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Changing the Tune : Programme de la Conférence

Changing the Tune Conference Programme
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The selected conference proceedings were published, under the title Politiques des musiques populaires au xxie siècle [The politics of popular music in the 21st century], Elsa Grassy and Jedediah Sklower, eds. Table of contents and order here.
Les actes choisis du colloque ont été publiés aux Éditions Mélanie Seteun, sous le titre Politiques des musiques populaires au xxie siècle. Consultez la table des matières et commandez l’ouvrage ici.

Here is the final programme for the "Changing the Tune": Popular Music and Politics in the XXIst Century. From the Fall of Communism to the Arab Spring" conference, to be held at the University of Strasbourg, on 7-8 June 2013.
Read the call for papers here / consulter l'appel à contributions.
Practical information & registration here / informations pratiques & inscription ici.


Friday 7 June 2013

12:00: Lunch

13:00-13:30: Conference opening, MISHA conference hall: Alenka Barber-Kersovan, Elsa Grassy, Jedediah Sklower

13:30-14:15: Dietrich Helms intervention

14:15 -14:30: Coffee break

14:30-16:00: Panels I

16:00-16:15: Coffee break

16:15-17:45: Panels II

18:00-20:00: Visit of Strasbourg’s historical center

19:00-20:00: Visit of Strasbourg by “bateau mouche”

20:30: Dinner at the Maison Kammerzell

Saturday 8 June 2013

9:30-11:00: Panels III

11:00-11:15: Coffee break

11:15-12:45: Panels IV

12:45-14:30: “Buffet” at the MISHA conference hall, and short concert within the Jazzdor Strasbourg-Berlin festival

14:30-15:15: Martin Cloonan presentation

15:15-15:30: Coffee break

15h30-17:00: Panels V

17:00-17:15: Coffee break

17:15-18:00: Conference conclusion & debate


Keynote Speakers

Dietrich Helms – University of Osnabrück

Jitterbugs with Attitudes. Thoughts on Pop and Politics

The relationship of popular music and politics is a complex one. Are the listeners of popular songs jitterbugs, in Adorno’s words, excepting blindly what is enforced on them, moving unconsciously to the beat of those in power, not willing to think but only searching for fun? Or are they part of subcultures that give a voice to those suppressed by a political and cultural mainstream? Plato has stated that whenever music is changed the State will change with it. Until today, however, we lack the proof that a song may overturn a political system. In the Western world some musicians frustratedly have given up expressing their political attitudes in their lyrics, no longer being convinced of music’s usefulness as a media for the transport of convictions. Listeners no longer expect popular music to express a political attitude, and even if it does a majority won’t notice. Analyzing the functioning of popular music as a communication system makes clear that it is a weak tool to change people’s convictions. It has hardly any mechanisms which may ensure that a message is being understood the way it is supposed to be. Popular music as such is not even useful to create stable social groups. However, given the right context, it may become a strong symbol, a flag waving over the fields of political battles, showing friends and foes where to collect and where to attack.

Martin Cloonan – University of Glasgow

Researching the UK's Musicians Union: Some Reflections on Politics and Power

The UK's Musicians Union traces its history back to 1893. This paper reports some initial findings from a four year project which will provide a social history of the Union. It argues that the Union has played a pivotal, but largely unexplored, role in the history of British music and its related industries. Based on a range of archive materials, press accounts and interviews, the paper will show how the Union has positioned itself both in opposition to, and alliances with, key organizations within the music industries. In 1893 the Union said that musicians main enemies were “amateurs, unscrupulous employers and ourselves”, 120 years later is this still the case? For more information see


The democratic agency of protest music

I. Music, society & political change

Moderator: Jedediah Sklower – Catholic University of Lille

Rajko Muršič – University of Ljubljana: Redemption Songs after Socialism: Popular Music as the Forerunner of Change, from Civil Society Movements in Socialist Yugoslavia to the Recent Anti-Neoliberalism Protest Movement in Slovenia

The author will shortly present a history of popular music in former Yugoslavia and Slovenia. In the 1970s some groups appeared who symbolically resisted dominant discourse. More dramatic things followed: punk rock. In the 1990s, music played an important role in anti-nationalist and anti-war movements in republics of former Yugoslavia. In 2000s, strong local scenes marked the nationalist and neoliberal political processes. In 2012, the protest movement against the austerity measures grew fast, and musicians again took the forefront of the protest movement with adaptation of old workers' songs or more recent songs by well-known songwriters. The author will discuss the power of music in protest movements from the perspective of protesters.

Natalie Churn – Freiburg University: The Time Has Come: Aboriginal Pop Music, Time and Political Change From 1990 to Today

Occurring far away from many political upheavals of the past few decades, the fight in Australia for Aboriginal rights is often not considered revolutionary or associated with recent movements such as Occupy Wall Street. Yet at the heart of some Aboriginal challenges to a settler version of Australian history are ideas about peoples whose land has been taken from them without permission, and the social justice abuses that are still occurring as a result of this ongoing colonialism. This paper will explore pop music by Aboriginal artists and about Aboriginal rights issues in order to investigate the links that such music makes between perceptions of the march of history, and possibilities for social change. Music will be discussed as a fascinating tool for the way in which aspects of music such as beat, timing, the interweaving of styles, mainstream popularity, and subversive lyrics are well suited to representing the idea that the movement of history can indeed be seen from different perspectives that could bring about new ways of dealing with social justice issues.

Alyssa Pereira – freelance editor: Retrolution: When Protest Music Re-Emerges

American protest movements like Occupy Wall Street have attracted a myriad of people: students, forward-thinkers, revolutionaries, the employed and the unemployed, the homeless, artists, Republicans and Democrats alike, and musicians. Above all, the activists involved all want one thing: change. However, who acts as the voice of change? Attali suggests that music acts as a catalyst for social revolution and as a forecaster for political transformation and Nietzsche notes that music has a responsibility to society. Around the world, we privilege musicians as public intellectuals. We have seen musicians in this role before: Bob Dylan sang ‘the times, they are a-changing’ and at Woodstock and Haight-Ashbury alike, voices rang with the sounds of political activism. Is it possible that we are revisiting the power of music as revolution? In this paper, I explore music’s role in the political protest movements across the United States as an entertaining, revolutionizing, and mobilizing force. Citing specific examples of musicians and their work for the Occupy movement and throughout American history, I investigate the social implications of the music’s message and the political implications of the artists’ association with the movement in relation to their status as an influencer within the music industry.

