AFROVOCALITY

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  • “Today you have day off”: un’artista etiope-italiana e il mondo dell’arte postcoloniale

    Gabriella Ghermandi is an Ethiopian-born storyteller and vocalist based in Bologna (Italy), who writes in Italian, sings in Amharic, and articulates her works around the (removed) memory of the experience of Italian soldiers in Ethiopia. Gabriella and I visited the 2015 Venice Biennale of Contemporary Art. The exhibition, held every two years, is particularly interesting when seen through the lenses of Ghermandi’s work, for it started more than 120 years ago as a celebration of (Western) nation-states, and it still carries that heritage. However, for the 2015 edition, Okwui Enwezor, a Nigerian art critic and curator, was selected as the main curator of the exhibition, making him the first African person to be appointed to this position. His promise to put together a “postcolonial Biennale” inspired our visit and, as a result, it produced this contribution in the form of a conversation. Our preliminary hypothesis was that Enwezor’s original ideas had to come terms with national interests and the cultural politics that lie behind such big events. Therefore, we decided to use the 2015 Venice Biennale as a space to discuss several issues: Ethiopian history and its connection with Italy; functions and values of traditional art and music; the business of world music; Ethiopian diaspora and Italian cultural identities; stereotypical representations of Africa; and the role and the image of women in contemporary Africa. What emerges is a reflection on the reasons, limits and motivations of singing and music-making, where the works of art symbolically represent the backdrop of an investigation into the practices and the life of a diasporic performer.

    Gianpaolo Chiriacò con Gabriella Ghermandi 2018, “Today you have day off”: un’artista etiope-italiana e il mondo dell’arte postcoloniale”, in From the European South, n. 3/2018, pp. 99-114.

  • Sound Recordings and Dignity Takings: Reflections on the Racialization of Migrants in Contemporary Italy

    In this Article, I will rely on my encounter with Badara Seck, a wellknown vocalist from Senegal who has been active in Italy for about two decades. My interview with this expert in cross cultural collaboration provided interesting insights into the ways in which musicology and discourses around music can involve both dignity takings and dignity restoration. I will propose strategies to address dignity takings and dignity restoration in the practice of ethnographic fieldwork. In addition, I will extend the concepts of dignity takings and dignity restoration to the case study of sound archives.

    Gianpaolo Chiriacò (2018), “Sound Recordings and Dignity Takings: Reflections on the Racialization of Migrants in Contemporary Italy”, in Contemporary Italy, 92 Chi.-Kent L. Rev. 991 (2018). Available at: https://scholarship.kentlaw.iit.edu/cklawreview/vol92/iss3/14

  • When the Stars begins to fall. Exoticism, Blues Aesthetic and Representations of Singing in the American South

    Between 1800 and 1863 – the years of the Emancipation Proclamation – many travellers from Europe or the North of the United States visited the Southern States and provided particular descriptions of the socio-geographic of that land. Many of their stories included descriptions of musical practices – and in particular singing performances – of Afro American slaves. The trips continued long after the end of the civil war, although in different forms. A philanthropic endeavour seemed to be the main driver for such explorers, whose reports often included pictures that visually supported the descriptions of the musical performances observed.The aim of this contribute is to analyze the relationship between literary descriptions and visual images that describe African-American vocal performances during slavery. What emerges is a conflation of exotic sentiments towards musical practices, memories of sonic landscapes, and a somewhat nostalgic imagination. Then, the focus will be on the ex-slave narratives and how they have constructed a memory and an imagination later defined as blues aesthetic. In conclusion, extracts from the exhibition When the Stars Begin to Fall (Studium Museum, Harlem, 2014) will be discussed in order to prove that the dialectic between exoticism and blues aesthetic is still active in the representations of the South of Uniterd States that move between sonic memories and imagination.

    Gianpaolo Chiriacò 2016, “When the Stars begins to fall. Exoticism, Blues Aesthetic and Representations of Singing in the American South”, in Idomeneo (2016), n. 21, pp. 115-126 – ISSN 2038-0313 – DOI 10.1285/i20380313v21p115.

