Deciphering Culture

Archive for the ‘Ethnomusicology’ Category

The Art of Agency 3 (Asian Improv aRts @ SF State)

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From March 2 through March 5, Asian Improv aRts (AIR) and SF State’s World Music and Dance Program are holding a “collaborative presentation of public dialogue, workshops and performances exploring the intersection of traditionality and hybridity in the formation of community.” It is an interesting mix of events, culminating with “Sounding Asian Improv aRts (AIR),” the keynote session of the Annual Meeting of the Northern California Chapter of the Society for Ethnomusicology.

ImprovisAsians 2011! – The Art of Agency 3

March 2nd – 5th, 2011

San Francisco State University College of Creative Arts

All events are free and will take place at San Francisco State University, 1600 Holloway Avenue

Wednesday, March 2nd

Diaspora Tales #2 – An interdisciplinary work featuring music by the Francis Wong Unit, spoken word by A.K. Black, dance by Lenora Lee and media design by Olivia Ting. “1969” reflects upon the Third World Strike at UC Berkeley and Wong’s family history from the period.
1:10 – 2pm Knuth Hall, Room 132, Creative Arts Building

Thursday, March 3rd

Asian Improv aRts Master Class with SF State Creative World Music Ensemble featuring composer Francis Wong
2:35 – 4:50pm Room 150, Creative Arts Building

The Artist as Public Intellectual Panel Discussion with Yutian Wong, Jeffrey Callen, Lenora Lee, Francis Wong, and Hafez Modirzadeh
6:10 – 8:50pm Room 147, Creative Arts Building

Friday, March 4th

The Creative World: A collaborative concert featuring Francis Wong, Hafez Modirzadeh, Bryan Bowman, John-Carlos Perea, and Jimmy Biala with members of the SF State Creative World Ensemble
1:10 – 2pm Knuth Hall, Room 132, Creative Arts Building

Saturday, March 5th

Asian Improv aRts in collaboration with the College of Ethnic Studies, College of Creative Arts, and the Northern California Chapter of the Society for Ethnomusicology (NCCSEM) are proud to present:

Sounding Asian Improv aRts (AIR) A lecture demonstration. This Keynote Roundtable Session is part of the NCCSEM 2011 annual meeting. Co-moderators: John-Carlos Perea, Francis Wong, and Hafez Modirzadeh. Participants include Melody Takata, Dohee Lee, Wayne Wallace, and Kat Parra.
1-2:30pm Knuth Hall, Room 132, Creative Arts Building


Program — Annual Meeting of the 
Northern California Chapter of the Society for Ethnomusicology

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The program needs a little fine tuning — adding some session titles and chairs — but the schedule for the meeting is set. Looking forward to seeing you at SFSU on March 5th!

Jeffrey Callen –  President, NCCSEM


Annual Meeting of the 
Northern California Chapter of the Society for Ethnomusicology

Creative Arts Building,

San Francisco State University

Saturday, March 5, 2011


8:00-9:00 Registration & Coffee

Annual Dues: $15 General, $10 Students/Low Income

Session I (Concurrent) – Knuth Hall

9:00-10:00   “The Salt Song Trail Map” (documentary film, lecture & discussion) – Philip M. Klasky (San Francisco State University)

Session II (Concurrent) – Choir Room

9:00-10:00    SESSION TITLE / Chair: TBA

9:00-9:30       “Psychedelia as National Project? From “Space to Environment” to EXPO ‘70” – Miki Kaneda (University of California, Berkeley)

9:30-10:00     “Modern Interpretation of a Greek Art Form” – Eli Harrison (San Francisco State University)

Session III (Concurrent) – Knuth Hall

10:15-11:45   Moroccan Popular Music / Chair: Jeffrey Callen

10:15-10:45  “The Voice of a Woman: Educating Moroccan Audiences in Hip Hop Literacy with Stage Talk” – Kendra Salois (University of California, Berkeley)

10:45-11:15   “’Nayda’ and the music festival in Morocco” (video presentation) – Tzvetomira Tocheva (University of Strasbourg, France)

11:15-11:45   Demonstration of Moroccan “fusion” (video presentation) – Adil Hanine (drummer for Hoba Hoba Spirit) and Sajid Ammor, (bassist and guitarist)

Session IV (Concurrent) – Choir Room

10:15-11:45   Latino/Latina Identity Moves – Chair: TBA

10:15-10:45   “Reasoning Sessions with Irie Vatos: Mexican-American Rastafari   Identity”— Monique Posadas (San Jose State University)

10:45-11:15   “Las Posadas in Los Angeles: Mexican Festival in the era of  Multiculturalism” – Luis Chavez (California State University, East Bay)

11:15-11:45   “From Yo Soy to Que Lo Soy: Agency, Amerindian Archetypes, and Androgenity in a Disney Song” – Robin Sacolick (University of California Santa Cruz)

11:45-1:00 Lunch

Keynote Session Knuth Hall — presented by Asian Improv aRts in collaboration with the SFSU College of Ethnic Studies, SFSU College of Creative Arts and NCCSEM.