II. Performing activist soundscapes

Moderator : Maurice Blanc – University of Strasbourg

Ana Hofman – Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts: Crowd Soundscapes as Political Actions: Radical Singing Groups in post-Yugoslav Spaces

Given that more and more ideological and political effects are being produced by non-ideological and affective means, the paper proposes a musical mass-performance as a tool/method to engage in critique of the contemporary global political landscapes. Incorporating the concept of ‘sounds of crowd,’ I develop the notion of musical mass-performing, which provides specific contribution to an affective politics and politics of relation. If ‘power is capacity to act,’ the unifying capacity of collective performance enables an increasing the causal power of social agents involved in it, demonstrating its potential in rebuilding political community at a temporal and spatial scale. Paper discusses the self-organized choirs in post-Yugoslav space, with particular focus on Slovenian female choir Kombinat and its reappropriatons of the socialist repertoire (e.g. partisan and revolutionary songs). It aims to show complex and contested representational strategies of this music legacy in current socio-political environment in mobilization of transnational communities of solidarity. The paper also engages with the issues commodification and commercialization of the resistance, aiming to rethink commercial/engaged dichotomy.

Eileen Karmy Bolton & Martín Farías Zúñiga – University of Chile: Chilean Winter: Music, Performance and Carnival in the Chilean Student Movement

Our proposal aims to explore the role played by the popular music in the Chilean student movement started in 2011, also known as Chilean winter. This movement regained the organizational bases and political demands raised by students in 2006, renewing their ability to social and media impact, not only by the legitimacy of their demands, but also for the development of a series of performative strategies that gave a fun stamp and carnival attitude. One aspect of the Chilean Winter cross is related to the presence and use of music in both demonstrations and in the media and student awareness of the problem. This student movement, managed to change the way of protest in Chile, incorporating carnival elements, than before was solemn and dramatic. Through these new elements, Chilean society began to lose their fear of demonstrations that had been badly installed during the military dictatorship, thus recovering the street as a public space, meeting and public protest.

Naomi Podber – City University of New York: ‘It’s Not Just About Playing Music in the Streets’: Collective Political Engagement through an Activist Music Project

Music provides us with opportunities to foster social cohesion, challenge oppressive dominant narratives, and awaken our senses of radical possibility. Nowhere is this more apparent than in watching the interactions between musicians and crowds at street protests. My research uses interviews, identity mapping, and participant observation to document the experiences of members in the Rude Mechanical Orchestra (RMO), a large New York-based street brass band, which supports grassroots social, economic, and political justice struggles through music. The RMO functions as a political organizing project, using principles of direct democracy. The group actively works towards being a welcoming place for people of all genders and gender identities, sexual orientations, ages, races, backgrounds, disabilities, and musical skill levels, and has forged connections with many local grassroots organizations. My results show that in the RMO, music is a vehicle not only for communicating social and political ideas, focusing attention on protests, providing solidarity, and highlighting the collective energy and joy in resistance, but also for fostering individual critical consciousness, political development and engagement, and creating an intentional community. As the group works through internal differences and fosters community, members come to see themselves as intimately connected to a larger collective as well as larger social movements.

III. Struggling with commitment

Moderator: Philip Ciantar – University of Malta

Gavin Steingo – University of Pittsburgh / Wits University: The Democratization of Democracy: Reflections on Kwaito Music in Post-Apartheid South Africa

In 1994, after four decades of white minority rule, South Africa witnessed the formal demise of apartheid. At that critical juncture, the urban black youth invented kwaito, a genre of electronic music commonly understood as an expression of freedom in the post-apartheid period. But today – nearly twenty years after the end of apartheid – South Africa remains plagued by severe inequality, massive unemployment rates, and rampant crime. How might we explain this situation? How might we hear kwaito’s celebratory enunciations in this contradictory context? In this paper, I present some tentative answers to these questions and, in so doing, offer insights into the relationship between music and politics in the late XXth and early XXIst South Africa, kwaito continues to promise a future of radical equality and that it does this by acting as a framing of sensory perception that suspends normative modalities of hearing, knowing, and feeling. As such, kwaito does not so much illustrate the ‘aporias’ of democracy as much as it aims to democratize the political system of democracy, thereby reintroducing the kratos (power) of the demos (people) into politics through the aesthetic disposition of the ‘as if.’

Nicole Ives-Allison – University of St. Andrews: Alive and Spitting: The Spirit of Punk and Indigenous Hip-Hop in the United Kingdom

This paper will examine how the 'spirit of punk' as is often discussed in analysis of the late 1970s punk movement lives on in the recent wave of indigenous UK hip-hop. Where punk claimed to be a representation of the aesthetic, social and political frustration of a generation of young people with little hope of attaining the stable working or middle-class lifestyle obtained by their parents during the post-war industrial boom, today's indigenous hip-hop can be seen as an authentic grassroots representation of the social and political consciousness of the young people caught up in what Plan B has called 'David Cameron's broken Britain.' By looking specifically at the trajectories of the hip-hop/soul artist Plan B and the online youth-produced urban music channel SBTV, this paper will also explain how the recent wave of UK indigenous hip-hop has been able to successfully negotiate the battle between mainstream success and local legitimacy which contributed to the rapid demise of the initial punk movement.

Renata Pasternak-Mazur – Rutgers University: Unwanted Identities: Disco Polo, the Infant Terrible of Polish Popular Culture after the Fall of Communism

Disco-polo, the first musical genre to have emerged and flourished after socialism collapsed in Poland in 1989, still remains outside mainstream culture and brings social anathema to its admitted audience. The genre’s exclusion from the mainstream culture and its marginalization in show-business seem paradoxical in the light of its spectacular market success. The disco-polo industry was market-driven and efficiently responded to audience needs. As such, it would seem to be a perfect fit for the new capitalist system. However, it was not proclaimed its herald but enfant terrible. No other aspect of mass culture went under more severe criticism, especially from the part of intelligentsia, and the suffix –polo became a symbol of something commercialized and in bad taste. Why did this alternative to Western pop-culture invite such disdain and disapprobation? Guided by this question, the study will examine how the ideas of national identity, tradition, and heritage are reflected and (re)defined in disco polo. It will demonstrate that, in spite of its fascination with the West and assimilation of Western pop music idiom, disco polo ignores the paradigm of Western popular music, is grounded in Polish tradition, and oftentimes situates itself in opposition to the West.

