participants to music-related events. One of those was an afternoon at a karaoke box with two teenage boys in Central Japan. Immediately, one of them chose “Melt”, and we would sing it twice more during that session. Cutesy lyrics, fast pace, or the impossibly high pitch of the original was not an obstacle. The boys shouted out the chorus together and divided the song into the “official” part, performed by one of them, and the “unofficial” fan calls (not appearing on the screen), chanted by the other. All while dynamically gesturing in rhythm, just like participants of Hatsune Miku concerts – concerts that the boys have only seen online.

During the fieldwork, numerous participants and music producers related to me stories of music. Many talked about vocaloid, or, indeed, about “Melt”. However, thinking about the circuit of culture in the context of Japanese music industry, I would always go back to that karaoke and remember the two boys playfully engaging with the bubbly song of the green-haired virtual idol.

I Giorni’: Ludovico Einudi

Maria Chiara Miduri, University of Turin

I Giorni (The Days), the song I propose as a contribute to the conference playlist, represents the composite process of becoming and survive that shaped my recent fieldwork and experience at the “edges of Otherness” in the city, in the historical hamlet of Aurora: one of the poorest and unhealthy hamlets of Turin (Italy), where I have conducted my doctoral research for over a year, undertaking a journey to the origins of human relational sociality in multicultural settings. In Aurora lies the heart of linguistic and cultural Babel of the city and music has the power to became a shared language without borders. From sorrow to love, the “song” was a mean and a space of encounter among diversity and free from words that were relative to any particular culture or language, but expressing the relational power of the dividual self.

The more I became interested and involved in the study and the experience of human relational life among diversity, the more this song without words deepened the sense of field for me as well as the community I slowly became part of, inspiring an ethnography in E minor I have also played embracing the guitar on field when words were not enough, and aimed to the exploration and restoration of the minimalist structure of everyday life from the margins, in times of need. Daily encounters and memories of shared experience, while living with the community the same struggle to communicate among and with diversity, reached distances over the same route. In the search for communication as a process instead of communication as an act, I Giorni both helped recovering from sorrow of distances and sociocultural categories enlightening hope for new relations — emphasising the sweet lullaby of life and human interaction, facing its cultural riffs and roughness.

Navid Afghah – Sham’ va Parvāne (Candle and Butterfly)

Alexandra Balandina, Ethnomusicology – University of Limerick

(alternative performances by Navid Afghah)

Sham’ va Parvāne was a revelation. I thought it was divine when I first heard it, in 2002 in Tehran while conducting fieldwork for my PhD in ethnomusicology. I had the impression that the performer, Navid Afghah, spoke to god through his fingers when he played on the tombak (a goblet-shaped drum used in Iranian classical music), or that god spoke through his fingers: the message was this divine sound. I cried, I felt connected to the universe. Listening to Sham’ va Parvāne I was reassured that my decision to study the tombak in Iran was not futile.

The piece, although played only on one instrument, the tombak, enclosed so many qualities, it was melodic, sonorous, multi-layered. Above all, it possessed novel, unique and creative soundcolours and rhythmic patterns and thus, as I understood, novel finger movements that I was going to comprehend later on in the field by learning to play on the instrument.  When I discovered Navid Afghah, all tombak players spoke about his powerful finger technique, his great playing speed, his clarity of sound and his innovations with great esteem, perhaps envy and as I sensed a kind of anxiety. Today, more than 10 years after I begun my fieldwork, almost every tombak player in Tehran plays in the style of Navid Afghah.

The questions that I want to tackle is how this artists managed to become so creative under a regime that employed various forms of music censorship, discouraged performing music and prevented many young people from becoming professional musicians. How this percussion instrument, that has been essentially an accompaniment instrument, has acquired a solo identity in the last 60 years? Under which socio-political, cultural and historical circumstances Sham’ va Parvāne came to existence?

Splendid’: Vic Chesnutt,

Dr Caterina Borelli, independent researcher

Between 2009 and 2012 I have been conducting an extended ethnographic research in Sarajevo (Bosnia Herzegovina). It is impossible for me to choose only one song as soundtrack of that experience: there simply are too many. Instead, I wish to present a piece that retroactively evokes in my mind a whole set of sensations I used to experiment while I was getting familiar with the field. A song that makes me instantly travel back to that place every time I listen to it, even if I didn’t use to hear it while I was there.

Mount Trebević, a wooded mountain looming over Sarajevo from its south-eastern side, used to be a popular place for daytrips and a powerful symbol of the city; it was also appointed as venue of the 1984 Winter Olympic Games. Everything changed with the war: the mountain was occupied by Serb-Bosnian troops, who used it as one of the most strategic spots for the siege of Sarajevo (1992-1995). After the dramatic events whose marks are still clearly visible all across its landscape, Mount Trebević was abandoned, turned into a ghost territory, a doomed place where landmines hide underneath its apparently quiet green surface.