1:00-2:30    “Sounding Asian Improv aRts at San Francisco State University” –  Francis Wong (Asian Improv aRts), Hafez Modirzadeh (San Francisco State University), John-Carlos Perea (San Francisco State University).

Session V (Concurrent) – Knuth Hall

2:45-4:15    SESSION TITLE / Chair: Miriam Dvorin-Spross

2:45-3:15    “Abstracting Iranian Classical Music” – Faraz Minooei (University Of California, Irvine)

3:15-3:45    “Piano Music From Around The World” – Julia Hansen (Skyline College)

3:45-4:15    “Connecting the Voices of the Philippine Magindanaon Kulintang and African American Jazz Ensemble” – Royal Hartigan (University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth)

Session VI (Concurrent) – Choir Room

2:45-4:15    SESSION TITLE – Chair: TBA

2:45-3:15    “Cultural Differentiation and the Rise of Professional Musicians in Odisha, India” – David Dennen (University of California, Davis)

3:15-3:45    Keeping up with the Times: Exemplification of Scottish Identity in the Wake of Hybridization – Ian Martyn (University of California, Davis)

3:45-4:15    “Something in the Way She Moves: Meaningful Gestures in Flamenco Interaction” – Tony Dumas (University of California, Davis)

4:30 – 5:00 Business Meeting (Knuth Hall)




Written by Jeffrey Callen

February 18, 2011 at 6:54 pm

New book: Peter Gabriel, From Genesis to Growing Up

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Self promotion aside (although my chapter, “‘I need contact’ – rock ‘n’ roll ritual: Peter Gabriel’s Security tour, 1982–83” is quite good), this is an excellent collection on an influential figure in popular music. Out on Ashgate on December 23, 2010. From the publisher’s press release:

Ever since Peter Gabriel fronted progressive rock band Genesis, from the late 1960s until the mid 1970s, journalists and academics alike have noted the importance of Gabriel’s contribution to popular music. His influence became especially significant when he embarked on a solo career in the late 1970s. Gabriel secured his place in the annals of popular music history through his poignant recordings, innovative music videos, groundbreaking live performances, the establishment of WOMAD (the World of Music and Dance) and the Real World record label (as a forum for musicians from around the world to be heard, recorded and promoted) and for his political agenda (including links to a variety of political initiatives including the Artists Against Apartheid Project, Amnesty International and the Human Rights Now tour). In addition, Gabriel is known as a sensitive, articulate and critical performer whose music reflects an innate curiosity and deep intellectual commitment. This collection documents and critically explores the most central themes found in Gabriel’s work. These are divided into three important conceptual areas arising from Gabriel’s activity as a songwriter and recording artist, performer and activist: ‘Identity and Representation’, ‘Politics and Power’ and ‘Production and Performance’….

French Fries in the Tagine — Moroccan Alternative Music

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In 2002, I spent the year researching the emergence of an alternative music movement in Morocco. Made up of a collection of genres that lie on the periphery of mainstream culture — hip-hop, electronica, rock/metal, fusion — alternative music had yet to break through. 2002 was its year on the cusp. In 2003, it would make its move to center stage and, within a few years, hip-hop and fusion bands would become major players in Moroccan pop culture.

My dissertation, French Fries in the Tagine: Re-imagining Moroccan Popular Music (UCLA, Department of Ethnomusicology, 2006),  which focused on fusion, examined this change in the musical playing field, how it happened and what it meant. I’m posting this link to share the work and ask for feedback. I’m currently writing a book on Moroccan alternative music that will hopefully bring this fascinating story to a wider audience.

All the best,

Jeffrey Callen, Ph.D.

Now for a little music:

Review: Traveling Spirit Masters: Moroccan Gnawa Trance and Music in the Global Marketplace, by Deborah Kapchan (Middle Eastern Studies Association Bulletin)

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This review was published in the Winter 2008/2009 edition of the Middle Eastern Studies Association Bulletin

Traveling Spirit Masters: Moroccan Gnawa Trance and Music in the Global Marketplace, by Deborah Kapchan. 325 pages, 19 b/w illus., endnotes, bibliography, index. Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2007. $75.00 (unjacketed cloth) ISBN 0-8195-6851-1, $27.95 (paper) ISBN 0-8195-6852-X.

