27 Jan 2021 14:30 - 16:30 Online


This is an online event hosted via Zoom. Registration is now closed.


  • Aaron Fox (University of Columbia)
  • Noel Lobley (University of Virginia)
  • Sylvia Antonia Nannyonga-Tamusuza (University of Makerere)
  • Vik Sohonie (Ostinato Records)


Sound archives have been described by some scholars as a valuable source of knowledge that “represent the perspectives of the vanquished, the less powerful” (Seeger 2002), that “allow non-literate people to speak for themselves” (Seeger & Chaudhuri 2004), and that might serve to “re-trace” otherwise lost historical knowledge and traditions (Lancefield 1998). Yet how sound archives speak and are heard, for whom and to what effect is never straightforward, especially when their very existence is often bound up in disciplinary practices that cannot be separated from colonial power dynamics.

This roundtable will consider the ethical, epistemological and political challenges and opportunities of working with sound archives. Reflecting on their own engagement with sound archives – as ethnomusicologists involved in efforts to repatriate archives to their source communities, and as sound curators and music producers whose work seeks to make archival material available to broader audiences – panellists will also consider if and why these archives matter, and what it might look (or sound) like to “decolonise” sound archives.

There will also be plenty of time for questions and open conversation with audience member.

About the Speakers

Aaron Fox is Associate Professor of Music and Ethnomusicology and the Director of the Center for Ethnomusicology at Columbia. His recent work has focused on issues of cultural and intellectual property and the repatriation of Native American cultural resources, as part of a broader interest in cultural survival and sustainability and music-centered community activism. He is currently engaged with a project working with several Indigenous communities to return and recover recordings held in the archives at Columbia’s Center for Ethnomusicology.

Noel Lobley is an ethnomusicologist, sound curator and artist who works across the disciplines of music, anthropology sound art and composition to develop a series of experiential sound events and international curatorial residencies. Through extensive fieldwork in sub-Saharan Africa, much of his creative practice takes ethnographic sound and music recordings out of archives for re-purposing back among communities.

Sylvia Antonia Nannyonga-Tamusuza is the Coordinator of the Ethnomusicology in Uganda Project and the founder and curator of the Klaus Wachsmann Audio-visual archive at Makerere, where she is also Associate Professor of Music and Head of the Performing Arts and Film Department. She has published widely on topics ranging from sexuality, politics and gender in popular music and dance, Catholic church music, school singing competitions, women’s use of expressive arts in peace and conflict management, and music repatriation and archiving. Her current research focuses on the decolonization of ‘African’ music education.

Vik Sohonie is a Grammy-nominated producer, founder of Ostinato Records, a label dedicated to sounds from the global South, and an editorial board member of The Boycott Times. Born in India, Vik was raised in Southeast Asia and the US and has spent extended periods of time working in Europe and Africa. He is currently based in Bangkok.

Download the poster here.

An event organised by Auralities Research Network
Administrative assistance: networks@crassh.cam.ac.uk 

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