Arctic Monkeys @ Explanda del Estadio Azteca. Photo: monophonic.grrrl / Mariel A. M., flickr
“Ask the indie professor” is the name of a new series in the Guardian. The indie professor in question is Wendy Fonarow. At a music festival she was recently introduced as “the world’s only professor of indie music”.
“I’m not sure if I’m the only indie professor, but I’ve spent the last 18 years recording, examining and writing about the culture of indie and the international music industry”, Wendy Fonorow writes in her opening post. Her book “Empire of Dirt: The Aesthetics and Rituals of British Indie Music” tackles questions such as “Why are drummers the most ridiculed band members?”, she adds.
The readers of this new series are invited to ask questions. “So if you are curious about why cassettes are the new vinyl, or whatever else takes your fancy, here is your chance to ask”, she writes. “And please someone ask me about why Americans think they invented indie.”
After one day, there are already more than 250 comments.
The Guardian presented her book two years ago.
Here is what she according to the Guardian writes about indie culture and religion:
“Religious narratives show up in all expressive forms, from politics to music. I see a lot of the religious narrative of Puritanism in the indie music scene; the idea that, to have the pure divine experience, it has to be direct and unmediated. So the smaller and more intimate a show is, the ‘truer’ fans believe their experience was, compared to someone who saw them later on in a bigger venue. That’s why so many people claim to have seen the Sex Pistols at the 100 Club. You can also find the aesthetic of Puritanism in the way indie people present themselves, such as childlike clothing, this idea of returning to the golden age of childhood or the musical past.”
Or here about music as ethnicity:
One of my ex-students once said ‘music is my ethnicity’. People want to find other people who are like-minded so instead of finding their ethnic identity through birth they find it through aesthetic preferences and that becomes their identity. For each one of those music movements, there are modes of display. Desmond Morris talked about how different earrings can signify where you are in the age grade of certain tribes in central Africa. To outsiders these displays are subtle or hard to notice at all.”
Interesting! But it seems the anthropologist is extremely fond of theory and might tend to over-analyse her informants. Here is how the Guardian begins the presentation:
Remember that time you were crowd surfing at an Arctic Monkeys gig and thought you were just having a drunken laugh? Rubbish! You were, in fact, being “collaborative in a unique social space, expressing super-intimacy with strangers and rejecting the self-aggrandising that comes with stage-diving”. Oh yes you were. And that time you were standing at the bar and thought you were just, well, thirsty? Not at all: you were probably just “proving your credentials as an industry professional” or “communicating to others a disinterest in the act”.
These are the theories of professor Wendy Fonarow, anthropologist at UCLA in California and the author of Empire Of Dirt: The Aesthetics And Rituals Of British Indie Music.
Her book has received a lot of positive reviews, while Pichfork reviewer William Bower is less convined by the book and its language. Check also Wendy Fonarow’s website at http://www.indiegoddess.com/
”The Eurovision Song Contest is torture to my ears”, was one of my recent Facebook status messages. But as I learnt, the mega event is not primarily about music, it’s a ritual, a transnational social event that connects people and that - according to a recent paper “produces a new form of unity among people in Europe".
In her view, the ESC is a good place to discuss potentials for creating a critical, post-national and cosmopolitan European public sphere that challenges the governing paradigms of identity and belonging.
My thesis is that both the ESC and the strategies of Serbia’s participation in this event present attempts to move on from bipolarisation (East/West on the geopolitical map of Europe and First Serbia/Second Serbia in Serbia), respectively, to turn bipolarisation to multiplicity – and through that, paradoxically or not, to produce a new form of unity.
The Western, more ironic stance towards the competition can be seen as opposed to a more strategic attitude of the Eastern European participants, she writes. Similar observations were made by Onnik Krikorian at Global Voices. “While some media reported lagging interest in the 54-year-old competition", he writes, “countries such as those in the former Eastern bloc continue to take it seriously.”
Popular culture events such as the ESC have according to Marijana Mitrovic “the power and ability to reshape the geopolitical map of Europe and are also used in this way by the new and aspiring member states of the European Union":
Those are mostly countries that are undergoing a post-socialist transition. Participation in the ESC and a potential victory are a chance for them to invert the social and economic order, on a symbolic level. But paradoxically or not, with that inversion, they also integrate into Europe and inscribe themselves into its symbolic map. Thus rite de passage becomes a transition ritual indeed.