reviewed by Jeffrey Callen

The ritual practice of the Gnawa, a Moroccan Islamic order formed by descendants of slaves from sub-Saharan Africa, centers on the performance of healing rituals (lilat; sing. lila). During a lila, afflicted individuals enter into trance and communicate with and placate spirits that are causing disturbances of their physical or psychological well-being. Lilat and the experience of trance have been the predominant focus of scholarly attention on the Gnawa, most notably from Francophone scholars (most notably Viviana Pâcques and Bertrand Hell). Traveling Spirit Masters, the first English language book of scholarship on the Gnawa, extends that focus to examine the ways in which trance and the Gnawa themselves have become commodities in the international marketplace. In the “Introduction”, Kapchan asserts that Traveling Spirit Masters is  not a book about the Gnawa but an exploration of the “power of trance, the way it circulates globally, and its relation to music and gendered subjectivity” (1). To fulfill the broad scope of  this goal, the book is divided into two sections: “The Culture of Possession” (Chapters 1-5) and “Possessing Culture” (Chapters 6-11). The first section, set in Morocco, explores the ritual practice of the Gnawa with particular focus on the role and involvement of women, both as individuals who seek relief through trance, and as overseers of the rituals (mqaddemat, pl.). The second section, set in France and Morocco, examines the movement of the Gnawa and their musical practice into the global marketplace. (for the entire review click here)

“Musical Community”

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Little Red and the Dukes of Rhythms from the late 1940s Lovey Lovejoy, Little Red, Big Dad, Owen Felder, Count Otis Matthews (From the Personal Collection of Clarence "Little Red" Tenpenny)

My work on the interrelationship between art and community began with research on the blues nightclub district that existed in North Richmond, California from the mid-1940s until the late 1960s. My MA thesis looked at the wide-ranging effects the development and subsequent loss of a thriving nightclub district had on communal life. In the next few months, I will be revisiting this work but for now I’m posting a copy of my thesis ( Musical Community: The “Blues Scene” in North Richmond, California. UC Santa Barbara, Dept. of Music. 2001)   and looking forward to any feedback I might receive.

Written by Jeffrey Callen

January 15, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Rock ‘n’ Roll & Ritual (’80s Peter Gabriel)

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“I need contact” (from Performance and Popular Music) — a nice piece I wrote in 2006 for Performance and Popular Music: History, Place and Time, (Ian Inglis, ed. – London: Ashgate Publishing). It’s going to be reprinted in Peter Gabriel: From Genesis to Growing Up (Michael Drewet, Sarah Hill & Kimi Kari, eds. – London: Ashgate Publishing) in 2010. The chapter analyzes Gabriel’s use of ritual in his live performances of material from the influential Security album and discusses the musical sources (and inspirations) Gabriel drew upon.

Album cover from Peter Gabriel Plays Live

Gabriel has continued create innovative music (and hits) but, for me, none of it has the creative spark of his ’80s work after leaving Genesis.  The latest effort, the forthcoming Scratch My Back, is interesting in theory, featuring Gabriel covering a dozen songs written by other songwriters. The set list if intriguing but the instrumentation (an orchestra) plays into Gabriel’s worst musical instincts that haven’t had such free rein since his over-dramatic and sometimes treacly performances with Genesis on The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway and Selling England by the Pound. At least that’s my impression from hearing clips of the first three tracks — AND I hope I’m wrong. Check it out yourself at

Written by Jeffrey Callen

December 17, 2009 at 4:32 pm

Writings on Transgendered Musical Entertainers

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I had a female impersonator for years named Jean LaRue. I didn’t tell you about that. She was out of Oakland. I don’t know if she is living or dead. She was with me for years. Name was Jean LaRue. (August 14, 1998 Interview of Clarence ‘Little Red’ Tenpenny).

“Little Red” was one of my richest sources of information (and knowledge) when I was doing research for my Master’s thesis on the blues nightclub district that existed in North Richmond, California from the mid-40s to early ’70s. Red mentioned Jean LaRue in our first interview but didn’t mention that she was a female impersonator until a later conversation.  That remark sparked my interest and led to later research, which resulted in my writing “Gender Crossings: A Neglected History in African American Music”*,  an analysis of the exclusion of female and male impersonators from the history of African American music. I’ve also written an encylcopedia entry for the long-delayed but forthcoming Encyclopedia of African American Music: “Transgendered Experience in African American Music” (a terrible title — not my choice). {Digital copies of this entry and/or my MA thesis Musical Community: The “Blues Scene” in North Richmond, California available on request

Also, check out Sherrie Tucker’s excellent article “When Did Jazz Go Straight? A Queer Question for Jazz Studies” in Critical Studies in Improvisation (2008). An insightful article that asks the right questions (and kindly cites my article “Gender Crossings”). I haven’t checked it out yet but Sherrie is one of the editors of Big Ears:  Listening for Gender in Jazz Studies that was published in October, 2008.

* published in Queering the Popular Pitch in 2006 (Sheila Whiteley & Jennifer Rycenga, eds. – New York & London: Routledge). 2006.

Written by Jeffrey Callen

December 14, 2009 at 11:44 am

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