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Research Areas

Dr. Matthew Machin-Autenrieth

Matthew will explore (post)colonial musical manifestations of a shared heritage between Spain and Morocco, focusing on collaborations between flamenco and Arab-Andalusian musicians. In a fusion genre that is often dubbed 'flamenco-andalusí', performers and institutions often use music to promote the intercultural ideals of convivencia – the alleged peaceful coexistence of Christians, Jews and Muslims in medieval Spain. Combining historical and ethnographic research, this project will explore how music can construct and problematise the concept of a shared cultural history between Morocco and Spain. It will trace the emergence of the narrative of a shared musical heritage during Spanish colonialism in Morocco (1912–56). Flamenco’s alleged sonic affinities and historical links with Moroccan Arab-Andalusian music were a useful tool for the legitimisation of Spanish colonialism, but also presented a way for Moroccans to negotiate their position within the constraints of colonial rule. However, such music making has not ended with Moroccan independence, and the colonial narrative of a Spanish-Moroccan ‘brotherhood’ continues to influence music making today. Given the high levels of Moroccan immigration in Southern Spain, flamenco-andalusí fusions are often invoked as a model for interculturalism and as a form of cultural diplomacy with Morocco. But such projects may obscure the realities of immigration, promoting a utopian view of intercultural relations that hides the social exclusion and racism experienced by some Moroccans. Focusing on institutional projects and the musical lives of individual performers, this research proposes the following questions: to what extent do these collaborations help or hinder the integration of Moroccan immigrants and facilitate cultural exchange? How does flamenco and its fusions with Moroccan music factor into perceptions of a shared cultural history and the legacies of Spanish colonialism? Matthew is working towards a monograph tentatively entitled: The Sons of Ziryab: Flamenco-andalusí, Colonial Memory and Moroccan Migration across the Strait of Gibraltar. 

Dr. Samuel Llano

Samuel is a musicologist and cultural historian specialising in urban studies and transnationalism. His contribution to the project explores the ways in which scholarship on Medieval Arab-Andalusian music was used during the first half of the twentieth century to support competing yet intertwining contemporary identity projects in Europe and Morocco. Spanish and French scholarship on Arab-Andalusian music during the time of the Protectorate (1912-1956) was used to justify the European colonial presence in Morocco. In their writings, European musicologists presented Arab-Andalusian music as a European tradition born in the southern Iberian peninsula during the Middle Ages and taken to northern Africa by the Muslims and Jews expelled from Spain from the late Middle Ages on. Spanish scholars believed that, because modernity had not reached Morocco – or so they thought – Andalusi music had survived intact, although it had been neglected by Moroccans. In their minds, Spain was entitled to occupy Morocco and recuperate – though in reality to reinvent – a tradition that belonged to Spain, and to teach Moroccans the value of a legacy that was also theirs. French scholars used research on Arab Andalusian music to project onto the past, and thus redefine, the relationship between France and Spain, using Orientalist tropes to ‘Africanise’ and marginalise Spain. Moroccan scholars grounded the present on an idealised image of Andalusi culture and music to fuel modern nationalism and, in that way, to push forward the movement towards independence (1956). Using archival research, textual and musical analysis, as well as comparative methods, Samuel's research demonstrates that the musical past weighs heavily upon the present, giving rise to anxieties and dictating policies through which ethnic and national identities are negotiated across transnational and transcontinental borders. He is currently working on a book proposal tentatively titled Echoes from a Distant Present: Imagining Arab-Andalusian Music in Spain, France and Morocco, 1912-1956.


Samuel is the author of two books. His first monograph, Whose Spain?: Negotiating ‘Spanish Music’ in Paris, 1908-1929 (OUP, 2012), analyses the weight of war propaganda and Orientalist tropes in the formation of the ‘Spanish music’ concept in both Spain and France. Counter to research that studies ‘Spanish music’ as a self-contained category, this book argues that it is the outcome of a thoroughly transnational process through which Spanish composers resident in Paris (Falla, Albéniz) engaged with the ‘Orientalist’ stereotypes and imperialist dynamics prevalent in France. In 2013 this book received the Robert M. Stevenson Award of the American Musicological Society for ‘outstanding research in Iberian and Latin American Music.’ His second book titled Discordant Notes: Marginality and Social Control in Madrid, 1850-1930 (OUP, December 2018) analyses the ways in which street music and sounds in Madrid, as they challenged the social and economic order, triggered the development of new forms of social control. Street and popular music, far from being a social epiphenomenon, have played a key role in the modernisation and refinement of legislation and social control in modern urban societies.

Dr. Stephen Wilford

Stephen Wilford’s research for this project focuses upon Algerian musics in both colonial and postcolonial contexts, with a strong emphasis upon Arab-Andalusi traditions. He will explore the evolution and changing status of Algerian Andalusi musics throughout the transition to national independence, and their subsequent role in discourses around Arabization and collective nationalism. His work will combine historical research and ethnography and aims to situate Algerian Andalusi musics in a rapidly changing socio-political climate, both domestically and internationally. He is particularly interested in considering the mechanisms, institutions and discourses that support and maintain Andalusi practices, both in North Africa and throughout transnational diasporic networks. While careful to avoid a reliance upon recurrent and reductive binaries (colonial and postcolonial, past and present, Algerian and French, etc.), his research will interrogate the ways in which Algerian Andalusi practices have remained in dialogue with other musics and cultures.


Alongside this work on Andalusi, Stephen is also interested in Algerian musical practices more broadly, and particularly upon musical relationships and encounters between Algeria and France. This encompasses research into French ‘settler’ musical cultures in colonial Algeria, including those concerned with Western Art Musics and Jazz, and the emergence of a vibrant Franco-Algerian hip hop scene from the 1990s onwards. He is particularly interested in the ways in which Franco-Algerian hip hop not only forms connections between Europe and North Africa, but also constructs linkages to African-American culture.


Stephen is an ethnographic filmmaker and will work alongside other members of the team in producing film content on a number of themes that are central to the aims of the project.

Dr. Vanessa Paloma Duncan Elbaz

Vanessa will focus her work on personal and official uses of the Jewish voice in the building of national and transnational identity. Drawing on archival work, oral histories and discourse analysis, her research will focus on the role that Jewish music and musicians have played in colonial and post-colonial cultural interactions. The high mobility of Moroccan Jews in the last century, as well as their simultaneous multiple linguistic and cultural affiliations, has created an environment that blurs official tropes of belonging and non-belonging. This space presents a perfect breeding ground for the (re)negotiation of established identities for the majority group as a whole. Vanessa’s work theorizes how the creation of publicly accepted Jewish heritage repertoires in Spain and Morocco during the last century follows a pattern supported by philosephardi intellectual discourse, which began before Spanish colonialism in Morocco.  


Her research also explores how official Moroccan and Spanish institutions have narrated the voice of the Jewish minority through a century-long span of research and cultural diplomacy. While looking not only at official representations of minority voices, but also at the impact of performances of “Jewish” repertoires by both Jewish and non-Jewish performers and cultural activists, her research unearths the slow and complex story of how national identities are built through music, history and the entanglement between recreation and reinvention of memory. She is currently working on a book proposal tentatively entitled: From Your Mouth to the Heavens: (Trans)Nationalism, Diversity and Jewish Music in Spain and Morocco (1890-2020).

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