Simone Krüger and Sarah Baker

Editors’ Introduction

This issue marks the move to Volume 3 of the Journal of World Popular Music, a journal which we conceived back in 2013 in order to build on the growth of research that amalgamates the two disciplines of popular music and ethnomusicology among others, as well as to capture the diverse scholarly interests of an ever more vibrant popular music community. JWPM reflects our passion for fresh and interdisciplinary approaches to the study of world popular music, and that constitutes, as we hope, a unique contribution to the academic study of international popular musics. We welcome articles from different theoretical orientations and philosophical and methodological traditions, and that bring contemporary, interdisciplinary and international perspectives to the study of world popular music. The organization of the contents under common issues and unifying themes exemplifies this diversity of thought, which enables us (as editors) to unify and cluster the diverse contents into common issues, but it also allows readers to navigate conveniently through a specific research interest.

Issue 3.1 opens with the broader theme of Gender, Popular Music and Australian Identity, which presents our second special guest issue compiled and edited by Catherine Strong. Gender studies often focus on the phenomenon of making, becoming and being a female pop star. It is specifically the women’s gendered and sexual, thus non-musical lives, that focuses most media attention, which reveals how gender and sex are subjects of discursive production and social interaction. Female celebrities often enact a unique type of femininity, as is also true for men in pop music. Thus the popular entertainment media often convey only few and particular ways of femininity or masculinity, and thereby reinforce, reflect and contribute to people’s attitudes, beliefs and behaviours surrounding gender. Women, more specifically, were, and still often are, the other in popular music. Indeed, historically popular music was created and produced from a fundamentally misogynistic position, and its industry has been male-dominated, a view that is widely accepted by academics, journalists and music industry insiders alike. Consequently, female creative roles were generally limited, while women’s roles within the music industry were determined by male notions of female ability. This gendered inequality forms the starting point for Catherine Strong’s special issue, yet with a timely and much-needed focus on the Australian context, where very little academic attention has been paid to gendered issues in popular music. In her “Introduction”, Strong places the articles presented here into their conceptual frameworks so as to demonstrate the relevance and importance of this special issue about gender, popular music and Australian identity. In doing so, the issue’s unique contribution is to demonstrate how Australia’s unique positioning in the world of popular music impacts on gendered expressions and expectations.

Opening the special issue is Liz Guiffre’s article, “Not Just Boys and Rock ’n’ Roll: Rediscovering Women on Early Australian Music Television”, which argues that written histories of early Australian music television often focus on performances by young men and the development of rock ’n’ roll. Guiffre therefore focuses on women participants in early Australian music television, based on written archives and photographs found in the production files of the 1950s television programme Six O’Clock Rock. Even if “[t]he recalling of otherwise ‘lost’ female musicians and hosts of this Australian 1950s music television programme is only a small step”, Guiffre feels that this may encourage other researchers to re-examine their own early music television archives too. Meanwhile, a second contribution is made by Catherine Strong and Ian Rogers in “She-Riffs: Gender and the Australian Experience of Alternative Rock and Riot Grrrl in the 1990s”. This article illustrates the effect of Riot Grrrl and grunge’s gender equality impetus in the Australian context by focusing on the rise of female musicians in 1990s Australia and documenting the activities of some of these musicians. Suggesting that the Australian intersections between feminism and rock music are unique, the focus of the article is significant due to its absence in academic accounts of Australian popular music and Riot Grrrl/grunge.

The following two articles draw on the authors’ autoethnographic accounts, opening with Rachael Gunn’s article, “‘Don’t Worry, it’s Just a Girl!’: Negotiating and Transforming Gendered Assumptions in Sydney’s Breakdancing Scene”. Here, Gunn draws on her lived experiences as a female breakdancer (“b-girl”) in Sydney and interviews with prominent figures in order to unpack and challenge normative gendered narratives, since breakdancing is culturally inscribed as masculine (“b-boying”) and locked within broader patriarchal restrictions that inhibit female participation and bodily expression. Providing due contextualizations within broader Australian culture and gender norms, Gunn shows here “how the performances of b-girls and b-boys in Australia disrupt the stability of binary logic on which the organization of bodies is so heavily reliant”. A second autoethnographic account is provided in Lauren Istvandity’s article, “Sophisticated Lady: Female Vocalists and Gendered Identity in the Brisbane Jazz Scene”, which takes as its starting point the fact that jazz has historically been dominated by male figures and focuses therefore on female vocalists. Drawing on her autoethnographic experiences within the jazz scene of Brisbane, Australia, Istvandity shows the ways in which female artists, and specifically vocalists, frequently face compounded problems of gendered discrimination in this scene.

