Field research yields audio-visual materials ideal for the presentation of findings in alternative and accessible formats such as film, audio, and the internet. The MLitt in Ethnology and Folklore now has practical film and radio-editing elements to it so, alongside this initiative, we have launched a monthly Ethnographic Film Series, hosted by lecturer in Ethnomusicology, Dr Frances Wilkins. Films cover a range of genres from material culture to song traditions.
Films are screened on the second Thursday of each month at 6:30pm in MR051 of the MacRobert Building (unless otherwise stated); entry is free and all are welcome. Each film will be followed by a discussion.
Screening: Janeu - Bhojpuri Initiation Rites and Folk Songs/The Voice of Tradition
Thursday 14 February 2019
While rituals in India are majorly seen as men's job, not many know that women hold an equally important role in the purification rituals – of expressing the emotions that develop during the ritual through songs. The film documents the folk songs sung during the initiation ritual (Janeu or Upanayana) in the Bhadwar village of Bihar. The rite of passage leads the person being initiated to take the first step towards the path of devotion: the essence of the wisdom of the Vedas.
The Voice of Tradition celebrates the life of one of Mali’s most revered singers, Bako Dagnon, who gives insights into oral transmission as it was decades ago in rural Mali.
On July 7, 2015, Mali lost one of its most iconic and revered singers, Bako Dagnon, aged only 62. She was not well known outside the country, despite two international CD releases, but at home she was feted by everyone from Mali’s presidents to the humblest farmers and taxi drivers. Musicians such as Ali Farka Touré and Rokia Traoré were inspired by her voice, which was not only beautiful, but carried great authority. Bako transcended politics and regional styles; she represented the last of the old school of hereditary musicians, who learned her skills and knowledge with the elders, face to face.
Between 2009-2012, the 'Growing into Music in Mali' film team were extremely fortunate to film this wonderful singer at her home in Bamako, as well as in her remote native village, Golobladji. Some of these scenes can be seen in 'Da Kali - the pledge to the art of the griots', from which this shorter film, 'Bako Dagnon - the voice of tradition', is extracted. It gives many candid and unique insights into oral transmission as it was decades ago in rural Mali. Bako explains and demonstrates her ideas and philosophy about passing on musical skills and knowledge to the next generation, and we see several of her granddaughters learning and performing. The film includes rare footage of the sansene in Golobladji – a tradition of songs sung to encourage farmers in their laborious work in the fields during the rainy season – one of the main contexts in which young children learn to sing.
Previous film showings were as follows:
Screening: A Sense of Identity
Thursday 8 November 2018
With filmmakers Jess and David Smith, and guests David Pullar and Bob Knight
What makes a Scottish Traveller? This question is at the heart of A Sense of Identity, a Heart of the Travellers film that explores and celebrates the lives and experiences of Travellers across Scotland Today.
Jess Smith, one of Scotland's most beloved storytellers, is the voice and interviewer of A Sense of Identity, filmed by David Smith. Great-grandson of Betsy White, David Pullar is featured in the film, as well as talented Aberdeen musician, Bob Knight. All will join us for a Q&A and maybe even a few songs after the film.
Heart of the Travellers (HOTT) is a Scottish Travellers organisation dedicated to preserving the only physical monument to Scottish Travellers – the Tinkers’ Heart in Argyll. HOTT is also dedicated to conserving and recording the stories, songs, genealogies and histories of Travellers.
Screening: Alive Inside
Thursday 11 October 2018
Alive Inside (dir. Michael Rossato-Bennett)
Collection in aid of Alive Inside Foundation
Alive Inside is a joyous cinematic exploration of music's capacity to reawaken our souls and uncover the deepest parts of our humanity. Filmmaker Michael Rossato-Bennett chronicles the astonishing experiences of individuals who have been revitalized through the simple experience of listening to music. His camera reveals the uniquely human connection we find in music and how its healing power can triumph where prescription mdedication falls short.
