Conference Day 1 (Sept. 16)

Senate Chamber, Old Arts Building


Morning Session 1: Improvisation and Interculturalism


Introductory Remarks by Jeff Roberts & Michael Frishkopf


Keynote by Hankus Netsky




Nutrition Break


Performers Roundtable Discussion:

"What is intercultural/transcultural music?"


Catered Lunch


Afternoon Session 1: Silk Road


Presentation by Mojtaba Mahdavi

GloCalizing MENA: Can Post-Islamist Muslims Speak?

Contrary to the conventional wisdom, militant Islamism and autocratic secular modernity have never been the only two features of Muslim majority societies. From the early era of western colonialism to the contemporary post-colonial context, Muslims have produced several reformist discourses, negotiating their Islamic and local traditions with multiple faces of western modernity. In this presentation, I argue that post-Islamism represents the rise of Muslim multiple modernities and signifies one of the most significant features of Muslims’ critical and constant negotiation with Islamic tradition and global modernity. Further, Muslim-majority societies have mostly entered an era of a post-Islamist social condition. This is evident in the rise of contemporary pro-democracy social movements in the MENA region, the growing number of post-Islamist Muslim intellectuals, and the post-Islamist party politics in Muslim majority contexts. Muslim post-Islamists have already spoken up and produced a “glocal” discourse, a synthetic discourse of local values/traditions and global norms of freedom and justice. The world needs to listen to their voices.

Mojtaba Mahdavi is Professor of Political Science and the ECMC Chair in Islamic Studies at the University of Alberta. He is the editor of The Myth of ‘Middle East Exceptionalism’: Unfinished Social Movements (Syracuse University Press, 2023); the co-editor of Rethinking China, the Middle East and Asia in a ‘Multiplex World’ (Brill 2022); the co-editor of Towards the Dignity of Difference: Neither ‘End of History’ nor ‘Clash of Civilizations’ (Routledge 2012); the guest editor of The Many Faces of Contemporary Post-Islamism in journal of Religions (2021); and the guest editor of Contemporary Social Movements in the Middle East and Beyond in journal of Sociology of Islam (2014).  For further information about his publications and research please visit:  




Presentation by Kanykei Mukhtarova

Music without borders: Central Asian Ethnojazz laboratory – blending traditions and creating intercultural connections

This paper examines the transnational social impact of ethnojazz, the synthesis of traditional music with jazz and contemporary music, as a grass-roots musical collaboration across Central Asia. Although fusions between traditional music and jazz took place during Soviet times, meaningful opportunities for such collaboration increased after the breakup of the Soviet Union. One example is the Bishkek International Jazz festival, where I was the principal organizer from 2006 to 2018, and especially the Central Asian Ethnojazz Laboratories it arranged. Examining music, interactions, and discourse between musicians creating a collective musical composition in a laboratory setting, I explore how the musical experiences promoted mutual understanding among different nationalities while celebrating the cultural diversity of the region, despite ongoing national and ethnic conflicts within and between nations. The resulting intercultural improvisations show the musicians’ versatility in blending traditional and Western instruments and genres to create a new, unique sound: Central Asian Ethnojazz.

Kanykei Mukhtarova is a PhD graduate in Ethnomusicology at the University of Alberta, Canada and a research fellow at the University of Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan-Tajikistan. She graduated from the Moscow Conservatoire Musical College (Moscow, Russia) and the Kyrgyz National Conservatory (Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan). Kanykei attended the Arts Management program at Indiana University, USA and was an intern at Folkways Records at the Smithsonian Institution. In 2006, Kanykei established the annual Bishkek International Jazz Festival which she managed until 2018. In 2008, she established the “Public Foundation Central Asian Arts Management,” which facilitates different cultural projects in the Central Asian region. Her research interests include Central Asian music, ethnojazz in Central Asia, twentieth-century Kyrgyz opera, music and identity, jazz fusion, multiculturalism and applied ethnomusicology.