The contributers used the ESC to transform the image of the Balkan/Serbian from a militant and non-cultivated savage, into someone civil, emotional, yet archaic - while at the same time promoting a ”certain level of (Balkan?) universality”. The “new face of Serbia” is “pacified and friendly” and “meets both European and local values". This new Serbia “is a ‘country in the Balkans, a country of peasants’, but peasants who recognise European values.”
An example is the performance of Zeljko Joksimovic (2004)
The anthropologist comments:
Visual identity, crucial for the whole construction, is almost entirely recycled form the ‘memories’ of medieval Serbia. The members of his ad hoc orchestra are dressed in quasi medieval garments, while Joksimovic’s suit is modern, white and minimalist, but with an impressive ‘ethno’ accessory – modification of the belt typical of Serbian costume with an attached golden needle. He has a perfect haircut, his beard is tidy, he is sophisticated, reserved, unobtrusive and somewhat apart from the scene.
By means of a minimalist and modernised wardrobe, accessories and make-up which strongly referred to the medieval tradition of Serbia, the Balkans, but also the Byzantine Empire (not the Ottoman, although the Balkans are often associated with the Ottoman legacy), the Serbian team tried to transform the image of the Balkan/Serbian male, and people for that matter, from a militant and non-cultivated savage, or brute, always ready to fight, into someone civil, emotional, yet archaic
The recipe, she writes, was followed by the Croatians in 2005 and 2006, the Bosnians in 2006 and 2007, and peaked in the winning solution in Serbia’s 2007 winning song Molitva.
Many different groups, including socially marginalized groups, ethnic and sexual minorities invest their expectations and cultural preferences in this spectacle. Gay organisations are among the greatest fans of the event. They see this event as a symbolic representation of differences that guarantees the possibility of their social visibility according to Marijana Mitrovic:
Although some have derogatively proclaimed Marija Serifovic’s performance as an overtly lesbian one, that did not prevent their countrymen from awarding her a maximum 12 points. (…)
Preparing her ESC performance, her creative team reached the solution intentionally offered to be read as gay (with five female backing vocalists dressed in male suits the same as that of the lead singer, one of them locking hands with Marija to connect two halves of the heart tattooed on their hands). The symbolic value of her victory gained special weight through the association of her performance with lesbians and her origin with Roma communities in Serbia. It was argued that this was a victory for Serbian minorities as well.
But the problem with the new politics of Serbian identity is according to the researcher that the last revision of the past has erased all recent past, more than half a century of the region’s history:
Instead of continuity, ‘a time hole’ is opened up. This was reflected in the performances chosen to represent the state. For the turbulent sociocultural Serbian history, identity constructions based on the recycling of different memories turn out to be some of the main mechanisms for the construction of potential ‘new’ identities. Music themes and the way they are performed, as part of the representational and signifying system, manage to evoke and embody the nostalgia for the memory of the past in rational and affective ways; nonetheless, they also shape and direct the process of building and performing the national identity in the present and for the future.
I just picked some parts of her paper that is only available for subscribers.
On her webpage you can read a related paper about music and the “new face of Serbia": Serbia – from Miki and Kupinovo to Europe: Public Performance and the Social Role of Celebrity (pdf).
Marijana Mitrovic is by the way member of the Eurovision Research Network.
Check also the overview over the ESC 2010 by anthropologist Erkan Saka
Links updated 23.5.2014
There are only few studies on popular music in South Asia. Tereza Kuldova (Tereza Kuldova) reviews for us the book Hindi Film Songs and the Cinema by ethnomusicologist Anna Morcom. Her review shows - among other things - the differences and barriers between anthropology and ethnomusicology.
Review: Hindi Film Songs and the Cinema by Anna Morcom, 2007, Ashgate, ISBN 978-0-7546-5198-7
Tereza Kuldova, Research Fellow, Museum of Cultural History, Department of Ethnography University of Oslo
Popular music in South Asia equals film music, however, even though its popularity is immense, it has been a very little studied phenomenon. This is even more startling when we realize that film songs “have become the music of public spaces in India, being heard from open windows in peoples’ homes, on buses and in bazaars. They are sung and danced to by millions of people in a range of formal and informal contexts, and have been appropriated in many folk genres” (p. 5) and they are thus literally omnipresent. This book thus must get credit for the choice of its subject matter, in the first place.
