Keynote Speaker


Gabriel Solis (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA)


Singing the Black Pacific: Global Music History and the Challenge of the Pacific


Abstract: Two fundamental questions face the emerging field of global music history: what do we mean by “global,” and what do we mean by “music.” Not just in theory, but in practice, in the construction of our studies. A focus on the Pacific offers a vital opportunity to seek meaningful answers to these questions, but also bring their importance very much into focus. This keynote draws on research with Indigenous musicians and activists in Australia and Melanesia on the history of Black-Indigenous connections in the region over the course of a “long” twentieth century. To be certain, this history is an instance of a “paracolonial network,” made possible by the late-nineteenth century expansion of U.S, imperial presence across the Pacific as well as by the longer history of British colonial activity. Nevertheless, I argue, a full accounting for the musical and social dynamics that constitute the forging of a Black Pacific in song requires attention to musics that are not global, as such, often musics that do not have a tradition of notation. Such a history offers one blueprint for making global music history more expansive than older histories of empire, and for seeing the Pacific – and its rim – as a space in which music, in particular, can bring to light complex historical dynamics of cultural movement and exchange.: 

Bio: A scholar of African American music and of Indigenous musics of the Southwestern Pacific, Gabriel Solis has done ethnographic and historical research with jazz musicians in the United States and with musicians in Australia and Papua New Guinea. Drawing on work in African American studies, anthropology, and history, he addresses the ways people engage the past, performing history and memory through music. Additionally, his work explores musicians’ and audiences’ interactions with and personalization of mass-mediated musical commodities in transnational circulation. He has received the Wenner Gren Foundation’s Hunt Fellowship, the Arnold O. Beckman Fellowship for distinguished research, the Madden Fellowship for research in technology and the arts, an Illinois Program for Research in the Humanities fellowship, and most recently a Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory senior fellowship.  He received the honorable mention for the Society for Ethnomusicology’s Jaap Kunst Prize for “Artisanship, Innovation, and Indigenous Modernity in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea: Ataizo Mutahe’s Flutes,” in 2013. His articles have appeared in The Musical Quarterly, Ethnomusicology, the Journal of the Royal Musical Association, the Journal of Popular Music Studies, Popular Music and Society, Musicultures, and a number of edited collections. He is the author of a book on contemporary performances of Thelonious Monk’s music, titled Monk’s Music: Thelonious Monk and Jazz History in the Making (University of California Press, 2007), and a book on John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk’s work together in the late-1950s (Oxford University Press, 2013), and co-editor with Bruno Nettl of a collection of essays on improvisation cross-culturally. He is currently working on a book on Tom Waits and the theatrics of masculinity, and on a study of the history of connections between artists and activists in Australia and Papua New Guinea and their counterparts in the African diaspora, titled The Black Pacific. In addition to jazz, Dr. Solis has studied capoeira with Contramestre Dennis Chiaramonte of Livre como Vento, Professor Doutor of ASCAB and Instructor Macaquinho of Capoeira Angola Palmares.


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