IV. Political movements & strikes

Moderator: Martin Cloonan – University of Glasgow

Jérémy Tranmer – University of Lorraine: Red Wedge: a turning point in the history of British political pop?

The 1987 Red Wedge campaign in favor of the Labour Party is often seen as turning point in the relationship between music and politics in Great Britain. It is widely believed that the perceived failure of the campaign demoralized many musicians, leading them to withdraw from political activity. This paper will question this assumption, pointing to the role of musicians in activities against the Poll Tax in the late 1980s/early 90s and against the extreme right throughout the 1990s. It will seek to ascertain why these, and other attempts to bring together musicians and activists since 1987 have been at best downgraded and at worst ignored by historians and commentators.

Noriko Manabe – Princeton University: Spaces of Protest: Tailoring Messaging Techniques in Antinuclear Protest Music Since Fukushima.

The Fukushima crisis has fanned the antinuclear movement, which has grown into the largest social movement in Japan since the 1960s. Demonstrations have attracted as many as 150,000 participants yet been ignored by the mainstream media, which has close relationships with the nuclear industry and has generally downplayed the hazards. Musicians have supported the movement in four distinct but interacting spaces – demonstrations, cyberspace, live performances, and recordings – in which they use different musical strategies. Based on fieldwork and interviews with musicians and activists, this paper considers these different tactics. Music in demonstrations has evolved from ‘sound demonstrations’ of presentational performances by artists in 2011 to a participatory scheme, where musicians engage protesters in call-and-response or invite protesters to join in the performance. Organizers believe this blurring of the lines between performer and audience encourages more active participation, not only in the performance but also in the movement itself. In addition, musicians make use of the acoustics and symbolism of the urban spaces where they engage. Protest music in cyberspace and recordings often incorporates intertextuality, using music or texts that recall historical events. Drawing from Gérard Genette's classifications, I formulate a typology of intertextuality as seen in protest songs from a variety of geographies and movements. I illustrate how musicians employ different types of intertextuality according to circumstances.

Anne-Claire Riznar – University of Montreal: An Autopsy of the 2012 Student Strike in Quebec

I’m one of the 170,000 students, who’s been on strike for 6 months. This is one of the most important student strike in the history of Quebec, against a tuition hike of 75%. But, this strike is not just about a financial issue: it's about an ideological issue, a major choice of society. 22 March 2012: the most popular demonstration of this strike, and maybe in the history of the country is taking place in Montreal. We're approximately 200,000 in the streets. 10pm, 1220 Saint Catherine East, Le National: The band called Mise en Demeure (‘putting in default’), which describes itself as « politic garbage pop », is going to perform. 300 people are expecting the band, chanting before their arrival ‘Mise en Demeure or we break everything!’. And what I saw that night was a mirror: a mirror of Quebec’s youth, and a mirror of the strike. The band painted a satire of every particular aspect of the strike: police, pacifists, riot squad, activists. A great catharsis for the young audience, that lives and organizes the strike through social networks, and learns the lyrics of Mise en Demeure on Youtube. But still lives collectively the catharsis, in a concert hall or in the street.

V. Revolutionary soundtracks?

Moderator: Dietrich Helms – University of Osnabrück

Gayle Labrey – Monash University: Popular Music and Political Change in Contemporary Iran: from Trance in Dance Pop to Metal and Hip-hop

In XXIst-century Iran, a range of groups and individuals have worked towards or, in some cases, against political change. The most notable example is the so-called Green movement, led by a diverse and fluctuating group of activists with goals that are continually renegotiated and adapted to Iran’s ever-shifting power relations. The Green movement was born during Iran’s 2009 presidential election campaign. It evolved in the wake of the disputed election results and was accompanied by a diverse soundtrack, made up of politically and historically significant popular songs and new compositions in most popular genres. This paper reflects on that soundtrack, before turning to the often paradoxical roles and political significance of trance, dance pop, hip-hop and metal in the increasingly insecure everyday lives of young people in contemporary Iran. Each of these genres was audibly linked to the range of political stances adopted around the events of 2009. Perhaps even more significantly, each genre continues to accompany young Iranians as some seek political solutions that are realistic and satisfying, while others claim to abandon hope in political change. The imagined solutions – or imagined modes of ‘escape’ from politics – encompass notions of freedom, integrity, patriotism and spirituality. These notions are articulated in various ways, within and across musical genres. I will refer to one example of each genre to illustrate the very different meanings that may emerge and the range of effects of this music on a sample of young Iranians’ modes of thought and action. These findings are drawn from extensive fieldwork in Tehran over the last decade.

Mounira Soliman – Cairo University: Egyptian National Songs: Between Two Revolutions

This paper will focus on the use of Egyptian national songs during the January 25th Revolution. It will analyze historically how national songs have been employed as a means of manipulating Egyptians and sustaining hegemonic control over the people since the 1952 revolution and slightly before that, propagating the abstract concept of a nation. It will then explain the subversion of this notion during the people’s uprising on the 25th of January, and the substitution of the concept of abstraction with the idea of the country as a lived space to be defended with one’s physical body. This shift of balance from art produced for the people as a means of controlling them, to art produced by the people to consciously liberate themselves will explain Antonio Gramsci’s concept of ‘crisis of hegemony’, and highlight the significant role of the ‘organic intellectual’. I will examine how popular national songs were used by protestors in Tahrir square as a means of expressing their dissent in a civilized, peaceful, and artistic manner. I will analyze three stages wherein national songs were employed during the revolution and afterwards as a means of 1) mobilization, 2) documentation, and 3) political engagement. Through the analysis of these three stages, it will become clear how Egyptians naturally associated political change with artistic production and creativity, in this case music, foreseeing a much broader meaning to the concept of revolution, one that includes not only socio-political change, but perhaps, more importantly, cultural change as well.