This book deals with the relationship between Hindi film songs and Hindi films and analyzes them in their cinematic, narrative and visual contexts. The ongoing agenda of the book seems to be to persuade us that the Hindi film song cannot be separated from the Hindi film, which is however a rather obvious fact to any viewer of Hindi film. The only thing I have to say to this is – there is a reason why it is called a film song and ergo, how could the song ever be truly independent or separated from its film context?
Another concern of the book is the definition of the Hindi film song genre as an independent style. Anyone following the Hindi cinema knows that Hindi film songs are extremely creative and varied, drawing on great diversity of inspiration and adjusting it to the particular needs of concrete scenes, and it thus might not be that easy to define them in terms of any style. Moreover, I wonder, do we really have to categorize these songs in terms of any style? What do we gain by that? Well, the answer may be that we gain statements such as follows:
“Amongst an array of inconsistent or over-general stylistic parameters, the only true constant in Hindi film songs is their ‘inclusion in a Hindi film’” (p. 70).
That was not a very surprising fact, was it? The intense argumentation for the analysis of Hindi film songs in relation to the cinematic context, however commonsense, obvious and at times felt as redundant and repetitive is certainly not so obvious within musicology. Because as Morcom argues ”the cinematic perspective of Hindi film songs has been ignored, with musicological studies largely viewing them as separate entities from their parent films” (p.7). So possibly Morcom might get credit for introducing a notion that is rather and straightforward to any consumer of Hindi film songs to the musicological studies.
The conclusion of the books are thus following:
“Far from being an independent tradition of popular songs, this book has found film songs to be profoundly integrated with Hindi films on many levels. Film songs are conceived as part of a particular film, and the musical style of each song is tailored to the parent film and the song scene.
In commercial terms, although film songs have become a big business since the late 1980s, their profitability is only exploitable in association with the Hindi cinema. Even after their release, the consumption of film songs is largely tied up with the Hindi cinema generally, and to some extent, with the parent film in particular.
However, songs are distinct from their cinematic roles and contexts in certain ways, although the degree of this independence varies with each song. As well as tailoring a song musically to a situation, its ability to sound good as a separate entity, its ‘audio value’, is also considered during its production. At the level of reception, audiences are able to appropriate songs and adapt them to new situations, which in some cases may result in the relationship with the parent film and cinema culture in general becoming obscure, or even disappearing entirely. Hindi films have a narrative style and structure that is designed for songs, and similarly, film songs are able to fit around cinematic scenes (p. 239).”
Now that we have begun paradoxically with the conclusion, let us get through the book chapter for chapter.
In the first chapter (available online here), we are presented with the argument for the study of the Hindi film songs through a multimedia model of analysis, which takes into account the context of the film songs in their parent films, their narrative and visuals as well as their production process. However, there is no attempt to frame this whole analysis in the context of Indian society or its changing historical realities (even though the book discusses the different periods in the evolution of the Indian cinema).
We also get to know that the work draws extensively on fieldwork in India, from 1998-2000 and read that the “fieldwork was ethnographically based” and “aimed to study film music through observing, fitting in with and joining in with its own people and culture” (p. 20). However, when we proceed to the second chapter which is concerned with the production of the Hindi film songs, and which is supposed to draw almost exclusively on fieldwork, what is presented to us are mostly excessive and in terms of content repetitive selections from interview transcripts with producers, music directors, lyricists and others. We do not get to know much about the ethnographic reality as such and any ‘ethnographic’ description in the true sense of the word is missing, except for the practical aspects of the production process, in which the roles of the director, producer, music director, lyricist and others are assessed.
The point of the chapter is again to show that lyrics and music is closely related to what is happening in the film and that it is used to express various emotional states, actions or drama in the scenes.
Let us move on to the third chapter which tries to answer the question of “why are film songs so difficult to categorize in terms of style?” (p. 134). This is clearly a question in musicology, it does not make much sense to the anthropologist writing this review.