Departing methodologically to combine personal experiences as a member of Sydney’s thrash and death metal scenes, textual analysis, critical discourse analysis and theoretical frameworks informed by Whiteness Studies, the next article by Catherine Hoad, “We are the Sons of the Southern Cross: Gendered Nationalisms and Imagined Community in Australian Extreme Metal”, interrogates the matrix of whiteness, masculinity and nationhood in heavy metal scenes. Here, Hoad shows how metal scenes across Australia “share common sentiments of national identity that allow for the formation of an imagined community across disparate locales [which is] realised through the reiteration of the masculinist master symbols of Australian identity”. The special issue then comes to a close with an interview by the guest editor, Catherine Strong, with Evelyn Morris, the founder of LISTEN, a Melbourne-based feminist collective focused on improving the position of women in the music industry. Here, Strong provides an overview of the development and achievements of LISTEN, while placing it in the context of feminist activism in Australia.

The second section brings together three reviews under the theme British Popular Music, beginning with Lawrence Davies’s consideration of Black British Jazz, an edited collection which goes a long way to rectify the “pale-faced histories” which have for too long dominated academic and popular literature on jazz in Britain. As Davies notes, this is a book which “not only reveals previously marginal history; it also forces us to confront the global nature of jazz”. Donna Weston, in her review of Jon Stratton’s When Music Migrates, highlights further “racial faultiness” in British popular music, with Stratton’s book “examining music in the context of racial meetings, especially colonial and migratory ones”. These ideas are developed further by the contributing authors to Jon Stratton and Nabeel Zuberi’s edited collection, Black Popular Music in Britain since 1945, reviewed here by Tony Mitchell. Mitchell makes clear the connections between the three books reviewed in this section of JWPM, with the Stratton/Zuberi volume described as being “in a sense a product of the ‘empire writing back’”.

The final section, Indigeneity and World Popular Music, opens with Carolyn Chong’s review of Christopher Scales’s Recording Culture. This book and accompanying CD, described by Chong as a “welcomed ethnography on the recoding of Aboriginal powwow music”, provide a detailed account of northern plains powwow culture and substantial insights into “modern indigenous identity where both tradition and innovation can be celebrated”. Alf Arvidsson then takes us to Northern Europe in his review of Thomas Hilder’s Sámi Musical Performance and the Politics of Indigeneity in Northern Europe. The focus in this book is “the intersections of music, politics and questions of identity” and Arvidsson notes that “to be a Sámi musician is to be political, whether there is such intention within the music or not”. The section concludes with André Rottgeri’s review of Katelyn Barney’s edited collection Collaborative Ethnomusicology. Rottgeri emphasizes the volume’s focus on “contact zones” between indigenous and non-indigenous ethnomusicologists and musicians in Australia, and notes that the book’s emphasis on collaboration is of great value if we are “to move towards an ethnomusicology of decolonization”.

We continue to call upon researchers throughout the world who have an interest in the study of international popular musics to submit manuscripts to the Journal of World Popular Music. As editors we strive to include articles, photo and media essays, and reviews that emphasize the contemporary, interdisciplinary and international perspectives of scholarly explorations of world popular music. The journal is particularly interested in contributions that cover the manifestations and impacts of post-globalizing trends, processes and dynamics surrounding world music today by way of empirical research and scholarship into the global creative and music industries, the participants of world music, the musics themselves and their representations in all media forms. We also welcome proposals for special issues compiled and edited by guest editors, which provide a useful avenue for authors to test new ideas and methods, and to facilitate discussion that bridges findings from diverse forms of scholarship related to world popular music.

A gentle reminder: please do recommend the Journal of World Popular Music to your librarian, students, colleagues, teachers, friends and others with an interest in world popular music! Your subscription will also have a good cause, as all royalties earned by the Journal Editor, as well as a matching sum contributed by the Publisher, will be donated to the Angels Charity, a UK registered International Children’s Charity that advocates the rights of the world’s poorest and disadvantaged children and their communities through music and education. For further information, see