Marina Romano & Domenico Torre – University of Naples – L’Orientale: Rhymes and Revolution. Notes on the Egyptian Hip-hop Scene after January 25th

The purpose of this contribution is to draw a recent history of the Egyptian rap scene, with a focus on the impact of the ouster of former president Mubarak on the relevance of hip-hop culture in Egypt’s major urban centers. In other words, did the 25 January aftermath actually represent a turning point for the evolution of hip-hop culture – and, more specifically, for rap music – in Egypt? This attempt to outline the evolution of Egyptian rap music in the last years will be based on the analysis of an handful of selected songs and videos, crossed with facts about the development of hip-hop music in Egypt in the years before and after 25 January 2011. Moreover, in order to understand how the events of the last two years or so influenced the contents and the chances to be heard of the local hip-hop artists, personal biographies and interviews with representatives of the Egyptian scene will be provided, intended as an helpful way to answer to some fundamental questions regarding the influence of the recent events on music and vice versa.

Identity polemics

I. Assessing the political past

Moderator: Hazel Marsh – University of East Anglia

Marcus Shepard – University of Southern California: Watching Me: Neo-soul’s Response to the Reagan Era

While some scholars have referenced neo-soul to categorize artists and their music, and Cunningham has questioned the validity of the genre, there is limited scholarship on the musical discourse of neo-soul. This work strives to fill a void in current scholarship that focuses primarily on Black women in hip-hop and expand its scope to one that includes neo-soul and the movement that these female artists are producing through their musical and visual presentation in response to the discourse within hip-hop and Reagan era politics. Though neo-soul speaks to a larger legacy of Black female musical discourse, this analysis seeks to focus the debate on neo-soul’s response to the exclusion of Black female voices in hip-hop, while concentrating on the genre’s political lens that often intersections with the legacy of Reagan era politics. Utilizing Jill Scott as an exemplar of the neo-soul movement, this analysis focuses on how neo-soul became a space for female agency, in which these artists use this genre to engage in debates and critiques of Reagan era political discourse in a hip-hop era.

Hélène Garcia – University of Montreal: Sampling as a Political Act: Musical creation in the Digital Age, between Artistic Freedom and Freedom of Speech

The Brazilian cultural policy led by Gilberto Gil from 2003 to 2008 aimed to democratize the access of Brazilian people to their musical heritage, past and present, through the creation of musical databases using Creative Commons licensing models. The goal was to give Brazilian people free access to their entire and diversified musical culture, and also foster creative appropriation, regardless of their social status. A core measure was the creation of Cultural Points Programs, community associations where young people from deprived neighborhoods could have access to technical and learning help to practice any art of their choice, including sample-based music. This example will help us describe the political dialogue between musical borrowing through sampling and copyright laws. The simple act of sampling implies a questioning of the value of recordings, in pop as well as in serious music cultures, for it treats a commodified good, namely recordings, as a compositional tool. It thus implies a critic of the processes of valorization of musical works inside the economic and legal recognition of authorship. It is therefore necessary to investigate whether the questioning of aesthetic concepts of authorship and musical works leads to political denunciations of traditional aesthetic concepts as a social mode of distinction. Finally, discourses which value sampling constitute a paradoxical answer to the commodification of music, given that they assimilate artistic freedom to freedom of speech, and musical works to information. It is also why arguments in favor of sampling resemble those in favor of file-sharing: this paradox relies in the issues of assimilating free access to a culture to free access to a database of information – which challenges the very notions of heritage and ‘public domain’. Referring to the Brazilian example, we will see how this paradox could be solved, and we shall also ask whether this political model can be applied beyond the very specific context of ‘Tropicalism’.

Joshua Katz-Rosene – Graduate Center, City University of New York: The Legacy of Andean Folkloric-Popular Music in Colombian Canción Social

During the 1970s, politically committed musicians in Colombia were strongly influenced by the New Song protest music movement that had been emerging in the Southern Cone. Many of them took up the format of Andean folkloric-popular music—which emphasized genres and instruments associated with indigenous communities in Peru and Bolivia—that had been propagated by New Song ensembles. Numerous contemporary groups continue to cultivate this type of music, which in Colombia has come to be classified stylistically as música andina (Andean music). Building on research into the transnational circulation and politicization of Andean folkloric-popular music, my paper examines the enduring prominence of música andina in Colombian canción social (social song), assessing the ways in which performance of a style associated with a revolutionary moment a half-century earlier is politically meaningful to its practitioners today. My findings suggest that the case of canción social offers nuances to our understanding of the use of folk musical emblems in protest cultures: Socially conscious musicians who specialize in música andina draw on an extra-local folk style that has accrued political symbolism over decades of transnational diffusion, but they also invest a range of new ideas forged in the national cultural context into its performance.

II. The polysemic recycling of popular music

Moderator: Eric Drott – University of Texas, Austin

Hazel Marsh – University of East Anglia: Alí Primera’s songs as contested space in contemporary Venezuela

What happens when a government promotes the songs of a previously suppressed ‘protest singer’ as representative of its own values and of the country’s cultural heritage? How does the public use protest songs when the State endorses those songs? This paper attempts to answer these questions with reference to the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and his government’s association with the songs of Venezuelan singer/songwriter, Alí Primera (1942-85). Alí Primera was part of the ‘new song’ movement which emerged in Latin America in the late 1960s. Under the Chávez government, his songs were widely recognized as important, but this importance was interpreted in different ways. Alí’s songs were used to evaluate, support, criticize, defend and oppose the State at this time. Using Simon Frith’s ideas about ‘bad music’ and Tia DeNora’s scholarship on music sociology this paper argues that music can be an active ingredient not only in election campaigns and social uprisings, but also in the construction of public debates about what people want and expect from their government. The paper therefore sheds light on the role that popular songs played in the formulation of political identity during the Chávez government.

Zoraida Santiago Buitrago – University of Puerto Rico: Power and political song: debates around the New Song Movement in Puerto Rico today

The paper discusses the Puerto Rican New Song Movement (PRNSM) of the 1960s and 70s and its impact on a new generation of singer-songwriters. The paper will address the question about new political meanings and practices of music as new social struggles take form in a country that is facing its most critical financial and social crisis in decades. Beginning with a reflection on the historical context of the PRNSM, the relation between singer-songwriters and political movements, and the struggles within which their songs played a leading part, I will then examine the part those songs are taking in present day political and social movements. There will also be a discussion about younger generations of singer-songwriters and their work, seeing how technological and political circumstances affect their musical practices and their participation in social and political movements.

