"Rhythm, Roots & Research" - Part II

upcoming & remarkable - a special series by upcoming female talents

Welcome back ladies! Today I am explaining the background of my research question and giving you a sneak peek on next week's blog. If you haven't already, check out blog #1 for more information about me. 


music X race X gender

More than any other form of cultural expression, music has the ability to move people. Music has always been and will always be a way to discuss taboos, to overcome political struggle and to express buried feelings. Consequently, it is not a surprise that music has been a transmitter of all sorts of cultural and political messages. Musical styles are constantly evolving and changing. During the time of slavery, African musical rhythms and sounds travelled in particular to Northern and Southern America, where new musical styles, like the blues and jazz music, arose. With the arrival of vinyl, these genres returned to Africa and were the inspiration for developments such as juju and highlife. In relation to the historical timeline of Afro-American musical styles, modern exhibitions such as “Rhythm & Roots” - an exhibition recently displayed in the Tropenmuseum (Amsterdam) - give a clear image of the way new media today are likely to show representations of black people that reinforce and re-inscribe white supremacy. A statement which - author, feminist and social activist - Gloria Watkins confirms in her work “Black Looks: Race and Media Representation” (1992).  Similarly to these issues related to race and music, gender has been and still is a complex phenomenon when it comes to music. 



In the work “Revolution in Girl Style Now: Popular Music, Feminism and Revolution” (1996), author Vera C. Gamboa claims that music is a medium that has the capacity to reach an enormous audience: popular music is described as “a site of revolutionary possibilities” (1996, iii). Furthermore, Gamboa states that “the use of popular music by musicians to articulate a revolutionary desire and promote revolutionary endeavors, is examined as conducive to transformative struggles within society” (1996, iii). In her research, the author mentions the riot grrrl movement that took place in the early 1990s as an example of this phenomenon of revolutionary processes in music. This study of the performance, lyrics and activist tactics of the female musicians that were part of the movement, shows how a community of young women engaged with the feminist issues that were articulated through the popular genre of punk music. While deconstructing and resisting the existing gender roles and relations, the riot grrrl movement was seen as the first musical convocation for a feminist revolution. 


Music, as one of the most important transmitters of all sorts of these political messages, is a crucial platform when it comes to race and gender related issues. An impressive body of literature has already been written about either gender and music as a theme, and the goes for race and music; my research project aimed to look at the merging of both of these themes. The following weeks we will look into this topic by investigating the following research question: 

“What sort of female, black identities are articulated in present-day music worldwide, and how do African-American women negotiate the emotions related to blackness through music?”  


Together we will unravel these questions regarding “female blackness” through the sounds of music. See you next week Wednesday!

- Maxime


BloG: Maxime Ten Brinke | Photography: Els Danquah | Creative Direction: Shenelva Booij