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The University of Southampton

Major conference uses music to explore the relationship between Madagascar and Europe

Published: 12 November 2007

The island of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean has a rich heritage of musical traditions derived from its many different cultural influences over the centuries.

In spite of its location off the east coast of Africa, the island of Madagascar has very strong links with Europe, and this week two academics from the University of Southampton will be hosting a special event on the island to offer a new perspective on relations between Madagascar and Europe through the role of artists and their music.

‘Musics of Madagascar: South< >North Crossroads?’, organised by Professor Ulrike Meinhof, of the University’s Centre for Transnational Studies, and research fellow, Dr Marie-Pierre Gibert, takes place at the CGM/Goethe Zentrum in Antananarivo, Madagascar from 16 to 17 November.

The event will focus on the pivotal role that Madagascar plays as a magnet, inspiration and melting pot for social and cultural influences. It challenges the more usual spotlight on artistic and cultural movements from Madagascar to Europe and on cosmopolitan European cities as centres of creativity.

The conference also explores a range of interconnecting themes – political, social, legal, economic and environmental – between Madagascar and Malagasy people living in Europe. Artists, cultural pioneers, academics, members of the civil society and political figures will share their ideas, experiences and visions in a series of round-table discussions.

As part of the event, two concerts with celebrated artists of Malagasy origin from both Madagascar and Europe are being broadcast by national Malagasy Television (TVM) on 15 and 16 November. A series of radio programmes is also being produced for the German radio station WDR3.

Professor Meinhof comments: "We’re aiming to provide new insights into the motivations, personal narratives and creative practices of migrant artists which transcend geographic diasporic communities, and throw light on their modes of cultural, social and political engagement. Little is known about the new dynamics that bind artists and cultural practitioners within wider European networks and we hope to be able to contribute to the development of new theories of diaspora across the arts and social sciences."

The event forms part of Professor Meinhof and Dr Gibert’s Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded project ‘Diaspora as Social and Cultural Practice: A Study of Transnational Networks across Europe and Africa’.

One of Madagascar’s most beloved and influential musicians Dama (Zafimahaleo Rasolofondrasolo), who is also a graduate in sociology, an agriculturist, a director of an NGO, and a former independent Malagasy MP, is a consultant for the project and the forthcoming conference.

This is the first of three events arising from the project, with two further events on similar themes planned for Rabat in Morocco in December 2008, and Southampton in autumn 2009.

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