Screening: Flight of the Condor/The Snow Kirk
The Flight of the Condor: A Letter, a Song, and the Story of Intangible Cultural Heritage, directed by Valdimar Hafstein and Áslaug Einarsdóttir
The Snow Kirk, directed by Emma Barclay, Lauren Hossack, Claire Needler, Ania Trepczyk, Eilidh Whiteford
Venue: MacRobert Building Room 051
Cost: Free admission (open to all)
Q&A: Screening followed by video link-up with director Valdimar Hafstein and Q&A with student directors
The Flight of the Condor traces the global circulation of the melody 'El Condor Pasa' from the Andes mountains to global metropoles; from Lima to Paris to New York, and back; from panpipes to piano and from symphony orchestras to the disco; from indigenous to popular music; and from world music back to national heritage. Some of the protagonists are: Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel, Daniel Alomía Robles, Alan Lomax, Los Incas, the Cerro de Pasco Copper Company, the Victor Talking Machine Corporation, the Falangist Socialist Party of Bolivia, Chuck Berry, NASA, WIPO, and UNESCO.
The film shows how individual personalities and states can shape texts that become the foundation of global narratives, and how propositions made for a particular local reason become global instruments with entirely different effects in other corners of the world.
Unpacking the global/local dialectic, the film is a case study in paradox; it analyzes the prehistory of international heritage/copyright norms, the way that prehistory travels in oral and written circulation, and the enduring problems it points to in the implementation of these norms.
The Snow Kirk is a short MLitt student film that investigates the history of Old Aberdeen's 'hidden' Snow Kirk through historical documents, reconstruction, and interviews.
They Will Have to Kill Us First: Malian Musicians in Exile
6 February 2018
2015 - Documentary - 1h 40 mins
Directed by Johanna Schwartz
They Will Have To Kill Us First: Malian Music in Exile is a feature-length documentary following musicians in Mali in the wake of a jihadist takeover and subsequent banning of music. Music, one of the most important forms of communication in Mali, disappeared overnight in 2012 when religious extremists took over an area the size of the UK and France combined. But rather than lay down their instruments, Mali's musicians fought back. Declared 'Essential Viewing' (Dazed & Confused), and 'A gripping, powerful documentary' (Indiewire), They Will have to Kill Us First screened in UK cinemas in October 2015.
The Barese Icemen of New York
(live link-up with film maker)
Shepherds of Berneray
3 October 2017
1981 - Documentary - 56 mins
Directed by Jack Shea, featuring John Ferguson
In 1980, Jack Shea and Allen Moore, two ethnographic filmmakers from Harvard University, moved their families to the island of Berneray in the Outer Hebrides. Over the course of 18 months they documented the everyday lives and struggles of the crofters they lived among, whom where even then a vanishing breed. The film is in English and Gaelic.
This carefully observed documentary by filmmakers Jack Shea and Allen Moore is a poetic ethnographic film. It follows the rhythm of life on a wind-swept island in the Outer Hebrides through the four seasons. In the filmmakers' observation of the day-to-day struggles of a vanishing society, we see the deep-time legacy of their kind. The film is in English and Gaelic.
Directed by Rosie Reed Hillman
2014 - Short film/biography - 14 mins
Morag, 86, lives alone at the end of a track looking out to sea on her croft on the Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides, with her three cats and twelve sheep. Morag has lived there her whole life, following five generations of the family who came before her. Cailleach is a portrait of Morage and her simple and peaceful life as she contemplates her next chapter, shares her unique sense of independence and the connection she has to her wild island home.
A Kabul Music Diary
7 March 2017
with film-maker and ethnomusicologist John Baily
Ethnomusicologist John Baily returns to Kabul to see what is happening in the world of music one year after the defeat of the Taliban. The film documents a variety of musical activities, from performances of rubab lute music by Kabul's traditional musicians, via the songs of Afghan orphans, to the Music Department of Kabul University and a student pop group playing electric guitars and keyboard. Implicitly, the film identifies some of the dilemmas facing those seeking to help Afghans rebuild their music culture.