Presentation by Manjieh Mannani

Mawlānā and Turkey: The Past and the Present

The celebrated Persian Sufi poet, Jalāl al-Dīn Muhammad Ibn Bahā al-Dīn Muhammad (1212–1273), known as Rūmi in the West and Mawlānā in Iran, in the Persian speaking world, and in Islamic countries, has been one of the most widely read poets in the world. This paper, in broad terms, will engage with the unconventional tenets of Sufism infusing Rumi’s poetry, which has resulted in his work transcending borders. It will also explore specifically the dialogical relationships between Mawlānā’s oeuvre and Ottoman culture. The discussion will address such notions as the way Sufi poet was understood in his immediate environment and the way the Turks today perceive his poetry. Of the other questions central to this research is the influence of Ottoman culture on Mawlānā’s metaphorical narratives in the Mathnawi as well as in the Divan-i Shams.


Nutrition Break

4:00-5:30 - Afternoon Session 2: Indian Ocean


Presentation by Deepak Paramashivan

“Music of India and Arabia - Interactions and Influences: A Study based on paṇdarīka viṭṭhala’s Rāgamālā, Rāgamañjarī and Sadrāgacandrodayaḥ from the 16th Century” 

The current presentation sketches the historical impact and mutual interactions between the music of the Middle-Eastern region and Indian classical music. Here, the term ‘Arabian Music’ is used as a generic term to refer to the music from the region of Middle-east including Persian Gulf. The music of the Indian and the Middle-eastern cultures can be studied in two stages: 1. Pre-Islamic music, and 2. Post-Islamic music. Islamic rule lasted for over six hundred years in India during which it decisively modified the trajectory of the future of Indian classical music, which was already at the cusp of transformation and ready for a complete metamorphosis. The main focus of the current work is to study the influence of the music of Arabia on North Indian classical music and the equivalence of the two systems of music in the Post-Islamic period, precisely, during the peak of Moghul rule in India. The work borrows profusely from the 16th century treatises on Indian classical music, namely Rāgamāla, Rāgamañjarī and Sadrāgacandrodaya of Paṇdarīka Viṭṭhala, who was a court musicologist under the royal patronage of the Moghul King, Akbar. The original Sanskrit verses from the Rāgaparivāroddeśaḥ chapter along with their translation will be discussed to expatiate upon how the maqāms, pardās and gūshās of Middle-eastern music namely Yemen, Dhannāsi, Ujjhāla, Bākarej influenced the rāgas of North Indian Classical music (Hindūstāni śāstrīya sangītaṃ). The equivalents of the rāgas mentioned in the treatises in the present day performance practice, their counterparts in the Middle-eastern music system will be presented. The presentation will be supplemented with multimedia audio and video examples of live performances of the rāgas and maqāms.


Presentation by Michael Frishkopf

Performing Qasidat al-Burda: How music moved Islam throughout the Indian Ocean

How has music moved Islam throughout the Indian Ocean? “To move” is to transfer; or to stir affect; the second sense is critical to the first, just as music—fusing the textual and the sonic—is critical to both.  These statements apply a fortiori to the affective diffusion of Islam, for which ritual music assumes the form of what I have called “language performance” (LP; Frishkopf 1999). Until recording technology emerged, the flow of an LP model combined diffusion and localization, supporting global religious coherence through exact textual circulation, while maximizing affective power through sonic adaptations. I analyze videoed instances of Qasidat al-Burda, Islam’s most famous poem, from around the Indian Ocean. I argue that the text provides a fixed, portable model for Islam’s central social-spiritual relationships, while its sonic realizations adapt to local aesthetics, generating an “effervescence” catalyzing strong Muslim networks aligned and connected with the global Muslim community.  


Presentation by Julia Byl

Chants of Rock and Water: Cross-Religious Devotion in Maritime Southeast Asia

The South Asian communities of maritime Southeast Asia are doubly dispersed. Their initial migration was tied to resource extraction, enabled by the proximity of British colonies; subsequent dispersal occurred with formation of nation states: postcolonial Singapore and Malaysia recruited different narratives of "native" and "foreigner," resulting in different positions for Tamil-speaking citizens within Southeast Asian urban spaces. The Tamil population of North Sumatra, separated by the Malacca strait differentiated by Dutch colonialism and Indonesian citizenship, offers a third point of comparison. And yet there remain connections between these Tamil communities: the presence of Hindu temples, Marian shrines, mosques, and dargahs tied to India's coasts; connected musical discourses of origins and belonging; and multi-religious pilgrimages. This paper trades in the sounds and materialities of these houses of worship, and interprets the implications of their primary sonic offerings--of power and protection.

