Roots music, pure musical roots? A matter of the past, maybe never existent. In times of globalisation and digitisation, the research of music – whether it be practical or scientific, as well as documenting and conveying these new pop sounds – should have shifted its focus by now.
New, and maybe today's most interesting, pop musical trends arise in countries and cultural areas far away from the so called West's. They do this in a cultural exchange with the whole world. And they do so often faster than anybody from the outside can follow. So how do scientists, label owners and musicians find this new music today, how do they specify it, document it, pass it on to the audience? A panel about tracing routes instead of roots.
Sarah Abunama-Elgadi or Alsarah is a Sudanese-born singer, songwriter and ethnomusicologist. Born in the capital city of Khartoum, where she spent the first eight years of her life, she relocated to Taez, Yemen with her family to escape the ever-stifling regime in her native country. She then abruptly moved to the US in 1994 when a brief civil war broke out in Yemen. Alsarah started her musical training at the age of twelve and went on to study ethnomusicology at Wesleyan University.
Dr. Thomas Burkhalter is an ethnomusicologist, music journalist, and cultural producer from Switzerland. He is the founder and director of Norient. He published the book Local Music Scenes and Globalization: Transnational Platforms in Beirut (Routledge) and co-edited The Arab Avant-Garde: Music, Politics, Modernity (Wesleyan University Press). He works as a researcher at the University of Basel and the University of Arts Bern, financed by the Swiss National Foundation (SNF). As the director of the Norient Musikfilm Festival, a documentary filmmaker and an audio-visual performer, he places emphasis on trans-disciplinary approaches between theory and practice.
Christopher Kirkley is a music collector and archivist focused on the Sahel of West Africa. His work documents popular musics and cultural phenomena of local tradition with transglobal influence. Via filmmaking, field recordings, interviews, photography, mp3 archiving and cellphone data collection, the project is an experiment in cross-cultural communication. Kirkley releases records under the label Sahel Sounds in conjunction with artists across six countries.
Florian Sievers is a Berlin-based journalist. He was trained in economics but also writes about music, art, and architecture. He is an avid record collector and is deeply interested in the African roots of Northern hemisphere dance music genres from hip-hop to techno.
Wendy Hsu is a researcher, strategist, and educator who engages with hybrid research and organizes agendas for equality in arts, technology, and civic participation. Hsu recently completed the ACLS Public Fellowship at the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, providing research and strategy to augment the department’s digital capacity, relevance, and public engagement. Additionally, Hsu serves on the programming advisory committee for Arts for LA, steering committee for Cultural Research Network, and the Society of Ethnomusicology Council.