Simone Münz – Leuphana University Lüneburg: The Role of Music in Radio Broadcasting from the Cuban Diaspora in Miami to Cuba

Since the Cuban Revolution in 1959 and the coming into power of Fidel Castro and his allies, about 1 million Cubans emigrated from their homeland and settled mainly around the city of Miami in South Florida. Living in a foreign country, the diaspora has nonetheless tried to contribute to a political change on the Cuban island. From the very beginning on, radio broadcasts from Miami to the Cuba were an essential part of ‘la lucha’- the fight for a free and democratic Cuba. In these transmissions, music next to news and political commentary is used to demonstrate the opinions of the Cubans in Miami and to keep alive a link to the lost homeland. This paper will first give a short introduction to the political and historical background of the radio broadcasts from Miami to Cuba. Then it will focus on the function and role of music in this context, which was researched, inter alia, during a field trip to Miami in January/February 2012.

III. Tributes & national myths in the United States

Moderator: Elsa Grassy – University of Strasbourg

Thomas Kernan – University of Cincinnati: Commemorating Lincoln in XXIst-Century Sectarian America

In 2009 a commission of American historians, artists, and politicians launched a series of commemorations in honor of Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday. Unlike the many XIXth and XXth-century ‘troubled commemorations’ of Lincoln and the U.S. Civil War, which pitted political, sectional, and ideological foes in battles of historical memory, the 2009 Lincoln Bicentennial appeared nearer a statement of national unity than any of its precursors. However, the popular music composed in the years leading up to the bicentennial and the works performed throughout 2009 present a view of the Sixteenth President as a heroic archetype on which individuals drape diverse—if not divergent—causes, principles, and ideas. I examine sixteen Lincoln songs and music videos composed from 2003 through 2009. These works draw from various genres and styles, including alternative country, bluegrass, blues, folk, grunge, hard rock, heavy metal, punk rock, and rock ’n’ roll. I compare and categorize each composer’s Lincoln topics, lyrics, musical style, and when applicable, videos or stage performances. I argue that the difference in the reception of prior Lincoln commemorations and that of the 2009 Bicentennial evinces a shift in the American concept of national unity. The new model eschewed the attempts of prior commemorations to refine and then promote a cohesive view of a national hero; rather, the contemporary, sectarian society embraced a historical memory that relies on cultural relativism. Popular songs draw attention to the variety of topics at play in contemporary Lincoln memory, and demonstrate how composers and performers can cater to dissociated audiences while maintaining a notion of nationalism and widespread cultural identity.

Anthony Kosar – Rider University: Brad Paisley’s ‘Back to the Future’: A Country-Western Tribute to Barack Obama

While there has always been a small liberal group of country western performers (and probably a rather large number of liberal country music fans), mainstream country western music has traditionally been associated with conservative, and usually Republican, Americans. Numerous rock performers were able to speak out against former President George W. Bush and the second Gulf war without damaging their careers; however, the popularity of the Dixie Chicks suffered greatly after lead singer Natalie Maines criticized President Bush before US troops invaded Iraq with the following statement at a concert in London: ‘Just so you know, we’re ashamed the President of the United States is from Texas.’ In this paper I address the political background of traditional country western music and present Brad Paisley’s ‘Back to the Future’ in that political context. I then address the fan and critical reaction to the song’s political message and the impact on Paisley’s subsequent music.

Hijacking popular music

I. Persuasion & propaganda

Moderator: André Doehring – University of Giessen

Alenka Barber-Kersovan – Leuphana University of Lüneburg: Fuelling Nationalism: A Propaganda Video from the Croatian Civil War 1991/1992

In the paper proposed the video ‘For the Freedom’ from the Croatian civil war 1991/1992 will be discussed. It was issued by ‘RTV Hrvatska’, the State-controlled radio and television broadcasting cooperation, and consists of 22 video clips, arranged in the form of a concept video album. The aim of this production, for which the stars of the Croatian entertainment industry were activated, was the strengthening of the ethnic/national(istic) identity and the emotional mobilization for the war. A comparison of the message of the clips with the actual political events shows that the video ‘For the Freedom’ reflects as pars pro toto the dramatic situation of the historical moment in which it has been produced.

Mirjana Matović – University of Belgrade: Musical taste of the elite in late XXth-century Serbia: the turbo folk phenomenon

The question of musical taste in Serbia is complex and difficult to grasp because of many different influences on the formation of a new value system in the society in the aftermath of the breakup of Yugoslavia. It isn’t strange the connection between music and the dominant political ideology but the problem is in the reason for their interactions. The focus of this paper is to turbo-folk music, a cultural phenomenon of the nineties, which is exclusively negatively labeled. Popular music in post-communist period in Serbia offered the most manipulative area in which the categories of the current social and political disagreements successfully overcame. Their connection is logical and illogical, powerful and superior. Questioning the links between political ideology and musical taste of elite in Serbia late XXth and early XXIst century is not only a moment of bravery, but also confusion. The fact that it quickly emerged and was superseded, turbo-folk as a cultural phenomenon hides the answers to questions concerning the conditions that preceded its creation, the current moment in which it occurred, and what followed after subsiding euphoric identification of the nation with it.

Henrik Marstal – Rhythmic Music Conservatory of Copenhagen: ‘No Sounds Are Innocent’. The music of The XX as used in Danish Bank's 2012 campaign. 'A new normal demands New Standards'

On November 15, 2012, Danske Bank [Danish Bank] launched the campaign 'A New Normal Demands New Standards', following the renaming of the bank in nine countries throughout Northern Europe. The trailer showed activists from the Occupy Wall Street movement throwing rocks against the police and concealing their mouths with dollar bills. The campaign immediately aroused great controversy, causing enormous anger against the bank, which to many incarnated the essence of capitalistic behavior, greed and cynicism. The trailer made exclusively use of music by The XX, sounds which can be understood as a hegemonic gesture since guitar-based and reverb-driven sounds have been a vital part of Western consumer culture ever since The Shadows' 'Apache' (1960). The quite romantic sounds of The XX can thus be heard as leveling out power relations between the bank and the consumer. But no sounds are innocent, since even the sounds of nice, cool indie pop music can be reversed completely on the level of meanings when presented in a recontextualizing discourse, as is the case of the campaign by Danske Bank, where the sounds of The XX are indeed running the risk to be almost as badly wounded as the victims of the financial crisis.