The conclusion of this chapter is again not very surprising:
“Film songs seen in one way seem very formulaic and standardized, but seen in another way, they are very eccentric and unpredictable. Film song is required to have a regular enough style and enough musical autonomy to work as popular music, to make sense without the film, and even to advertise film, but at the same time to be specific and idiosyncratic enough to fit around a particular given situation. (…) Film songs need to be seen as multi-media, musico-dramatic entities as well as popular songs in order to make sense of both individual songs and the development of the genre as a whole” (p. 135-6).
For me this last statement equals saying: Hindi film songs need to be seen as what they are.
In the fourth chapter, Morcom addresses the question of the relation between Western music and Hindi films and the role of narrative in Hindi film music style. Supposedly the most striking feature of Hindi film music, as I perceive it (being interested in it intensely in relation to my research and being also its keen consumer), is its eclecticism, namely its ability to borrow and combine different styles and traditions in just one song, and that is what makes it so much fun – and also what makes it possibly so confusing for a musicologist, trying to make sense of it. Morcom poses such questions as “how is this Hollywood music able to communicate apparently successfully to the Indian audience? European and American culture has little to do with Indian music” (p.147) or how is it possible that “various types of non-indigenous music may be conveying narrative meaning to indigenous audiences” (p.157).
She considers “the amount of overlap in musical meaning in Hindi and Hollywood films surprising. Ethnomusicology tends to emphasize the aspects of music that are culture specific” (p. 156). Well, maybe ethnomusicology should consider the option that cultures do not exist in isolation and Morcom should consider India’s colonial history, not to mention its history of thousands of years of cultural contact and exchanges. When what is considered a traditional Muslim floral decorative motif (which can be seen for example on the walls of the Taj) comes originally from the European herbaria, I tend not to really wonder why the ‘indigenous’ population can identify with Western musical elements in Hindi film songs.
However, Morcom hits on something interesting when she says that “the direct relationship of many musical signs with feeling, experience and somatic states may be one reason why music has greater potential for mutual understanding than language, whose signs are more highly mediated” (p.157). Sadly, she does not really elaborate on this any further. She concludes saying that:
“(M)any of the ‘Hollywood’ techniques most commonly found in Hindi films conveniently constitute an antithesis of rāg and classical melody, and also of film and folk melody, which are associated to a greater or lesser degree with the sacred, love, romance and celebration. They can therefore be used as powerful means to express distortion, destruction and disturbance of these qualities in a range of dramatic situations (p.178).”
However, they can also be used to express many other different things.
In the fifth chapter, Morcom explores the commercial life of Hindi film songs, in relation to Hindi film, in the context of buying, selling, and marketing. She investigates the technologies of distribution, marketing and profitability of film songs from the first few years of sound film to 2000. This chapter is based on fieldwork; however, that again stands for interviews with people in the industry. The chapter discusses the influence of gramophone, radio, cassettes, dvd, vhs, vcd etc. on the commercial potential of Hindi songs.
Again Morcom struggles with the distinction between marketing Hindi film songs and Hindi films, and we can again and again read sentences such as:
“The marketing of film songs and films are ultimately difficult to distinguish. Trailers using the film songs and visuals from the films are produced by the music company to promote the music, and the music, as it gains ground in the popular culture, promotes the film” (p.195).
Even though this book was published in 2007 it does not really take into account the importance of internet and though she discusses the importance of television and various live shows, it appears to me, that she does not really capture the extent of the industry. Moreover, nowadays there are numerous ‘making of the song/film’ videos available all over the internet, as well as numerous TV-shows featuring the stars, directors, singers, music directors etc. discussing the production and marketing process and many other things. This all is the promotion of the songs. However, though she notes that “these shows add another layer of importance to film songs, but are still parasitic on the cinema” (p.220), she does not really consider them in the analysis any depth.
In the last chapter, Morcom deals with the audience reception of Hindi films and with the life of the film song after its release. She again wonders if the songs are “able to become independent of the context of the parent film or of ‘film culture’ in general” (p.208). She analyzes different charts from several websites, concluding:
“(I)ndividual songs have, to some extent, a life of their own in terms of popularity and may become popular even if the parent film is a flop. However, when it is taken into account that only a minority of films are hits, the songs from hit films can be seen to further dominate the chart” (p.211).
When it comes to appropriation of film songs by the audiences, again a part of the text which is based on fieldwork, we get to know very briefly that people appropriate songs by
- singing them,
- playing them and singing at various occasions such as weddings, Holi, romancing or using them as devotional songs in the temple,
- identifying with them across disparate communities in South Asia and the Diaspora as they refer to shared experience
- performing them (from amateurs to professionals).
