Fulbright and mtvU sent students around the world to study and promote "the power of music." Check out their blogs here.

Closing Meditations: The Human Condition and the Power of Music

It’s hard to believe my time in Japan this time around is coming to a close, but it’s even harder to believe that there was ever a time when I didn’t yet have these experiences. My experience has exceeded all my overarching objectives as a Fulbright-mtvU scholar – to expose myself to the music happening in Japan today and to listen to each scene as a soundtrack for contemporary society that challenges space-time relationships, notions of (national) identity, and just what we think “society” is, anyway. The ideas I’ll be exploring in my dissertation have evolved into sophisticated perspectives, and I have become more confident of the kind of scholar I aim to be (which is to say, highly egalitarian and eager to share and learn without ever stepping foot into the infamous “Ivory Tower” of academia). And although I’m not exactly looking forward to leaving Japan, I am extremely excited to share this amazing music with my future students at Cornell, where I will be teaching a course called “From Zen to J-pop \(^o^)/: Listening to Japanese Society through Music” in the upcoming fall and spring semesters (to any incoming Cornell first-years who are reading: sign up!).
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Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 Thoughts No Comments

The House of Arab Oud, Abu Dhabi

studio at Bait al Oud
Afternoon sunlight shines through a stairwell, a whiteboard shows the intervals of six Arabic scales, and a door opens onto a studio at Bait al Oud.

I found a welcoming community of musicians and friends this year at Bait al Oud al Arabi (House of Arab Oud), located in the al Nahayan neighborhood of Abu Dhabi. Bait al Oud is a music institute with multiple branches, founded by Iraqi oud master Naseer Shamma. The Abu Dhabi branch opened in 2008 with the support of the Tourism and Culture Authority, and you can read an early article on it at this link.
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Wednesday, May 13th, 2015 Thoughts No Comments

Royal Hartigan – Pt. 1

royal hartigan

blood drum spirit is a jazz quartet from the United States. In January, I had the opportunity to travel throughout Ghana with them as they strived to fulfill their goals and motivations; essentially, “to help others and [themselves] to develop positive human connections and visions of the world through music and dance teaching, performance, and sharing.” Basically, my Fulbright proposal summarized in one sentence.

I was introduced to royal hartigan through Daniel Fennell, the Public Affairs Counselor at the U.S. Embassy in Accra. royal needed extra camera work for a music documentary he was working on. Fulbright has sent me here to study music and thanks to mtvU, I have a state-of-the-art camera and video recording equipment; we were a perfect fit.
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Friday, May 8th, 2015 Slideshow, Thoughts No Comments

Clock Hazard and the Egalitarian Musical Utopia of the Kansai Underground

When you go to a Clock Hazard show, you never know what to expect. There are no set members; there is no set genre; there is no set equipment; there are no usual venues.

The only thing you can expect is to have a euphoric experience dancing to some sick music. They are absolutely what’s happening in Kansai.

CHD at MAMF
Clock Hazard doing their thing at the Mai Asia Music Festival, Osaka, on April 29th.

So, what is Clock Hazard, and why all the ambiguity? Clock Hazard is an underground rebel dance music collective and music label based in the western Japanese region of Kansai – the area surrounding Osaka and Kyoto – and perhaps its most defining hallmark is that it’s explicitly anonymous. There are currently around twenty members – the exact number is neither clear nor important – and while many do solo gigs under actual monikers, Clock Hazard’s anonymity was purposefully implemented with two specific goals in mind. Coming into existence in January of 2014, the founding members (who, true to form, asked to remain anonymous in this article) were first and foremost frustrated with what they detected as a particularly unsavory aspect of the Japanese underground, namely… names. They feel that the scene places too much importance on the draw of big-name musicians and through their anonymity are trying to reemphasize actual music-making while encouraging audiences to prioritize the same. Secondly, Clock Hazard opts for anonymity in order to create a highly egalitarian environment where musicians can feel free to share, express, experiment, and inspire with various musical styles, without the pressure of operating under the strict hierarchies that normally define Japanese social interactions.
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Friday, May 8th, 2015 Audio, Thoughts, Video No Comments

Saga Fest: What’s Our Story?

Saga Fest

Last January, I was sitting near a cave with three Bedouin men in the Jordan desert. There were no other signs of human activity; the barren yet beautiful landscape rivaled the Highlands of Iceland. The ancient city of Petra was an hour away—by mule—and the surrounding red-rock mountains were illuminated by a winter sky full of stars.

I had just met the Bedouin men earlier in the day and quickly connected with them. But we were alone in the middle of a desert and I was nervous.

I didn’t feel this way because I didn’t trust them. I was nervous because they had asked me to freestyle rap.
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Friday, May 1st, 2015 Slideshow, Thoughts No Comments

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