Simone Krüger Bridge

Jonathan P. J. Stock

Editors’ Introduction

A very warm welcome to issue 7.1 of the Journal of World Popular Music: we hope it reaches you safe and well! Perhaps inevitably, production of this issue was impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and the associated steps taken around the world to slow its spread. We hope nevertheless that the journal reaches you speedily and that you are able to enjoy its contents.

This new situation continues to impact massively upon musicians, the institutions and venues through which they work, and their publics around the world. It is playing out in complex ways, many of which will already be under analysis by researchers. We see, for example, new framings for expressions of hostility toward those perceived as foreign and, at the same time, a novel forum for community building based on shared participation in music-based activities, such as the balcony performances seen in March 2020 from Panama to Budapest and from Erbil to Amritsar. Among these latter were moments where sounds that may have been unwelcome in another context were musicalized in the service of producing a sense of intimate, human proximity, as residents took up kitchenware to celebrate the efforts of healthcare workers and others on the pandemic’s frontline. Meanwhile, we have seen an upsurge in online initiatives intended to provide new income for musicians no longer able to work in so many live venues, and cultural institutions struggle to sustain themselves let alone plan viable futures for the time when reopening might be safe. If we, or those around us, sometimes think of popular music as primarily a recorded genre disseminated through the electronic media, these last several months have reminded us just how much liveness underpins the production and reception of such materials.

As social media and, occasionally, mainstream media reports have shown us, numerous popular musicians have lost their lives to Covid-19 around the globe. Every such voice silenced before its time is a tragedy that impoverishes the world’s musical resources, as well as an event that brings heartbreak and threatens financial insecurity for family and others close to the musician in question. Less well-publicized as yet, but even more numerous, are those who have survived infection but who now face long-term health issues as a result of the damage inflicted by the disease, and others who are suffering more indirectly as a result of lockdown and its many consequences. Amongst this all is the threat of global recession and deep public concern over the capacity of some of those who govern us to treat the situation as one that demands an active sense of compassion and responsibility, not as an opportunity to further entrench their own power. Music will certainly remain a telling global force for sharing how it feels to be living through such times and for projecting visions of a better future, and as researchers we have a part to play in explaining competing claims and amplifying the voices of those most in need of attention. Indeed, as Martin Cloonan says, “I know that music is part of what makes us human and whatever the long term consequences of the virus are they will involve music making. Music will be used to help in the healing process” (

Studies to come, then, are sure to look not only at matters of structural change in the music profession or at the biographies of artists who are prematurely lost to Covid-19—although these would be significant topics—but also at themes such as the remaking of public space through sonic engagement, the interrelations of trauma and popular music, and the constraints and opportunities for listening to the appeals of other voices. Meanwhile, fieldwork is now on indefinite pause for many of us, and practice-based enquiry is similarly impacted. If those of us in permanent posts can encourage one another to slow down, graduate students and postdocs are facing a particularly unenviable time with roadblocks on the one side and impending deadlines and expiring funding on the other, and they will deserve our most imaginative support as well. Perhaps we will now give more attention to the writings of those who study “at home”? It is possible that we will see turns to more historical or analytical work as well as a wider take-up of digital research methods. Among other aspects, these latter approaches offer not only new ways of working but also fresh tools through which collaboration can occur, potentially allowing us to better share not just results but also authorship with those whom we study, where language allows this work to be undertaken together. If nothing else, we can expect some interesting theoretical and methodological developments in the years to come.

This issue cannot go to press without mention of the remarkable, and richly music-infused international resonances of the US Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, with which readers of JWPM will certainly be familiar. In educational circles in North America and beyond, BLM challenges us all to listen hard to those who have been structurally sidelined and then to think deeply about our teaching and research and the ways that we present (or filter out) potential content, approaches or voices in our course materials, citations, conference panels, journal editorial boards, programmes, academic appointments, disciplines and institutions. It is expected that the necessary steps of listening, reflection and further consultation will lead to real and lasting action which is owned by the majority population, and will result in widespread structural change. Readers of JWPM are likely involved with such work already—the whole ethos of this journal is one that would appeal to those seeking a holistic and equitable plane upon which to consider musical expressions from any and all the world’s people. We look forward to future scholarship in this broad area, and hope it will assess the steps we and others around us might take individually and collectively to establish more equitable (academic) assemblages and societies as well as exploring the musical manifestations of the BLM movement itself. The journal is always open to proposals for themed issues and to submission of prospective articles on any topic related to the world’s popular music, but the editorial team would like to emphasize that we would particularly welcome comments or suggestions from authors or readers on any issues they have noted in relation to how their participation in the journal has been shaped by race, nationality or other potential marker of difference.

That music plays a part in structuring encounters of race, taste and curriculum is not a new observation, even as more work in the area remains necessary to help us achieve meaningful structural change in former or enduring centres of empire and in postcolonial settings worldwide. This nexus is evidenced in the first article in this particular issue, Colin Harte’s account of an initiative that has resulted in the inclusion of instruction in samba and choro at Colégio Pedro II (São Cristóvão), a federally funded school in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Following onsite observations and interviews with the tutors, Harte explores how the ensemble instructors aimed not just to teach their students musical performance but to cultivate among them certain attitudes toward performance of these homegrown genres. In other parts of the world, incorporation of community genres has sometimes led to a remodelling of these latter, which adopts aspects of the Western classical music that dominates the educational context, but here the instructors are striving to include within their tuition ideas about “identity construction, cultural values and how to engage with the larger musical traditions that [inform] ... daily life in Rio de Janeiro”.