Conference Day 2 (Sept. 17)

Senate Chamber, Old Arts Building


Morning Session 1: East Asia Outward



Presentation by Jeff Roberts

(Re)discovering East Asian Historical-Intercultural Connections Through Creation: Improvising on Chinese guqin using Korean gayageum and geomungo techniques

Interaction between and among cultures exposes cultures to the new and unfamiliar and expands what Arjun Appadurai calls one’s own “cultural imagination”. This is common and observable in the world today, but would also be observable at any point in history. When looking at Chinese music or Korean music traditions, obvious connections between the two are readily acknowledged. However, for the most part, the awareness or the practice of Korean music by a  Chinese traditional musician (or vice versa) is relatively rare. In this presentation, I will present my own practice of Chinese guqin performance and my incorporation of playing styles and techniques from the Korean gayageum and geomungo. This is a way to discover new creative directions rooted in the intercultural history of East Asia, as well as to re-discover and speculate on some of the possible original intercultural connections and influences that were present when these instrumental traditions were passed from China to Korea hundreds of years ago.



Presentation by Ned Rothenberg

The Challenge of World Music for the Creative Musician

I will make a short presentation featuring material from my article "The Challenge of World Music for the Creative Musician". This will deal with various strategies by which a composer/performer can approach inspirational music outside his/her native one.  I will describe my journey with the shakuhachi, the end blown 5-hole bamboo flute from Japan which I have studied extensively for 45 years.  I will complement and contrast this trip down a deep 'rabbit-hole' with my interaction with Asian and African traditions and musicians where the love of the music may be equally deep but the opportunity for deep study is necessarily less. One of my key concepts is the understanding of non-linear timbral and articulative processes in Asian and African traditions and how these are markedly different from the classical/orchestral music model where sonic consistency in both vocal and instrumental performance are so highly prized.  How does the creative musician deal honestly and faithfully with the panoply of music available and how has this changed in the age of the internet?  How, as a professor, does one present students with enough social and historical background of foreign traditions while centring on musical aspects that can help them in their own artistic development?


Presentation by Gamin Kang

Korean Music and Intercultural Collaboration?

How do Korean musicians find ways to connect and collaborate with musicians from other musical traditions? This presentation will explore this question by first providing an overview of Korean music and aesthetics and then discuss what characteristics of Korean traditions have been useful for me when collaborating with musicians from other Asian and North American cultures. These insights will also be helpful for musicians who wish to engage with Korean traditions. Various types of intercultural collaboration will be discussed, including 1) Intercultural improvisation 2) Korean music and Western Jazz, 3) Korean music and Western modern composition.


Nutrition Break


Morning Session 2: Trans-Sahara



Presentation by Joe Hill

The Pious Sufi Gangster Rapper: Experimenting with Cosmopolitan Muslim Masculinity in Senegal

This paper examines the paradoxical case of a Senegalese rapper who presents himself as both a “gangster” and an “ustādh” (Islamic teacher). One of over fifty rappers I have interviewed who are affiliated with the Fayḍa Tijāniyya Sufi movement, this rapper illustrates how hip hop’s congenital hybridity provides practical resources for experimenting with performances of masculinity that are simultaneously Islamic, Sufi, modern, locally relevant, and globally connected. Anthropologists working in many Muslim communities have characterized young hip hop fans as embracing a worldly lifestyle that temporarily diverts them from more pious Islamic practice. In Senegal, however, many hip hop participants see no conflict with being committed Muslims. Indeed, since around 2000, many Fayḍa-affiliated rappers and fans have used rap music to promulgate Islamic teachings and practices, often with the support of classically trained Fayḍa Islamic leaders. Yet the relationships between hip hop and Sufi Islam remain perpetually tense and contested. The implications of often hypermasculine Sufi hip hop performances are complex and do not map onto foreign dichotomies such as progressivism/conservatism, resistance to/reinscription of patriarchal norms, or piety/laxity. It is precisely hip hop’s own paradoxes and multiple scales and reference points that make it a convenient tool for navigating assorted forms of local and global belonging, making possible always unfinished ways of being a committed young Muslim man.



