We are pleased to announce two upcoming activities sponsored by the Analysis of World Music Interest Group at the SMT/AMS conference in Milwaukee. The first consists of the special panel session “Cycles in World Music” sponsored by SMT Analysis of World Music Interest Group. The second involves a symposium on theme Global Hip-Hop.


Analytical Approaches to Time Cycles in World Music, Nov. 7th Friday 9:30-11:00 pm (H:Mitchell)

Chair: Lawrence Shuster (College of Saint Rose)

  • John Roeder and Michael Tenzer (University of British Columbia), “Large-Scale Formative Processes in Ostinato Music”
    ·         Kofi Agawu (Princeton University), “The Metrical Underpinnings of African Time-Line Patterns”

*Please find abstract of this event at SMT/AMS program.


Global Hip-Hop, Nov. 8th Saturday 12:15-1:45 pm (H: Walker)

Chair: Ya-Hui Cheng (Fort Valley State University)

  • Michael Berry (University of Washington), “Understanding Improvisation in Early Hip-Hop”
  • Eric Charry (Wesleyan University), “Making Hip Hop African”
  • Ellie Hisama (Columbia University), TBA


* Understanding Improvisation in Early Hip-Hop

Michael Berry, University of Washington

At its inception, hip-hop culture was a fusion of writing (graffiti), breakdancing, DJing, and MCing. Each element was improvised, typically in response to one of the other elements. Schema theory provides a useful framework for studying and comparing improvisatory practices both within and across elements. The critical apparatus developed by Henry Louis Gates in The Signifying Monkey (1988) functions as a bridge between the work of scholars such as Walter Ong, Ian MacKenzie, and Alison Wray, and the more specific cultural practices of hip-hop.

In the first part of this essay, I use schema theory to examine improvisation in each of the four elements. The focus of this section is on a collection of live performances by Chief Rocker Busy Bee Starski, a well-known party MC. Busy Bee’s live performances consist of stock phrases and more abstract outlines that are organized according to the specific performance context. The second part of the essay examines the impact of commercialization on the four elements. Recording and broadcasting split up the four elements and initiated a shift from improvisation to more fixed, homogenous forms that are separate from their time and place of production (Rose 1994, 58).

* Making Hip Hop African

Eric Charry, Wesleyan University

Hip hop from the US has been embraced and transformed throughout Africa to such an extent that it could be considered as an African (or Senegalese, Ghanaian, etc.) cultural style there, or perhaps an African tributary of a global current. This is but the latest in a very long lineage of global cultural transformations in Africa. Islam and Christianity have long impacted musical practice in Africa, being reshaped in the process. More recent currents, such as Cuban son/rumba in the 1940s and 50s, US rock and soul in the 1960s and 70s, and Jamaican reggae and ragga in the 1970s and 80s have also stimulated innovative artistic production. The processes of transformation that African hip hop has undergone in the past few decades bear striking similarities and differences with those that unfolded about the time of decolonization and political independence in the 1950s and 60s. Indeed, hip hop draws on some of these earlier hybrid styles to gain local relevancy and authenticity. In this paper I examine the process of making hip hop African, paying special attention to the language, musical accompaniment, sampling strategies, and flow. Examples will be drawn from Senegal, France, and elsewhere in Africa.


To know more about our group (Analysis of World Music), events and journals, please visit: http://societymusictheory.org/societies/interest/world_music

Looking forward to seeing everyone in Milwaukee this November.


Lawrence Shuster and Ya-Hui Cheng,

Co-Chairs, SMT Analysis of World Music