P59. Art, Music and Popular Culture Across the Border

Session: Session 8, 8:30-10:00 am, Sunday 10/1

Category: Individual Papers

Location: Illinois Ballroom C

Chair: My-Xuan Hillengas (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)

Paper Presenters: James Carl Lagman Osorio (University of Wisconsin-Madison), Anuracti Sharma (University of Cincinnati)

Popular Prancing: Implications of Cultural Hybridity and Blackface Minstrelsy in Reckoning Nicanor Abelardo’s “Naku….Kenkoy!”

Speaker: James Carl Lagman Osorio
Role: Paper Presenter
Institution/Affiliation: University of Wisconsin-Madison
Abstract: Filipino anthropologist Jose Buenconsejo (2018) credits Nicanor Abelardo (1893-1934) with transforming the kundiman, a popular song in the Spanish-ruled Philippines, into a nationalist art song. After Abelardo’s untimely death, his students obscured his fondness for the popular (Manuel, 1955) to foreground the image that his true art lies within the kundiman. Unbeknownst to Filipinos today, Abelardo learned different popular genres from the United States while playing the piano for silent films. Due to the “cosmopolitan” nature of his grounding, he traversed between teaching composition at the University of the Philippines Conservatory of Music and conducting the orchestras of renowned cabarets in Manila, much to the great dismay of his academic colleagues (Epistola, 1996). Using Peter Burke’s (2009) concept of heteroglossia, this paper makes sense of Nicanor Abelardo’s “Naku…Kenkoy,” a song modeled after the foxtrot with text by Romualdo Ramos. In doing so, I rescue the song from the stereotype of Filipino mimicry. Situating Abelardo’s use of an American form within the broader Filipino soundscape, I then contrast his version of the foxtrot with those of his contemporaries to demonstrate how Abelardo and Ramos produced veiled references to blackface minstrelsy as a subversive commentary to the elite. The implications of this are particularly felt in cabarets where bodies of the elite are brought together in dance. I attempt to shed a light on how blackface minstrelsy, with its negative overtones suppressed, traveled across the Pacific and how Abelardo negotiated with an imperialist culture while still maintaining maximum agency over his work.

Ms. Marvel’s South Asian Music Heritage: A Sonic Reconciliation of the Partitioned Past

Speaker: Anuracti Sharma
Role: Paper Presenter
Institution/Affiliation: College-Conservatory of Music, University of Cincinnati
Abstract: This paper uncovers the musical language of the 2022 Marvel Comics Universe (MCU) web series ‘Ms. Marvel,’ created by Bisha K. Ali, co-directed by Adil and Bilall, and music directed by Laura Karpman, particularly within the context of India’s partition and birthing of Pakistan in 1947. The mini-series, based on the life of Kamala Khan, a Pakistani-American teenager, features culturally curated songs from both India and Pakistan across decades, regions, musical identities constituting a range of diverse genres, languages, dialects, artists, and listenership. This radical assimilation of South Asian culture within the mainstream American comic-superhero universe is enriching and inclusive. I argue that the music of Ms. Marvel re-contextualizes the trauma of the Partition between the two nations for millennials, GenZ, and makes South Asian music accessible and aspirational to the global youth. The paper traces a shift in the millennial re-imagination of the post-Partition historical trajectory of India and Pakistan as distinctly separate from their ancestral counterparts. I build upon the unifying attribute of its music by borrowing from the existing scholarship of film music studies, South Asian studies, and partition studies through literary and historical contexts. This centers the cross-cultural musical adaptation of Ms. Marvel as a socio-politically charged tool, capable of reconfiguring Partition’s loss and retribution. The series utilizes a mainstream American standpoint to cautiously represent a globally sound tale of resilience and reminiscence. Keywords: Partition, diaspora, millennial, South Asian, Pakistan, media, music