Harte’s article is followed by Brent Keogh’s study of field recordings of popular music. If this seems entirely a different topic, both accounts rest on the notion of authenticity. For Harte’s band instructors, this meant developing among their students a grounding in the values held by practitioners of choro and samba in the wider community; for many of Keogh’s popular music listeners, these recordings are emblematic of a less “mediated” capturing of what was actually “there” (or “Here, There and Everywhere” in his title’s terms) prior to the intervention of studio producers and digital technologies such as autotune which add to, transform and recast recorded sound. That such popular music recordings offer a pristine representation of sonic reality may seem romantic, but Keogh shows how deeply this idea appeals to certain listeners, and how it has inspired a succession of YouTube channels to present music through reliance upon such claims. He digs into three contradictions that he sees as pivotal to grasping what is at stake here: “the allure of intimacy; spatial fixity; and the immediacy of a performance”. Keogh’s conclusion is that, if “field recordings function as remedy and antidote, then it is a healing tonic that denies its entangled relationship to the toxin of digital media consumption: the cure is also a poison”.

Keogh is joined by co-author Ian Collinson for the third article, which traces a timely arc through a twenty-year period of domestic digital music production. If interrogating the appeal of the real was central to the preceding study, it is the “discourse of democratization” that stands out as a critical focus this time, and Keogh and Collinson pose trenchant questions about the “environmentality” of digital music production. Not least, they note that industry (and some academic) claims for the democratic potential of software like Pro Tools and associated recording hardware rest on a global system of extractive resource mining and environmental harm: those who choke on the dust as they work in Peru’s copper mines do not get to enjoy any of the benefits of professional-sounding home music production; precarious workers in the creative industries might get to participate but not in ways that guarantee them security of income, personal dignity or even very much creative agency.

Finally, Mariana Barreto provides a case study of the Kalunga Project (1980), in which Brazilian musicians toured Angola. The tour, which built on political convergences between the two nations, reversed the predominant former flows of the Portuguese imperial slave trade and challenged stereotypes of Brazilian music as “a receiver and recreator of African music, and Angola as its source”. More important for the musicians involved was the new confidence it gave them as artists which demonstrated international reach.

The reviews section of this issue presents responses to four recent volumes with wide-ranging musical, historical and geographic spread (and appeal). First up is Héctor Fouce’s review of The Borders of Subculture: Resistance and the Mainstream, edited by Alexander Dhoest, Steve Maillet, Barbara Segaert and Jacques Haers. The notion of subculture has come a long way since its rise as a badge for class or youth resistance to mainstream hegemonies in the work of experts at the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies. The volume addresses a series of topics and questions (in quite a varied set of European frames) that help us (re)consider our reliance upon the concept today.

Following Fouce’s review is a reading of Eva Tsai, Tung-Hung Ho and Miaoju Jian’s Made in Taiwan: Studies in Popular Music, which is part of the expanding Routledge Global Popular Music Series. Reviewer Hyunjoon Shin points to the way that reading the book (and listening to the music) gave him a vivid new understanding of Taiwan’s popular music as “adorable, unique, multilingual, complicated, troubled and cool at the same time”. The book covers a broad cross-section of popular music categories, genres and productions, and despite Chinese being the academic language used in Taiwan, almost all of the chapters were contributed by Taiwanese music scholars, which adds a second, confident meaning to its title that is very much in tune with present moves toward scholarly decolonization.

Angela Moran’s review of Italian Birds of Passage: The Diaspora of Neapolitan Musicians in New York by Simona Frasca is the next volume featured in this issue. According to Moran’s account, Frasca’s aim is to uncover a forgotten expressive history, one that she presents as centrally important to the US’s Italian immigrants in the period approximately 1895–1940, including those from other regions beyond Naples. Finally, Moran describes how Frasca’s work built the sense of a diasporic space as actually “not a space at all, but rather more a seam woven between two distinct cultures; a host, and a guest, whose artists regularly cross back and forth between two distinct places”, a model with wide international possibilities.

The fourth review, by Mathilde Zagala, stays in the USA. Its topic is Vic Hobson’s Creating Jazz Counterpoint: New Orleans, Barbershop Harmony, and the Blues. An archival study, Hobson’s book is replete with music analyses and observations that meet his goal of tracing the formative relationships between barbershop, the blues and jazz. Zagala finds it a “captivating” account of how early jazz instrumental music stemmed from the preceding vocal styles and performative idioms.

JWPM is dedicated to showcasing the best research from across the many fields of study that share an interest in world popular music, and we value submissions that attend to one or more of the global contexts that frame and constrain popular music or to the manifold ways that popular music produces visions of the world around us for particular communities of listeners. We warmly invite you to send us your articles and to be in touch if you see a book you would like to review or if you have an idea for a special issue. We also encourage you to read widely in the journal and, if you’re a teacher or author, to include some of its distinct and diverse content in your course materials or references.