The conclusion she thus draws is that audiences actively appropriate these songs. However, what is striking when we realize that most of the Hindi film songs are dance songs is the lack of consideration of dance as a form of appropriation. As well as the lack of serious consideration of the movements and gestures in relation to the narrative, lyrics and music as a mode of expression. The embodiment of music and sound is definitely a way of appropriation of music that needs to be considered in any such analysis, and even more so in the analysis of Hindi film songs that rely visually to an extreme degree on bodily movements, gestures and dance scenes.
Reading this book as an anthropologist gave me an insight into on which premises ethnomusicology is established and it certainly thought me to be more sensitive to the various ways in which sound conveys meaning, which is possible the biggest lesson of the book – to give a thought to the various sounds and their interplay with the visual (however I would also include the somatic, emotional and embodied practices) and their ways to express, convey and reproduce meaning. At the same time, I feel that ethnomusicology, as I experienced it though this book, would profit from a more thorough study of anthropology, to get a more nuanced perspective and become more sensitive to the context.
MORE REVIEWS BY TEREZA KULDOVA:
Dai Cooper’s Anthropology Song has fascinated people all over the world. Around
10 000 39 000 people have seen the video on YouTube so far, it was sent around via facebook, twitter, mailing lists, and was already shown in many anthropology classes. Maybe nobody has better explained what anthropology is all about.
I got curious and asked her if I may interview her for antropologi.info. I’m glad, Dai Cooper, who is now doing a Masters in Anthropology at University of Toronto in Canada, said yes. So here is the (email-) interview:
- What a great song! Sounds like you’re a professional musician, do you sing in a band?
- Hah far from it! I bought my guitar for $60 at a second-hand shop in Vancouver about two years ago and taught myself to play a little, mostly watching YouTube tutorials and with occasional insight from guitar-playing friends. I’ve always loved singing just as an expression of self. I think everyone can sing, and it’s great when people feel empowered enough to do so. But I don’t think you need to be professional to create or appreciate music.
- How did you get the idea to writing this song AND uploading it to YouTube?
- I just started grad school in a new city, and to be honest, I came up with the first two verses of this song one morning after a long night of writing and little sleep. I was kinda charged up (and a tiny bit caffeinated), it was just before class, and the words just came to me. I got all excited and started playing around on the guitar with them. The tune got stuck in my head, and it quickly became almost an obsession to write down and work out all the new lines. I wanted to be able to express all the reasons why I love and am inspired by Anthropology. A day and a half later I sat down in my room in my new little apartment and turned on the camcorder.
- YouTube just seemed like the best way to make that expression of awesomeness available to whoever was interested in seeing it; I originally wrote it with mostly my family and my Anthro professors and friends from my alma mater back at University of British Columbia (UBC) in mind, but it seems to have really resonated with a lot of people beyond that.
- Why do you address your parents in the song?
- I love my parents, and they’re definitely the people who have supported me the most through my education. They always pay really close attention to the things I’m passionate about, and I’m really grateful for that. At the same time, it’s challenged me to ask myself some of the same questions that they’ve had so what exactly is Anthropology, anyway? Why are you studying it again? and I think in many ways the song addresses some of those same questions. So the song is sincerely dedicated to them.
- I also think it adds a humorous element to frame the song in a way that insinuates coming out as an anthropologist to your family having to dispel some misconceptions and explain some new ways of thinking.
- What kind of reactions did you get?
- Really inspirational ones! I was just expressing happiness and inspiration through the song, and apparently that’s made a lot of other people happy and inspired too, which is wonderful. Anthropology to me is all about human connexions, and it’s been so amazing to feel like people from all over the world have been feeling those connexions with each other through the song. I’ve had profs in my new Toronto department come up to me and exclaim, you’re the girl on YouTube! So apparently it’s a great way to meet people, too! In addition to strangers, I’ve also heard a lot of positive comments from people back home; old friends and people in my old department, who I felt really close to, and its great to renew those links as well.
- It sounds that you could be invited to sing your song at conferences. What do you think?
- Hah actually several people have suggested that by now. I’d be super flattered if that happened! I did actually offer to play it at the AAA conference in December, it was half-joking, because I don’t think they’d take me up on it - but I’d just love to share the song and the sentiments behind it with anyone who likes it. It makes me happy.
