Decolonising Sound in Post-Woke Regimes of Cancel Culture

This talk addresses current flashpoints around different/conflicting projections on decolonial music initiatives around the world, including conversational fronts (or battlefronts in some cases) in multiple, intersectional contexts. Is decolonisation a ‘trend’, or here to stay? Can we keep Beethoven and Berio alongside Balinese gamelan and B.B. King? (but of course, yes). How will it happen alongside Gen Z concerns about climate change, mental health and precarity? Is musical decolonisation an anglophone-centric debate? What does it mean for people in the Global South, and also in increasingly affluent East Asia, whose representatives engage with the ‘West’ often wanting to consume the ‘canon’? Is decolonisation the ‘new’ new musicology, or do we call it Global Music History/ies now? Where do transnational and transcultural conversations lie amidst personal and institutional reckonings of class/academic/musical privilege? And what has music or sound got to do with all of this? Speaking first from my own positionality as a woman scholar-musician-educator of postcolonial Singaporean heritage working primarily in the UK, I pose questions rather suggest answers. I attempt to ground these provocations not just in lived experience, but also in considerations of musical agency and choice, and how one key lies in having meaningful conversations on working together to re-level different playing fields around the world in micro and macro ways.

Shzr Ee Tan
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Shzr Ee Tan is a Senior Lecturer and ethnomusicologist (with a specialism in Sinophone and Southeast Asian worlds) at Royal Holloway, University of London. She is committed to decolonial and EDI (Equality, Diversity and Inclusion) work in music and the performing arts, with interests in how race discourses intersect problematically with class, gender and recent debates on posthuman digitalities, climate change and multispecies thinking.

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