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Dr. Samuel Llano

Senior Research Associate

University of Manchester


Samuel Llano is a Senior Lecturer in Spanish Cultural Studies at the University of Manchester. His work explores the music and sound cultures of Spain from a transcultural perspective, involving France and North Africa, and with a focus on urban cultures. He is the author of Whose Spain?: Negotiating “Spanish Music” in Paris, 1908-1929 (OUP, 2012), winner of the Robert M. Stevenson Award of the American Musicological Society; and Discordant Notes: Marginality and Social Control in Madrid, 1850-1930 (OUP, 2018). He has co-edited several collections of essays, including “Spanish Sound Studies” (2019; with Tom Whittaker), a special issue of the Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies. Llano has a secondary interest in exile and migration, and has published several articles on Catalan composer Roberto Gerhard, an exile of the Spanish Civil War.

Within the present project Llano explores the cultural, diplomatic and racial tensions arising from the study of Arab-Andalusi music in the context of the Franco-Spanish Protectorate in Morocco (1912-1956); and the power struggles enacted in the dances of the Sufi brotherhoods, which used trance as an agent of resistance against the colonial occupation.


The Empire of the Ear: The Sonic Architecture of Colonial Morocco: Samuel’s research explores the role of musicology, sound and musical practice in helping to build a colonial order in Morocco (1912–1956). He studies scholarly work on the different musical traditions of Morocco as a contested site in which conflicting views about the past, present and future of Morocco met. On the one hand, he approaches musicology as a cultural technology of power in which representations of past and current musical practice were used as a means to redefine and consolidate class, gender and ethnic boundaries in Moroccan society. Musicology thus aligned itself with anthropology and the social sciences in ways convenient to the maintenance and expansion of colonial rule. On the other hand, he understands musicology as a site of resistance that helped to raise awareness among Arab scholars about the potential of Morocco’s musical practices to be construed as national heritage. This growing awareness helped fuel the rise of Moroccan and pan-Arab nationalism in the lead-up to the proclamation of independence in 1956. Discourse on Andalusi music in colonial Morocco was thus the product of competition and negotiation between French, Spanish, and Maghrebi scholars, in which their different voices clashed, coexisted, or merged, without cancelling each other out.


His work explores as well the ways in which musical and sound practice in colonial Morocco were involved in the building of this complex order while simultaneously challenging it. The trance dances of the Sufi brotherhoods (turuq) and the enforcement of legislation on noise, as they appropriated and reconfigured rural and urban space, contributed to articulating power relationships between the different European and Moroccan population groups inhabiting the same or contiguous spaces. The Sufi brotherhoods used widely-attended trance-dancing events as symbolic re-enactments of the ancestral lineages that structured and supported their power networks. In this way, they tried to resist the colonial authorities’ attempts to transfer authority in musical matters away from the master-apprentice system and onto the European-funded network of conservatoires and musical institutes. In addition, their dances contested the scientific foundations of western medicine and knowledge, in which Sufi trance dancing featured as a superstitious practice. Whereas, especially in the rural areas, musical practice was increasingly being reconfigured as a site of political resistance, in the cities, the colonial authorities passed and enforced legislation on sound control as a means to increase their control over the Moroccan populations. In protecting certain areas of the city from noise pollution and imposing a selective regime of “aural hygiene,” legislation on sound contributed to segregating along ethnic and class lines the different European and Maghrebi population groups living in the rapidly expanding Moroccan cities. At the meeting point between control and resistance, musical and sound practice in colonial Morocco opened up a space of cultural intimacy in which colonial authority and the struggle for independence could coexist temporarily.

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