In “Splendid”, the first, distorted notes of an electric guitar introduce me to its mysterious woods and their slow climax generates a sense of undefined alert. Then, right when the listener got sufficiently tense and attentive, a calm, acoustic guitar overlaps, followed by lyrics speaking of the enjoyment of a nature pictured in bucolic tones but that, nonetheless, shows here and there little, strange phenomena. Bleached bones, oddly energized orange lights. The shift to the past tense by the end of the song recalls good old days gone forever. It speaks of the nostalgia for a young and free generation interrupted by a non-sense conflict that wiped out not only their youth, but also their future.

This song relates to my research only indirectly. It was chosen at the very last minute, on a hunch, as the soundtrack of a slideshow of pictures taken on Trebević, that I screened during my PhD defence. However, since that day it has transfigured into the musical background of my memories of the fieldwork. More important, when my main Trebević guide first listened to it, he totally felt the same. Therefore, the relation that “Splendid” maintains with the field is not based on anecdotic scenes, but on the evocative power of music.

Feelings’: Morris Alpert

Prof. Stephen Nugent, Anthropology – Goldsmiths

The song Feelings by Morris Albert (released 1974) is memorable for several reasons, not least its inclusion in a CNN poll of the worst songs of all time. Here, however, attention is drawn to its role in helping to dissolve the equation of space and culture that still prevails in anthropological discourse. That equation is not in itself de facto inappropriate, but it can lead to a rendering of the socio-historical space that is highly questionable, not to say abjectly mis-representative.

Amazonia, part of the globalization process that commenced 500 years ago, is still resolutely factored out of modernity landscapes on the grounds of its primordial naturalism.

Feelings is but one example of the shaky premises upon which Amazonia is marked out as anthropological space, a space long sub-divided into authentic Indian space and parboiled peasant space according to the anthropological division of labour. My account of Feelings is definitely from the par-boiled end of things and will be elaborated with reference to patterns of consumption of popular music as well as cinema by a provincial populations whose cultural frame of reference goes far beyond the stipulated place and culture relationships.

You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine’: Lou Rawls

Dr Dominique Santos, Anthropology – Goldsmiths

When my post-graduate research on youth culture, music and experiences of social change amongst ‘mixed’ cohorts in South Africa was disrupted by an extended period of maternity leave, I found myself spending large amounts of time with my mother-in-law. Hearing her stories about the experiences of past youthful cohorts making their way through the tumultuous political landscapes of South Africa from the 1940’s to the 1970’s forced an extension of my thesis to consider the relationship between music and experiences of social change as told through life narratives across generations, rather than exclusively located in post-apartheid society.

Working deeply with life narratives in research, in particular those from people you are intimately related to, can be challenging. ‘You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine’ was the breakthrough hit on Lou Rawl’s aptly titled 1976 album ‘All Things in Time’, and was a favourite song of my mother-in-law and her husband. This song helped me to understand some of the social processes at work in their reconciliation, despite the abusive pattern of their union. It evoked the soundscape of the small flat in the CBD of Johannesburg in which he courted her again in a way in which textual and vocal descriptions never could. Listening to it as a I worked through interpretations of our interview transcripts helped me to understand the ways in which musicking is part of making home and social reproduction. It evoked a sense of romance and the persuasive power of love songs to create bonds between people. If this seemed frivolous, then I only had to look at my own young family, descended from the son they conceived in this courtship period, to feel the extent of the repercussions of the ways in which musicking intersects with social reproduction.

Much of our understanding of the social world of the field, our location in it, collecting data and working through making sense of that data in the writing up process, comes through the experience of musicking (Small 1985). Most of the time, first time extended field research doesn’t play out in the expected arc that the course description of a conventional post-graduate degree in anthropology would lead one to believe. There is a tension between what is written for research grants, presented at committee reviews, and the experience of the unfolding of the field narrative. This paper considers how musicking influences the arc of the research process, and why it should be at the heart of reflecting on the sensory world that has generated insights, experience and the connections with others that is at the core of drawing conclusions about social life.

‘You Don’t Love Me (No No No)’: Dawn Penn

Dr Julian Henriques, Media and Communication – Goldsmiths

There was one particular dancehall sound system session, in the courthouse square, Port Antonio, Portland, Jamaica that I heard the distinctive laid back rhythm of this reggae track. It was the sound of the music – all through my body as totally intensive and immersive experience that I have remembered since. It was this particular track at that specific moment in the summer of 1998, that set me off on my sonic journey into embodied knowledge and the embodying knowledge of sound. How we listen is not just to the sound of the music inside ourselves, but also to recognise its reverberation in others. It is the engineers and sound system crew who transmit such sonic secrets.


3 thoughts on “The Playlist

  1. Pingback: MEET our contributor Gavin Weston! | Allegra

  2. Pingback: Music’s Marvellous Medicine & Moerman’s ‘Meaning Effect’ | Allegra

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