- More ideas concerning music in anthropology, Public anthropology, and web 2.0?
- It’s interesting that you ask that actually, because one of the (many) inspirations that led up to me writing the song was watching Michael Wesch’s An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube, which is all about web 2.0 and thinking about internet forums as social spaces that allow people to connect and communicate in new ways. I think an anthropology of those networks and online spaces is something were hopefully going to see much more of in the near future, as it’s a fascinating subject.
- In maybe a similar way, music is probably one of the more powerful (and older) ways people communicate their ideas and humanity across culture and space and time as well. I know there’s a whole field of study called ethnomusicology that I don’t know much about, but it sounds like it would be great to write a song about
- Your interestes in anthropology and research plans?
- My own research throughout my undergrad came to focus on the production and significance of social spaces. I’ve also been focusing largely on an indigenous group called the Toba in northern Argentina, and especially their movements toward urbanization in barrios or shantytowns surrounding the big cities, where I actually got to spend some time living last summer. If anything has taught me about love, humility, poverty, generousity, and my own life here in Canada, it’s been that experience. I’m hoping to return there to conduct some fieldwork for my Master’s as well.
- Why did you choose to study anthropology?
- I think a lot of the reasons why I study Anthropology now come out in the song: seeking peoples stories, rethinking perspectives, and a common humanity. But as far as how did I get started, probably 95% of the credit goes to my first-year introductory anthropology professor back at University of British Columbia (UBC), Gaston Gordillo (who later became my advisor there), who is just an amazing person, passionate about the discipline and students and encouraging people to (un)think, and who continues to inspire me to this day especially as I’m now a teaching assistant (TA) and taking on that educational role myself, I find myself engaging my own students in many ways that I learned from him.
- And now you’re - according to your song - soon on the way to Vietnam and Peru?
- To be completely honest, Vietnam rhymes with Barack Obamas mom But I’m glad it does, because one of my best friends is from there, and I actually would love to experience Vietnam. Peru I love. It’s a land of mystery to many, and also includes many stereotypes, but it has loved and challenged and embraced me in my travels through many highs and lows in my life. Perú te amo.
Thanks a lot for the interview!
UPDATE 24.10.09: Dai Cooper was asked to play this song at the AAA meeting in December!
UPDATE 27.10.09: Good question by a PhD student:
I wonder if a second part to this song isn’t needed? One that takes on board the critiques that have been written about anthropology and the types of knowledge that we produce about people. I am (…) aware of the problems of our discipline and having worked with people who have had to and who continue to live in the shadows of anthropological knowledge about them, I wonder if you don’t gloss over that slightly.
That’s awesome and possibly the best constructive critique that’s been said. I agree that, being from a pretty personal perspective, the song really romanticizes the discipline, and you’re right, the effects of the production and dissemination of anthropological knowledge are more complex. If you want to nurture a creative streak, you’re MORE than welcome to write a new verse (as it says in the comments ^^) and post it as a video response, that’d be AWESOME!
Wow! Overwhelming! The British Library has made more than 23 000 sound recordings from all over the world freely available to everyone at http://sounds.bl.uk
“World and traditional music", “oral history", “accents and dialects", “environment and nature” are some of the categories on the websites. Right now I’m listening to Sunna Saora in India with his two-stringed Sora fiddle. Sunna went from house to house, asking for some rice grains and playing his songs.
“One of the difficulties, working as an archivist, is people’s perception that things are given to libraries and then are never seen again – we want these recordings to be accessible", Janet Topp Fargion, the library’s curator of world and traditional music, says in the Guardian.
To say the sounds are diverse may be understatement, according to the presentation in the Guardian:
There are Geordies banging spoons, Tawang lamas blowing conch shell trumpets and Tongan tribesman playing nose flutes. And then there is the Assamese woodworm feasting on a window frame in the dead of night. (…) The recordings go back more than 100 years, with the earliest recordings being the wax cylinders on which British anthropologist Alfred Cort Haddon recorded Aboriginal singing on his trip to the Torres Strait islands off Australia in 1898
Unfortunately, the website is optimised for Windows users and the people behind the website don’t seem to have much knowledge about other operating systems. For example, they advise Mac users to download “software such as Winamp or Windows Media Player” - which are Windows applications (VLC works fine). Their statement “Some features are unavailable in some web browser/operating system configurations” is not very helpful either.
