‘Folk belongs to the people’: exploring Balkan music in Sydney, Australia
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 18:13 by Sophia A. Harris
Australia’s world music scene incorporates a great variety of music-making practices and performers, a growing subset of whom identify themselves and their musics with Southeast Europe and the Balkans. This music scene brings together diverse migrant and musical communities, performing regularly at both public and private venues in Sydney. Given the turbulent socio-political history of Southeast Europe and the ethnic tensions that have accompanied waves of migration from the region during the 20th century, my research investigates what role music, and this burgeoning music scene, might play in the social lives and relations between these diasporic groups in Sydney. How are memories of homeland(s) made present through musical performance? Can music enhance social cohesion and collective identification among disparate migrant communities? And if so, how are issues of cultural ownership, authenticity and hybridity negotiated in the multicultural space of the world music scene? My research draws on participant observation and semi-structured interviews to explore the social spaces of music performance, as well as online and radio marketing materials which reveal the discourses surrounding music production. While previous inquiry critiques categories of ‘world music’ and questions the so-called ‘Balkan craze’ as a space for genuine cross-cultural exchange, my research suggests at the ways in which organisers and performers adeptly draw on and play with identity categories (such as ‘Balkan’) to generate shared emotional experiences, foster social cohesion and promote intercultural musical engagement in Australia.