CEDEJ Seminar on Tuesday, February 13, 2024 at 11am
On Tuesday, February 13, 2024 at 11am at CEDEJ, Martin Stokes, Yara Salahiddeen , Sophie Frankford, Rim Irscheid will present their research project Beyond 1932: Rethinking musical modernity in the MENA region.
The Cairo Congress of Arab Music in 1932 brought together musicians and musicologists from across the post-Ottoman world and involved the participation of eminent Western composers, orientalists and musicologists. Its underlying aim was to share ‘best practice’ in performance, pedagogy and research, to unify and connect. Its effects could be said, however, to have been more or less the opposite. In its wake, modern national traditions and performance practices fragmented. Western ethnomusicologists and their Middle Eastern counterparts never joined forces collectively again. Scholarship and popular practice went in opposite directions, and never convincingly reconnected. The claims of Egyptian cultural leadership, formed in response toa fraught revolution (1919), foundered. To consider 1932 in retrospect is thus to consider the fate of postcolonial politics and culture across the entire Arab and post-Ottoman world.
This talk will introduce a new UKRI-funded research project, hosted by the Music Department at King’s College London, which investigates the 1932 Cairo Arab Music Congress in order to reposition music in both humanistic and social scientific understandings of postcolonial modernity in the MENA region. The Cairo Congress, the largest gathering of musicians and musicologists in the post-Ottoman world, engaged scholarly attention thirty years ago, but very little since. It continues to be understood as an event marking the end of MENA musical tradition and the beginning of a deeply compromised modernity. This interdisciplinary project, examining both the Congress’s past and its legacy, and comprising historical and ethnographic research as well as artists residencies and contemporary musical performance, poses a different question. What – beyond reaction – did it actually set in motion across the region? What aspects of its legacy remain unrecognized, and why? What futures – intellectual, institutional and cultural – does it still have?
Prof. Martin Stokes
Professor of Anthropology and Music, Kings College London. Martin Stokes is PI of the ‘Beyond 1932’ project (UKRI/ERC). He taught at Queen’s Belfast, Chicago and Oxford before taking up his current post at KCL. He has been researching music in the Mediterranean world since the1980s, with a significant focus on modern and Ottoman Turkey. His most recent book is Music and Citizenship (OUP 2023).
Dr. Yara Salahiddeen is an ethnomusicologist and vocalist of Egyptian and Palestinian song. Her work examines the cultural politics of urban music-making and its consumption during the late 19th and early 20th centuries of Egypt. She is particularly interested in the influence of tarab, an Arabic aesthetic principle, practice, and repertory that valorises improvisation and musical ecstasy. In addition, she is interested in the transformation of scores and song within 20th century popular Egyptian film.
Dr. Sophie Frankford is an anthropologist of music and popular culture, with a focus on Egypt. After an undergraduate degree in Music and an MPhil in Modern Middle Eastern Studies, she completed her DPhil in Anthropology at the University of Oxford. She is currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at CEDEJ and will soon start as a Research Associate in the Music Department at King’s College London.
Dr. Rim Irscheid is a postdoctoral researcher and curator working on the intersection of curatorial activism, diaspora music-making, and cultural policy across Lebanon and Germany. She is a Research Associate in curation on the UKRI project ‘Beyond 1932: Rethinking Musical Modernity in the Middle East and North Africa’. She holds a PhD in Ethnomusicology & Curatorial Practice from King’s College London.