Dr. Maria Rijo Lopes da Cunha
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United Kingdom
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SOAS, University of London
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SOAS, University of London
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10 Thornhaugh Street
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United Kingdom
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British Council
Early Career Researcher
Maria Rijo Lopes da Cunha is a British-based Ethnomusicologist. She earned a Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology in 2017 from SOAS, University of London. For the past ten years her research interests focused on music heritage, revival and innovation; Music and identity politics (national and global); Politics of cultural preservation, dissemination and consumption of cultural heritage and music as cultural diplomacy which she has explored in-depth in relation to postcolonial literature. More recently, she developed an interest in sound and border studies. She is an active performer working Asil Ensemble for Contemporary Arabic Music, a collaboration that emerged from doctoral fieldwork. In parallel, she is works as a cultural consultant for several initiatives such as the Aga Khan Music Initiative (AKMI) for the 2019 Aga Khan Music Awards, KEA European Affairs (Brussels) and Arts Cabinet (UK). She teaches research methods at SOAS.
Research description
My doctoral thesis, entitled “ The Contemporary Revival of Nahḍa Music in Lebanon: politics of remembrance and representation” (2017) studied the revival of Arab Renaissance (Nahḍa) music by focusing on a small but influential group of musicians, musicologists and music amateurs that form the Lebanese movement of Tajdīd mīn al-Dākhil (henceforth, Tajdīd). The project has drawn upon the theoretical framework set forward by Bithell and Hill (2014) concerning music revival as well as the innovation and transformation to music that can derive from such revisitations. This thesis has also drawn on Svetlana Boym’s renewed work on politics of nostalgia which proved essential in providing a wider theoretical frame for understanding and discussing the actions of the Tajdīd. My doctoral research started by presenting the historical context of Nahḍa era by analysing its main philosophical concerns — as expressed by Rifai al-Tahtawi (1801-1873), Jamal al-Din al- Afghani (1838-1897) and Muhammad Abduh (1849-1905) —and establishing parallels to contemporary anxieties expressed by the group surrounding eminent musician Mustafa Said, here called the Tajdīd. This work of contextualisation allowed me to claim that the Tajdīd movement can be understood as a contemporary expansion of the ‘second nahda’, the twentieth century effort towards creating a modern and modernist intellectual culture of Arab transnational nature which emerged as a response to western socio-political and cultural erosions.The core of my Ph.D. research focused on the work of Mustafa Said and the Aṣīl Ensemble. On the one hand I have described the group’s reworking of the famous Nahḍa music piece by Abdul Hamuli and on the other hand I provided a description of the group’s work on Mustafa Said new composition, based on Tamim al-Barghouti’s poem, Burda. This doctoral research has been the first focusing on the Beirut-based but with international relevance, Nahḍa revival music scene.
Recent publications
2018 ‘Between the ‘Colours of Enchantment’ and the Shadow of Nostalgia: Revival and Innovation in Contemporary Lebanese Nahda Music Tradition’ Ethnomusicology Forum Journal (submitted – pending approval). Preparing For Submission: 2018 ‘The Burda: Asil Ensemble Reweaving the Mantle, Renovating Music Tradition’ Acta Musicologica (by October 2018). 2019 ‘Autism : A Musical Piece Marking the Journey from Nahda Music Tradition to Improvised Sound Art in Contemporary Lebanese Music” Popular Music (byDecember 2018) Book Manuscripts in progress: 2018 “The Contemporary revival of Nahda Music in Lebanon: Cultural and Institutional Policies of Contemporary Music Heritage”. (Book proposal to be submitted to Routledge in November 2018)
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Middle East, North Africa and Arab Gulf
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Contemporary Relevance