  • Badara Seck. Il contributo del griot e l’identità come frammento accessorio

    Vocalist, composer, actor and director, Badara Seck was born in Senegal but has been active in Italy for many years. He identifies himself as a griot, and the vast range of his activities can be divided in three areas that are apparently different but can all be related to popular music. Firstly, Seck collaborated with many Italian pop artists, such as Massimo Ranieri and Mauro Pagani. While relying on the visibility earned within the pop scene, Seck articulated a complex strategy in order to be recognized as an authoritative, and “authentic”, voice of the migrant communities (second area).
    Nowadays Badara is mainly focused on leading his own band and releasing original productions (third area). The three areas are usually considered separately, as it is a hard task – for critics – to fully comprehend that the same Badara whose voice is featured in the soundtrack of the last Checco Zalone´s movie is also the author and interpreter of the poignant piece of musical theatre called Galghi. Drawing from Mark Burford’s analysis of Sam Cooke’s pop albums, I will look at the relationship between Italian popular music and representations of migration in the work of Badara. His work will therefore emerge as a set of “performances [that] conveyed an understanding of ethnicity as an identity that can affirm important solidarities, but also as an accessory to musical performance capable of giving pleasure in any number of ways” (Burford 2012, 141).

    Gianpaolo Chiriacò 2018, “Badara Seck. Il contributo del griot e l’identità come frammento accessorio”, in Archiv für Textmusikforschung, innsbruck university press, Innsbruck, ATeM I ISSN 1562-6490 – www.atem-journal.com – Nr. 3,1, 2018 – DOI 10.15203/ATeM_2018.09

  • Black music e musicisti napoletani. Un’indagine introduttiva

    This paper aims at examining the intersections between the work of Neapolitan musicians and musics composed and performed by artists of African origins. Central in the analysis are three works published within five years (1976-1980): the second release of the band Napoli Centrale (1976); an opera from Roberto De Simone (1976); and Pino Daniele’s Nero a metà (1980).If, on the one hand, the work of James Senese presents strong ties with what has historically been defined as black music and Pino Daniele explicitly mentioned African-American music as his inspiration; on the other hand, Roberto De Simone’s work retains connections that are less visible but not less significant. In his Gatta Cenerentola (1976), he draws upon Sixteenth century vocal Moresca, a song cycle that narrates stories of musicians from Africa who were active in Naples at that time. Beginning with these three works means to reconstruct an intertextual network of meanings and symbols, spanning over a period of almost five centuries. By observing such network, what emerges is the figure of the Neapolitan musician as a transcultural artist whose activities gravitate around three main points: the struggle against racism, solidarities, and a sense of circular time that moves “from present to past and back again” (Said 1997, 29). 

    Gianpaolo Chiriacò (2019), “Black music e musicisti napoletani. Un’indagine introduttiva”, in Archiv für Textmusikforschung, innsbruck university press, Innsbruck ATeM – ISSN 1562-6490 – www.atem-journal.com – Nr. 4,2, 2019 – DOI 10.15203/ATeM_2019_2.07

  • Fratello di latte

    In queste pagine darò conto di un esperimento, che consiste nel registrare le voci dei venditori africani – nella maggior parte dei casi senegalesi – sulle spiagge del Salento.

    Gianpaolo Chiriacò  2016, “Fratello di latte. Archivi di voci nere nel soundscape delle spiagge salentine”, in G. Grechi e V. Gravano (a cura di) 2016, Presente Imperfetto. Eredità coloniali e immaginari razziali contemporanei, Mimesis, Milano, pp. 145-150.

  • Around the Sound: paaesaggi e prospettive tra etnomusicologia e Studi culturali

    Music is not a universal language. It is rather a border territory, a space both physical and symbolic in which one can identify a constant conflict among expressions of different powers that fight to redefine geographical delimitations. Such a perspective on music has been gaining ground within the last decades, thanks to the contribution that the area of cultural studies brought into the disciplines of musicology and ethnomusicology. 