II. Star politics, influence & the masses

Moderator: Alenka Barber-Kersovan – Leuphana University of Lüneburg

Bruno Agar – University of Évry-Val d’Essonne: Madonna's Crusades. Feminism, Kabbalah, Iraq.

Madonna is one of few lasting major entertainers today. Her music tours are successes of global proportions and she has always had strong opinions to express on stage as well as through her multifarious ways of expression. She has very much been in the eye of the media since her beginning. After thirty years, the media still pay attention to what she says and does and she supposedly has influence over her huge audience. Whether she adopts a baby in Africa or she attends a Kabbalah meeting in New York City, the papers are interested. Her album/single/video American Life, which were released in 2003, deal with her opinion about the US war in Iraq and president Bush. She has taken a strong stance on that and had to suffer commercial consequences in the US. This paper addresses Madonna’s relationship with political power at large as she seems to ask us if there is a place for pluralism, or not.

Marko Stojanovska Rupčić – Central European University, Budapest: Marko Perković Thompson from his Listeners’ Perspective

This presentation discusses the results of my research on Croatian singer Marko Perković Thompson with emphasis on his listeners. In particular, I am interested in the ways Thompson’s audience talks about his music, stage appearances and controversies that surround him. Hence, I will present the results of my interviews with people who listen to his music (2009, 2012). The main issues that will be raised are potential coherence between the identity of the audience members and the discourse promoted by Thompson, acceptance of the nationalistic messages in his songs and, finally, his potential for influencing political decisions of his audience. In regards with the first two issues, my presentation’s aim will be to demonstrate the heterogeneity of Thompson’s audience tackling the different views of his listeners and the complexities of their ‘cultural consumption’. Although not tantamount, these practices, I argue, reveal certain orderliness that I intend to display. Concerning Thompson's possible influence on political attitudes, I will argue that his capacity in this matter is very restricted.

Luis Velasco-Pufleau – CRAL/EHESS: From Live Aid to Live 8: Musical Practices, Moral Communities and Contemporary Political Mobilizations in Democracy

The study of political and symbolic mobilizations of musical practices in Democracy is an important theme to examine the ways in which power is exercised, negotiated or imposed. Among these musical practices, humanitarian songs and concerts occupy a special place through their impact in several generations’ imaginations. This paper analyze characteristics – moral, symbolic and geopolitical – of political mobilization of two humanitarian music dispositifs: the Live Aid, on 13 July 1985 against famine in Ethiopia, and the Live 8, organized on July 2nd and 6th, 2005 to raise ‘Western world’s’ awareness about the tragedy of poverty in Africa. My presentation will follow two directions. The first examines how transforming the political dimension of defended causes by moral issues abolishes depth geopolitical problems and makes unquestionable humanitarian actions because considered as morally ‘good’, ‘necessary’ and ‘urgent’. The second studies how humanitarian musical mass mobilization builds and unifies moral communities. This paper shows the way that ritualization of musical practices within specific dispositifs can be a powerful tool to create mass movements, build and unify moral communities while ‘depoliticizing’ socio-historical and geopolitical dimensions of contemporary armed conflicts or natural disasters.

III. State policies & propaganda

Moderator: Rajko Muršič – University of Ljubljana

Philip Ciantar – University of Malta: The Sound of Persuasion: Pop Music, Singers and Political Propaganda in Contemporary Maltese Politics

This paper will focus on the seminal role of pop-music in Malta as a tool of political propaganda in contemporary electoral campaigning. Some renowned Maltese singers had a very important role to play in such campaigning. Through the analyzes of a number of case studies, this paper will argue that the political message was not only in the music and the lyrics pronounced by these singers but also in their life histories as individuals of the same society to whom they had a message to address. Who these singers are and the social and political backgrounds that these were coming from became part and parcel of the song’s meaning. In all this, music mediates personal agendas with public political pronouncements, the shifting of political allegiances with prospects of a promising future in terms of public exposure and the benefits it entails, as well as political affiliation with easier access to the recording industry. The present paper will include a number of audio-visual examples aimed at bridging the music with both the world from which it arises and the intricate processes which shape its meanings.

Yauheni Kryzhanouski – University of Strasbourg: Rock Music, Authoritarian Regime and Political Protest: (de-)Politicization of Rock Music in Belarus

The mythos of rock, as music founded on principles of non-conformism, rebellion, provocative behavior and revolt against the dominant social and moral norms, is the basis of the rock movement. This anti-conformist mythos is even more present when we consider the rock movement in societies under non-democratic regimes. Conservation of the authoritarian regime in Belarus contributed to preservation and reinforcement of the rock movement’s protest image inherited from the Soviet period of the country’s history; the image, conformity to which becomes in the late 1990s imperative for actors of this movement. Represented as the dissident avant-garde of anti-authoritarian intellectuals, the Belarusian rock benefits from the attention and support of western cultural and political foundations and public institutions, and forms (both as a political choice and as a professional strategy) in the 1990s an alliance with the political actors opposing the authoritarian regime. However, the proximity to the dominated part of the political field, while reinforcing the ‘dissident’ image of rock bands, tends to force them into the underground and prescribe to them the role of ‘organic intellectuals’ of the political opposition – representing a handicap for a fully-fledged professional career and a risk for artistic autonomy.

Torsten Eßer – freelance researcher: Exclude, Accuse, Absorb! the Cultural Policy Strategies of the Cuban Government with Rock Music, Hip-hop and Reggaeton

A few years after the 1959 revolution, jazz (and rock) became identified by Fidel and his friends as ‘imperialistic music’. Though it had never been forbidden to play them, Fidel’s ‘words towards the intellectuals’ left enough space to allow some functionaries to ban it from TV- and radio-broadcasting or to hinder the production of discs. In the 1990s the government’s policy against rock began to change. In case of the Nueva Trova movement in the mid 1960s at the beginning happened the same as with rock music. But there a new strategy showed more success: embracement, which led to promotion by the government. 30 years later the government – exactly a new and young cultural minister – tried to apply this strategy with the growing hip-hop-movement and the reggaeton scene. This lecture compares the different strategies which the Cuban government had used during 50 years to battle against disliked music styles and shows their consequences, successes and failures.