“This is a break from the norm of writing about Bali", writes Laura Noszlopy enthusiastically about a new book by anthropologist Emma Baulch called “Making scenes: reggae, punk, and death metal in 1990s Bali”.
In 1996, Emma Baulch went to live in Bali to do research on youth culture. She hang out in the death metal scene among unemployed university graduates clad in black T-shirts and ragged jeans; in the punk scene among young men sporting mohawks, leather jackets, and hefty jackboots; and among the remnants of the local reggae scene in Kuta Beach, the island’s most renowned tourist area.
The scene that Baulch has accessed is a deliberately closed and marginalized one, though it is situated largely in Bali’s most ‘open’ places: Kuta and Denpasar. And it is a scene that anthropologists had overlooked or not have not been interested before according to Baulch.
Laura Noszlopy quotes the author who writes that sidewalks of Kuta she entered in 1996 were
… a gaping frontier land of which anthropology rarely spoke … they raged with charged encounters between tourists and street-side watch sellers, drug dealers, drivers, pimps, and whores … punk jams chafed against the pop soundscape emanating from the Hard Rock Café across the road. Mohawks, feigned brawls, Bad Religion, metal spikes, hefty jackboots, and leather jackets thrived (p. 1).
This is an image that may possibly be familiar to travellers who have stayed in Kuta, Bali’s largest resort. But is not one that is found in brochures or highlighted by Balinese cultural commentators, and neither is it one that anthropologists tend to write about
The book also explains the machinations of the various contesting groups within the scene(s):
This is fascinating stuff; I doubt that many observers of Balinese society, or Balinese themselves, will have any idea of the detailed differences and ‘othering’ that took place not from the perspective of counterculture juxtaposed against mainstream, but between the multiple shifting identities created amongst the various groups. And these, of course, ‘othered’ themselves against the reggae groups that played in tourist bars.
All, Baulch argues, are somehow part of a peripheral Balinese Other in a love-hate relationship with Jakarta’s Indonesian centre, rather than the predictable West. This rather radical and, to some traditionalists, surprising point that Balinese punk is somehow principally about Balineseness and regionalism recurs throughout the book.
“This is the kind of work about Bali that I would like to see more of", Laura Noszlopy writes:
It is truly contemporary. It deals with the complexities of a set of subcultural groups juxtaposed against and yet parallel to the local and national hegemonies. It recognizes the particularities of these groups and many of the individuals who people them, rather than lumping them together as ‘youth culture’.
Baulch does not simplify the issues, avoid people’s chaotic agency, or seek neat conclusions. Her work seems to embrace the complexity of the process of making scenes in Bali. And it does all this while recognizing the global music scene and late capitalist cultural economy – what Appadurai called the ‘global modern’– of which it is also a small, but noisy, part. This is a refreshing change.
But the reviewer writes less enthusiastically about the language of the book (a well known problem in many ethnographies):
The main difficulty I found with the text, however, was the marrying of the sometimes opaque style of theoretical analysis with the much looser conversational mode of the ethnography. While consistently vibrant and entertaining, it was not always complementary. The mixed tone was also apparent across chapters.
The review appeared in the recent issue of Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (subscription required)
But I found this text by Emma Baulch: Punks, rastas and headbangers: Bali’s Generation X (Inside Indonesia 48: Oct-Dec 1996)
Together with several other researchers, she has written Poverty and Digital Inclusion: Preliminary Findings of Finding a Voice Project
At the forefront are the Ainu Rebels (image). They use music and dance to rebel against a history of institutionalized discrimination. They celebrate being an Ainu by mixing traditional dress, dance and language with hip-hop and rap.
And they’re getting an enthusiastic response from young Japanese. T-shirts, vests and handbags adorned with Ainu motifs are selling well, and Ainu rock musician Oki Kano is making it big with a band featuring the tonkori, a sort of Ainu guitar, ap journalist Malcolm Foster writes. Ethnicity is hip in Japan according to linguist John Maher.
When I visited the indigenous music festival Riddu Riddu in Northern Norway a few years ago, I noticed the strong ties between the Saami and other indigenous people around the world. Riddu Riddu started as a Saami festival but developped into an international festival with guests from Papua New Guinea, Botswana, New Zealand, Nunavut and Greenland.