Presentation by Samira ElAtia

Interactions between Music and Language Variations in the Moroccan Landscape

Perched at the most Northwestern part of Africa, at the entrance gate of the Mediterranean is the Kingdom of Morocco with its complex and intricate history and geography. Through the centuries, the country’s artistic, linguistic, ethnic and cultural landscapes have been shaped by movements, contact and interactions with various groups.  These groups represent conquerors,  merchants and traders, refugees. In this presentation, I will focus on two aspects: the linguistic and the musical diversity in Morocco. Starting from the south, with its roots in Africa, the presentation will move to further north to showcase the changing flow of both language and music as groups interact and build unique forms of both. From the tradition of the Taoureg in the south, the piercing sounds of the Zaiane tribes in the middle atlas, through the oral poetry tradition of the plains of Ouardigha, to the more sophisticated andusian music of the North, we will explore how this change is reflected in both language and traditional music. The audience will experience through videos showcasing the historical diversity of the dance and music in Morocco.


Presentation by Eric Awuah and Emmanuel Cudjoe

Migrating performance cultures from the north to south: Exploring the
Ghana Dance Ensemble’s ‘Northern’ re-creations.

The aesthetic influences in music and dance cultures from the northern part of Ghana points to the Islam connections from the Sahel region, and percussion structures from its southern neighbors by the gulf. Even though music and dance form functional elements of ethnic communities, there is not much literature on the evolution of these forms in the north especially because of its orality and the lack of literature that details these. This presentation analyzes how the dances tagged as 'northern' dances performed by the Ghana Dance Ensemble contribute to the understanding of the human intercultural and intellectual exchanges through music and dance and how this contributes to our understanding of pedagogy, migration and performance of music and dance in Ghanaian Higher Education Institutions.

The aim is to augment the existing data on the syncretization of religions, performance cultures, aesthetic values, and the representation politics that are demonstrated through these neo-traditional performance styles. Through the Ghana Dance Ensemble, we hope to demonstrate how the aesthetic elements in Northern dances are represented in the south and how their pedagogy in the academy has influenced how we understand music and dance performance cultures in the north.


Catered Lunch Break

1:30pm Shuttle to University of Alberta Botanic Garden (lot U)

2-4pm Intercultural Music Performances Throughout the Botanic Garden

4:30pm - Ted Levin Keynote Speech at Botanic Garden
Aga Khan Garden, Diwan Pavilion

“The Pleasures and Perils of Intercultural Music-Making, Then and Now”

Intercultural music-making is surely as old as culture and as old as music-making. Despite the suggestion in the conference’s title of a halcyon era of borderlessness when music flowed freely among artistic communities unfettered by Western cultural domination, intercultural music-making has invariably been both motivated and constrained by larger power relationships. That is, it has always reflected a politics and a political aesthetics. This was true in the “East-East” intercultural music-making of Tang China, Timurid Central Asia, Mughal India, and Ottoman Turkey, among other historical centers of music patronage. In our own time, concerns about cultural appropriation have come to play a significant role in the political aesthetics of intercultural music-making. The Aga Khan Master Musicians, despite their intention to practice intercultural music making on a level playing field, faced accusations of cultural appropriation when they performed an arrangement of a piece by a Chinese composer that ostensibly represented Uyghur folk music. Present-day sensitivities regarding intercultural music-making are a two-edged sword, on the one hand, underscoring the importance of mutual respect and trust, and on the other hand, potentially impeding the creative evolution of music through claims of cultural ownership.

5:00pm - Reception, Aga Khan Garden, Diwan Pavilion

6:30pm - CONCERT, Aga Khan Garden, Amphitheater