I. The politics of indie music

Moderator: Giacomo Bottà – Hochschule für Musik Karlsruhe

Ali Charrier – EHESS Paris: The New Political Strategies of the Indie Arab Music Scene

For the past ten years a new musical movement has emerged between Beirut, Amman, Cairo and Damascus (until the civil war that broke out in 2011). Initiatives of independent record labels such as Incognito (1998-2008) and its ‘new oriental sounds’, Forward Music (2001-present) now outselling mainstream productions on Itunes, and Eka3 have all contributed to renew and diversify the supply of contemporary Arabic music while promoting new forms of composition breaking the mould of dominant production networks. The Egyptian revolution has contributed to strengthen this movement by tightening the links existing between its regional actors. A new consciousness seems to have influenced this movement focused towards producing an ‘authentic’ music in harmony with the reality of situations lived by artists in the region. This movement is also accompanied by a new attitude to art criticism exemplified by the launch of the website whose objective is to propose without any complacency an autonomous critique of Arab music production. This movement combining cultural actors, concert venues, musicians, organizers, independent radio stations, and critiques seems to share a common purpose and vision of the directions taken by Arabic music today, combining an acute political awareness with a radically modern artistic vision. We will therefore propose to discuss the history of this movement, its objectives and modes of operation.

Julijana Zabeva-Papazova – Bulgarian Academy of Sciences: Alternative rock and politics in former Yugoslavia

Alternative rock in Yugoslavia in the 1980s was developed in the federation of six republics. This political-social condition had influence into the cultural and musical live. The main purpose of this text is to present the political context in work of alternative rock bands from the territory of ex Yugoslavia. The whole text will follow two main parts: the period of the 1980s in Yugoslavia and post Yugoslav period from 1991 until today. Representation of the period of 1980s will be an introductory part of the text that will create the base for the main features of the Yugoslav alternative rock. For objective reasons for a detailed analysis of alternative music in ex Yugoslavia was selected one group of each republic in which there are alternative bands (Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Slovenia). The main research will be directed to: the types of political connotation in the musical works of selected alternative bands; the similarities and differences in the ways of creating music as a result of certain political problems, conflicts, nationalism, identity etc. and to answer the question is there any connection or continuity of the alternative scene on the territory of ex-Yugoslavia.

Pierre Raboud – University of Lausanne: ‘Punk is dead’. The Legacy and Renewals of a Bygone Style

The death of punk has been pronounced several times. Still, this musical genre continues to be used by different social actors in situation of struggle, with the recent example of the Pussy Riot. This presentation aims to question this paradox: the ability of a bygone style to still express revolt through music. Through different examples of punk scenes (from the Riot Grrrl to punk scenes in non-Western countries), we will question the different ways whereby the punk panoply is appropriated by these movements. With this process of appropriation, the actors can empower themselves and actualize the punk tradition to the new needs related to the struggle of the 21st century: third wave feminism, cultural subversion against State power… Furthermore, we may ask why punk is the musical genre chosen for these kinds of situation. If punk still represents one of the main musical embodiments of revolt, which problems does it bring, in terms of cultural standard and radical renewal?

II. Racial and postcolonial issues in glocal popular music

Moderator: Gérôme Guibert – University of Paris III

Marc Kaiser – University of Lille 3: Keeping the Message Alive. The Politics of Glocal Hip-hop Scenes

This paper seeks to situate the socio-political dimensions of hip-hop music through a cultural geography to show how it expresses a poetics of place, race and ethnicity. By scrutinizing rap scenes in Paris, Sydney and Québec, we will observe the nature of the interactions between diverse local forms of rap and emphasize on the tensions and debates in relation to the notions of genuineness and commercialism to understand the political meanings and practices of some of the activists of the movement. The local and the global are bonded to one another through contemporary cultural circuits and media flows, rap in particular circulates at a global level within international networks and is produced at the same time in local, hybrid forms. Participants in glocal rap scenes are dedicated to hip-hop culture by adopting certain ways to make sense of their lives according to specific local and national situations. The political potential of hip-hop music is characterized by the attention paid to social inequality and injustice rather than by a revolutionary essence. Local rap scenes have also been shaped by cultural industries and public policies of all sorts. Most of all, identity policies have given certain frames of definition that have been challenged by rappers: in France, postcolonial issues are being brought up to contest the republican model (‘rap de fils d’immigrés’); in Australia, indigenous claims are putting in perspective the multicultural outlooks (‘Aboriginal rap’); in Québec, the intercultural approach, based on the promotion of French, challenges multiculturalism and its bilingualism advocated by the federal government (‘hip-hop québécois’).

Keivan Djavadzadeh-Amini – University of Paris 8: Coloniality of Power, Postcoloniality of Hip-hop. The ‘Becoming Subject’ of Plural Identities in French Rap

In this presentation, I intend to examine both the processes of political subjectivation within what one would call ‘postcolonial rap’ and the legal actions and censorship French rap music has been facing, especially since the urban riots of 2005. In France, ‘ethnic minorities’, the so-called ‘from an immigrant background’, living mostly in low-rent housing (HLM) located in suburban areas, became aware of the systemic discrimination against them. Since they were discriminated because of their ‘origins’, they took identity politics seriously, leading to the political claims of subaltern identities around a shared origin (former French colonies). Some French rap artists, such as La Rumeur, Rocé, La Caution or Casey, speaking from ‘the wretched of the colonies standpoint’, were pioneers in shaping and claiming this postcolonial and ‘plural’ identity, making its political recognition the condition without which a vivre ensemble could not be. As Rocé states, he won’t ‘sing France’ unless this country (‘almost his country, but only “almost”’ La Caution would say) recognizes him as ‘a multiple human being’. A right to difference(s) within equality, no more, no less.