Contact with other indigenous people was also critical to the Ainu revival. Mina Sakai from the Ainu Rebels tells that her awareness came at age 16 when, on a cultural exchange trip to Canada, she was struck by the passionate way Canadian indigenous people danced and sang:
“I was shocked. They were so cool and so proud of being native Canadians. I realized that I have a beautiful culture and strong roots. I decided that I should be a proud Ainu and express that in my life.”
In June, Japan’s parliament recognized the Ainu as an indigenous people - a major shift from the mid-1980s when Yasuhiro Nakasone, the then prime minister, declared that Japan was a homogenous nation with no minorities.
The article also mentions Ann-Elise Lewallen, an American cultural anthropologist at Hokkaido University who has worked closely with the Ainu community for 10 years. But I could not find info about her online.
UPDATE: See also the coverage of this issue at Open Anthropology: Decolonizing Japan?
In 2005 his movie Metal - A Headbanger’s journey took the world with storm. Now anthropologist and metal musician Sam Dunn has released “Global Metal” - a film about the global expansion of heavy metal music.
Together with his co-director Scot McFayden, Dunn visited metal fans in Brazil, Japan, China, Indonesia, Israel and Iranian metal fans in Dubai.
The film seems to be especially relevant for theories on globalisation, cosmopolitanism, and social movements. As we read on the film’s homepage:
GLOBAL METAL reveals a worldwide community of metalheads who aren’t just absorbing metal from the West – they’re transforming it. Creating a new form of cultural expression in societies dominated by conflict, corruption and mass-consumerism.
Reviewer Liz Braun notes in the Winnipeg Sun:
In every country, metal has been bent and remade to reflect the culture. In India, metal fans talk about Bollywood music. In China, kids learn metal licks at a music school devoted to rock. Kaiser Kuo of the band Tang Dynasty talks about the underground metal scene in Beijing. In the Middle East, a Muslim says, “I got caught by the religious police for wearing a Slayer T-shirt and having long hair.”
Global Metal confirms that music is an international language. Particularly in countries where war and oppression are the norm, metal seems to represent a crucial outlet for emotional expression.
Unlike many facets of so-called “Western culture", metal has not been spread by mass media, but rather by word of mouth and the internet. After the success of their first film, Dunn began receiving emails from places he didn’t even know had a metal culture, he tells to The Age:
There were a lot of countries that didn’t get proper distribution of the film, and we started to get emails from India and Iran, from people saying, “We’ve heard about the film or downloaded it, but come and check out metal in our country.”
We knew about metal in places like Brazil and Japan; we didn’t know the full extent of how metal is spread around the world.
In an interview with twitchfilm.net, Scot McFayden says that they even hired researchers for their movie.
Sam Dunn tells that he was especially surprised about heavy metal in Israel:
I was really struck by our experience in Israel actually and the degree to which the Metal that the Israeli kids listen to and perform has such a strong personal relevance for them.
When I was growing up as a Metalhead, the lyrics were never necessarily reflecting something I was going through as a person. (…) But to go to Israel and talk with people that are living through a day to day reality of conflict and war. It was quite eye-opening for me and I realized that Metal can mean something very different to people depending on where you come from.
In an interview with Victoria Times Colonist he says learning about metal communities in other countries changed his views on Heavy Metal:
Being a fan of metal in Iran means you’re putting, at some extent, your personal safety at risk. Kids have had their hair cut [off], their T-shirts taken away, rehearsal rooms raided and gear confiscated, so we realized being a metal-head is a far greater statement [there] than being a snotty-nosed teenager with a Slayer shirt who wants to piss off your parents.
According to the SeeMagazine, “Dunn is a major reason the film is so charming":
He’s tall and lanky, forever wearing the same Mastodon t-shirt and awkwardly tucking his shoulder-length blond hair behind his ears. That earnest, unassuming quality makes him a likable character, but it also makes him an extremely effective interviewer: everyone seems to want to talk to the guy—not just Chinese record store owners and struggling metal bands from Iran, but ex-Megadeth guitarist Marty Friedman (who now makes his career appearing on Japanese variety television) and even Lars Ulrich, the notoriously prickly drummer for Metallica.