    This chapter focuses on the intersections of (ethno)musicology and cultural studies. It starts presenting the historical moment in which music has been understood as culture. After analysing the different forms of interdisciplinary musicology that emerged before the end of the 20th century, it then presents the intersections of music and identity as an example of a border territory in which musical expressions redefine cultural geographies. Moving from sound studies into the interrelated field of “music and politics,” it presents three case studies that show how music shapes and challenges networks of meanings that influence power relations and their transmigration into the cultural fields.

    Gianpaolo Chiriacò 2016, “Around the Sound: paaesaggi e prospettive tra etnomusicologia e Studi culturali”, in N. Vallorani (a cura di) 2016, Introduzione ai Cultural Studies. UK e USA e paesi anglofoni, Carocci editore, Roma, pp. 143-159. ISBN 978-88-430-8480-7.

  • La polvere e le ossa

    Is it possible to define the relationship between the sound of a singing voice and the memory of that voice? The history of African-American music and African-American culture is here analyzed using this question as a key to interpretation. What emerges is a picture where the singing voice is deemed as a founding myth. A myth that is nevertheless intertwined with the history of body and of identity. Cultural history, ethnomusicology, voice studies, philosophy of voice and language are incorporated here in one methodological approach. While crossing the symbolism related to the black singing voice, the relationship among memory and historical sources as well as conflicts between cultural memory and racial imagination, the investigation eventually explores the intersections between tradition and cultural identity in the work of contemporary vocalists.

    Gianpaolo Chiriacò 2013, “La polvere e le ossa: Voce, memoria, corpo e identità nella cultura musicale afroamericana”, in Gli spazi della musica, Vol. 2, N. 2, 2013. ISSN 2204-7944.

  • Canto, relitto, memoria. Il Mediterraneo di Badara Seck e Admir Shkurtaj

    While focusing on the works created – in the midst of the so-called migration crisis – by two musicians who have moved to Italy as “migrants” and later established successful careers in the Country, this chapter shows how the concept of Mediterranean is built and challenged through musical representations that rotate around the concepts of “voice,” “relics,” and “memory.” For these artists, the Mediterranean is therefore less a common geographical element and more the space of a representation of real life in the age of migration.

    Gianpaolo Chiriacò 2016, “Canto, relitto, memoria. Il Mediterraneo di Badara Seck e Admir Shkurtaj”, in L. Cazzato e F. Silvestri (a cura di) 2016, S/Murare il Mediterraneo. Pensieri critici e Artivismo al tempo delle migrazioni, Pensa MultiMedia, Lecce, pp. 167-179. ISBN 978-88-6760-381-7. Online su Issuu.

  • To Become Human

    To Become Human. This Comparative Investigation Into Lena McLin’s Vocal Pedagogy and the Italian School of Vocologia Artistica is an ethnographic journey through the science and pedagogy of voice. It is a journey that crosses two main paths: the world of vocalists and vocal pedagogues of African descent in Chicago, where I devoted two years of field research; and the community of singers, clinicians, speech therapists, and voice teachers that gravitate around the well-known “doctor of voice”, Franco Fussi, in Italy. Such community is nurtured and held together in a university master’s course based in Ravenna and directed by Dr. Fussi, titled Vocologia Artistica, where I was both a student (2014-15) and a teacher (2016-17).

    Gianpaolo Chiriacò 2018, “To Become Human. A Comparative Investigation Into Lena McLin’s Vocal Pedagogy and the Italian School of Vocologia Artistica”, in D. C. Wiley (compiled by) 2018, Singing: The Timeless Muse. Essays on the Human Voice, Singing, and Spirituality, Inside View Press and D. C. Wiley, pp. 47-59. ISBN 978-1-7335060-0-7.

AFROVOCALITY