David Bousquet – University of Strasbourg: Rastafari 2.0. Reggae Protest Songs in the XXIst Century

Reggae and Jamaican popular music have been part of long history of resistance and protest which dates back to the beginning of colonization and slavery. Despite stereotypes propagated by the media about ‘gun and bling’ culture in Jamaican dancehalls, much reggae music today is still concerned with political, social and cultural struggles, as the work of contemporary artists demonstrates. By analyzing lyrics of a number of recent songs, I will try to show that XXIst-century reggae has not lost the revolutionary stance of the 1970s roots generation, but rather adapts it to today’s postcolonial, globalized world. Specific attention will be paid to issues of class, gender and race, as well as to the diasporic, transnational dimension of reggae culture today. The use of modern technology will also be discussed, both in terms of music production and of communication and promotion. These elements will provide a basis for a general appreciation of reggae as one of the driving forces in musical innovation today, inaugurating as it does a cultural politics in which music plays a central role.

III. Glocal hip-hop & the politics of authenticity

Moderator: Christophe Lebold – University of Strasbourg

Sofiane Ailane – University of Lyon 2: On Subcultural Authenticity: the Politics of Brazilian hip-hop

Hip-hop, in Brazil, finds an important echo and dynamic in the youth of the ‘periferia’. More than an artistic expression, the local construction of hip-hop emphasizes the urban experiences of the suburb's people, considering the musical practices as a tool to change their close social universe. As a result, hip-hoppers acquire acknowledge as activists from the movement and become actors of the social life of their living space. The ‘hip-hop organizado’ uses this form of art in a way of communicating about precarious social situations and as a matter of fact, the aesthetic becomes an instrument of political struggle, mobilization and realization. This is this aspect of hip-hop that we want to emphasize because it brings tensions between the global influences of hip-hop and the local forces by re-inventing a political and a cultural object.

Olivier Bourderionnet – University of New Orleans: Exposing the Politics of French Rap on Prime Time Television: Authorship, Authenticity and Ideology in De L’encre by Hamé and Ekoué

This presentation will address questions of political consciousness, authenticity and legitimatizing in today’s French rap industry in the light of the discussion proposed in De l’encre, a fiction film made for television by rappers Hamé and Ekoué from the group La Rumeur. The present context of politically conscious popular music will be put into perspective with the tradition of the chanteur engagé that developed in the 1950s, along with modern media and music industries. The study will attempt to reveal a number of contradictions in the film’s positions as well as a reflection on the possible impact, implications and limitations of politically engaged popular music production.

Thorsten Hindrichs – Johannes Gutenberg University: ‘Volk ans Mikrofon’. N'Socialist Rap and the German Neo-Nazi Scene

The German neo-Nazi-scene is literally ‘in motion’: By cultivating particular styles, codes, and certain modes of socio-cultural action, since about 2004 so called ‘Autonome Sozialisten’ [autonomous socialists] and ‘Freie Kameradschaften’ [free fellowships] have begun to form a particular neo-Nazi-youth culture. Furthermore, in recent years several attempts to adapt rap music are to be observed, obviously prompted by the assumption that music is a central key to ‘win’ young people’s hearts for right-wing politics. Although some neo-Nazi rap projects sound rather awkward, others meet remarkable quality standards. Moreover, apart from clear-cut neo-Nazi-rap projects, more and more German rap acts, which deal rather ambiguously with right-wing issues, are gaining a certain popularity with German youth. Thus, the purpose of this paper is to retrace the establishment of neo-Nazi-rap as well as the relevant debates concerning rap within the German neo-Nazi-scene. Furthermore, the increasing musical and technical qualities of certain neo-Nazi-rap acts will be demonstrated, and finally, the right-wing political strategy of ‘educating the youth by music’ will be discussed.

IV. Politics, ethics & aesthetics

Moderator: Giancarlo Siciliano – University of Strasbourg

Jean-Christophe Sevin – EHESS Marseille: The Free Parties Scene & the Underground Credo

This communication deals with the techno movement in the 1990s-2000s, its purpose is to show how organizational arrangements, especially in the free parties, their underground credo and horizontal functioning, can be understood according the connectionist logic of the new spirit of capitalism that unfold in this period. This perspective allows us to describe raves as temporary connection experiences between disparate groups, which can be reactivated in the network formed by these meetings. Exposing this connectionist character of the techno movement provided an analytical framework for its relations with the political authorities and its own contradictions. It is also a way to avoid the essentialism of approaches in terms of subculture.

Jedediah Sklower – Volume! / Catholic University of Lille: Bombtracks for Rebellion and Torture: the Paradoxical Uses of Rage Against the Machine

The American metal fusion band Rage Against the Machine are well-known for their political activism – not only are most of their songs manifestos tackling a broad range of left-wing agit-prop themes, they also participated in a variety of struggles of the 1990s. Their anti-imperialist stances justified the censorship of their entire catalogue of songs in the US, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. In this presentation, I wish to analyze the paradoxical uses of RATM’s music: first, some of their tunes were among those listened to by many American soldiers in Iraq, to help them cope with daily life during war; second, some of these tunes were used to torture war prisoners. These antagonistic uses lead me to reflect upon the relationship between politics, ethics and agency: via the work of the philosopher Jacques Rancière, I wish to analyze a particular dichotomy at work in their music, which can trigger both political awareness and individual agency in radically opposed contexts. The band’s seemingly homogenous alloy of rousing music and militant politics questions the emancipatory nature of what we define as the agency of popular music.

Nicolas Debade – Aix-Marseille University: Recycling, Hijacking and Innovations: Paradoxes, Emancipation and Engagement in Experimental Music

Experimental music, as Cage and Nyman defined it, had a real impact on how to make music in terms of practices. Practices, engagements and their meaning evolved from open-to-interpretation scores, free improvisation, redefining musical techniques to hijackings, glitches and circuit bending. In this context, those emancipation spaces, both as production and reception, are still implied in the experimental contemporary scene such as noise music. After exposing some political engagement examples through experimental music evolution from John Cage to Merzbow, paradoxes in production concepts will be shown, between recycling and innovation (both as economic and political aspects), and also between ‘assisted/subsidized’ or ‘underground’ circuits. The emancipation generated by this music implies interactions in which the definition of terms such as ‘amateur’ (in practices) and ‘professional’ (meant for artists as an exclusive retributive activity) could be overwhelmed. Through many expressions of practices, techniques, musical styles, profiles and geographical situations, experimental music is defined with a complex multitude of cultures and engagements.

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