Sandeep Bhagwati calls out the everyday racism of “world music”

Published by Van Outernational

In this series of articles (in German) published in the online magazine “Van Outernational” in November 2019, Bhagwati examines traces and gestures of racism and colonialism in the classical and in the new music scene – from concert programming to the image of new music “exploring new territory”. He then debunks two types of fallacy around global music: one the one hand, the widespread assurance that eurological New Music is the most advanced music that ever has been and the belief that therefore all cultures must catch-up to it to even become contemporary (“Western Classical Music is a global language”) and on the other hand, the commercial construct of “world music” which insidiously perpetuates race and class in our perception of musical reality. The second article then proposes several models of thinking and programming music inclusively, some of them based on theoretical concepts in the German intellectual tradition that have not gained much currency in anglophone discourse, but might offer a way out of the colonialist conception of music: Casmann, Forkel, and Goethe who all developed pre-colonial concepts of aesthetic diversity and inclusivity as well as Heinrich Brunn, whose 1856 concept of the Kunstwollen opens the way to a truly inclusive aesthetics. He also argues for a new conception of the “contemporary” which includes all traditions of music that are currently practiced in communities (whether these are geographically or ethnically defined or defined solely by interests such as the Early Music community). And makes a case for “creative misunderstanding” as a valid mode of dealing with cultural difference.

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4 thoughts on “Sandeep Bhagwati calls out the everyday racism of “world music”

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    1. Hi Rico, if you would like to deepen this discussion, I highly recommend that you attend our Curating Diversity in Europe: Decolonizing Contemporary Music symposium in May 2021. Part 1 of the symposium, which took place in September 2020, can be viewed on the Sounds Now website. Part 2 will take place May 6-9 online. We will be going further into these topics, with a more hands-on, practical approach.

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