Introduction: Music in Ergon
We are delighted to announce the formation of a new section of Ergon centered on music of the Greek/American diaspora. The purpose of this initiative is to fill a critical gap in Greek/American diaspora scholarship by encouraging new research on music as a critical component of the diasporic experience. A central goal is to continue expanding the boundaries of literature beyond institutionalized conceptions of Greek music that privilege folk and art song. In addition to scholarship on Greek folk and art song, we will solicit contributions on genres as diverse as fusion, jazz, popular song, hip hop, and beyond. In addition, we approach this initiative from the bold perspective that there exists no singular Greek diaspora nor set repertoire of Greek diasporic music to be studied. Rather, understanding music as a fundamental activity through which people interact within and across cultures, we aim to examine how music is put to work as social practice through which actors define identities, negotiate boundaries, and construct diverse forms of belonging in Greek diasporic space.
Current scholarship on music of the Greek/American diaspora provides a relatively small but solid foundation for future research. The volume Greek Music in America (Bucuvalas 2019) is especially pertinent, as the first collection that surveys the history and scope of musical performance and research by Greek/Americans since the late 19th century. The recent publication Echoes of the Great Catastrophe: Re-sounding Anatolian Greekness in Diaspora (2021) by Panayotis League, offers the first in-depth ethnographic account of the ways in which music has contributed to understandings of place for the Anatolian Greek/American and global diaspora. Doctoral theses like Yiorgos Katsaros: Last of the Greek-American Café-Aman Singers (Frangos 1992) and Music, Politics, and Identity in Greece and the Greek American Diaspora (Kalamida 2003) offer critical insight into particular case studies of music put to use in the diasporic context for the purposes of cultural preservation, the expression of diasporic consciousness, and inspiring political action. Written sources external to academic scholarship also provide a foundation for future research. These include well-researched newspaper articles and essays like those of Steve Frangos and Dan Georgakas and the writings (and musical compositions) of scholar-musicians like Eric Ball that discuss the influence of Greek music, and in particular the mantinada, on his own compositional style.
While ethnomusicology—the study of music as culture—provides the core disciplinary framework for the Music section of Ergon, we aim to follow the example of publications like Thomas Turino and James Lea’s Identity and the Arts in Diaspora Communities (2004) and Tina Ramnarine’s Musical Performance in Diaspora (2007) that champion an interdisciplinary approach to music and diaspora studies. A central goal is to continue to push the field of ethnomusicology and of Modern Greek studies towards engaging with diaspora not as a discrete entity viewed within an ethnic or national framework, but as a shared space comprised of newcomers and those constructed as indigenous (Brah 1996). A fundamental question that we aim to answer asks how music can help us understand the Greek/American diaspora not as a discrete entity but as an intersectional space in which ethnic identity is just one of a number of identity markers like gender, class, and sexuality that inform the diasporic experience.
We will solicit scholarly articles, essays, editorials, blog entries, concert/recording reviews, and interviews about music and the Greek/American diaspora experience. Contributions that engage material culture, performance, composition, and scholarship to examine the heterogeneity of the diasporic experience as related to class, race, gender, sexuality, disability and so on, are of particular interest. With Greek/American diaspora as a central focus, the Music section of Ergon will also host select writings on Greek diaspora communities in Canada, Australia/Oceania and Britain, and on the contributions of cultural outsiders to Greek diasporic arts. Articles that revisit important texts on music and diaspora with special attention to their implications for Greek/America will also feature.
Yona Stamatis, editor of Music Ergon
Yona Stamatis is Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology and Director of the Music Program at the University of Illinois Springfield. She received her doctorate in ethnomusicology from the University of Michigan in 2011. Her research interests include music and social justice, and music and diaspora studies, with special attention to Greek popular song. Forthcoming publications include a book chapter on gendered representations of Bouboulina in song, and an authoethnographic account of music and political socialization in early adolescence. Her research has been supported by the Fulbright Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, and the Constantine Tsangadas Fellowship for Hellenic Studies at the University of Michigan. Her book project centers on the socio-political functions of rebetika performance in Greece during the recent economic crisis.
Brah, Avtar. Cartographies of Diaspora: Contesting Identities. New York, NY: Routledge, 1996.
Bucuvalas, Tina. Greek Music in America. Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2019.
Frangos, Steve. Yiorgos Katsaros: Last of the Greek-American Café-Aman Singers. Doctoral Thesis. Indiana University, 1992.
Kalamida, Georgia. Music, Politics, and Identity in Greece and the Greek-American Diaspora. Doctoral Thesis. Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, 2003.
League, Panayotis. Echoes of the Great Catastrophe: Re-sounding Anatolian Greekness in Diaspora. Ann Arbor, MI: The University of Michigan Press, 2021.
Ramnarine, Tina K. “Musical Performance in Diaspora.” Ethnomusicology Forum 16 no.1 (June 2007): 1–17.
Turino, Thomas and James Lea (eds.). Identity and the Arts in Diaspora Communities. Warren, MI: Harmonie Park Press, 2004.
Cover Image: Dizzy in Greece is an album by trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, recorded in 1956 and 1957 and released on the Verve label.