Professor John Baily came into ethnomusicology from experimental psychology, with a doctorate on human spatial coordination and motor control from the University of Sussex. In 1973 he became a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in the Department of Social Anthropology, Queen's University of Belfast, and in collaboration with John Blacking conducted two years of ethnomusicological fieldwork in Afghanistan. In 1978 he was appointed Lecturer in Ethnomusicology at Queen's. From 1984-86 he trained in anthropological film making at the National Film and Television School, and directed the award-winning film Amir: An Afghan refugee musician's life in Peshawar, Pakistan. From 1988-1990 he was Associate Professor in the Centre for Ethnomusicology, Columbia University, New York. He joined Goldsmiths in 1990, and is now Professor of Ethnomusicology and Head of the Afghanistan Music Unit.
Indian Ocean Memories and African Migrants
7 February 2017
with film-maker Dr Shihan de Silva Jayasuriya
The film explores the cultural memories of the largest Afro-Sri Lankan community. Dances and songs (in creolised Portugese, a language of trade and commerce for 350 years in Sri Lanka) connect the Afro-Sri Lankans to Africa, their erstwhile homeland. The vast majority of Afro-Asians were pushed to the margins by colonialism and by the loss of patronage. Traditional dances and songs enable Afro-Sri Lankans to carve out a niche in the cultural arena of their host land. Fading memories of slavery and the slave trade can still be discerned in the narratives of their oral literature.
Dr Shihan de Silva Jayasuriya is a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, School of Advanced Study at the University of London. Her works include numerous peer-reviewed articles in international journals, monographs and ethnographic films in the fields of Historical Linguistics, Ethnomusicology, Portugese Studies, Diaspora Studies and Literature.
22 November 2016
A documentary film celebrating the music of minority ethnic communities in Aberdeen.
With Simon Gall.
Brink of Survival
1 November 2016
A feature-length documentary looking at the responses of a tiny African community to the global epidemics of poverty and AIDS.
St. Kilda Hebridean Night
4 October 2016
An evening of newsreel, ethnographic, and dramatic films examining Britain's most remote island, together with Werner Kissling's elegiac film of Eriskay life in the 1930s.
Special Event at the Belmont Filmhouse, 49 Belmont Street, Aberdeen:
Hamish - Film Screening
2-8 June 2016
Robbie Fraser, Director
Hamish Henderson (1919-2002) was a colossal figure in Scottish culture, a man of boundless passion and curiosity whose poems continue to elevate and inspire a nation. Robbie Fraser’s highly anticipated documentary pays tribute to the many contrary forces and diverse facets of Henderson’s life as a poet, soldier, intellectual, activist, songwriter and leading force in the revival of Scottish folk music.
From an English orphanage and the draughty corridors of Cambridge to overseeing the capitulation of the Italian army in WWII and penning the most celebrated Scottish ballad in contemporary folk music “Freedom Come Aa’ Ye”, this is Henderson’s life as told by those who knew him best and loved him most.
This heartfelt tribute to one of modern Scotland’s proudest sons weaves golden archive footage with the loving testimony of Henderson’s family, friends and colleagues.
View the trailer: http://hamishthemovie.com/trailer/
To celebrate the release of Hamish, the screening on Thursday 2 June at 8.30pm will be introduced by director Robbie Fraser, who will also take part in a post-screening Q&A chaired by Dr Thomas McKean, Director of the Elphinstone Institute, and former student of Hamish Henderson.
Hanoi Eclipse (2010)
Tuesday 3 May 2016
Barley Norton, film-maker
Hanoi Eclipse: The Music of Dai Lam Linh follows the challenges faced by the groundbreaking and controversial Vietnamese band Dai Lam Linh, while rehearsing and performing in their hometown of Hanoi. It shows how the band came together to create a unique form of popular music, which is both international in outlook and rooted in Vietnamese traditions and aesthetics. Followed by scandal at every turn for their experimental sound and their use of sexually explicit lyrics, the band have dared to flout taboos and fight for their creative freedom. Dai Lam Linh was established by the male composer, Dai, an ex-soldier who fought in the Second Indochina War (known as the Vietnam War), and two female singers, Lam and Linh. The film explores how Dai overcame the trauma of war by writing songs to honour the memory of the war dead and how the singers Lam and Linh embarked on an inner journey to discover their extraordinary voices. With vivid footage of the band working in the city of Hanoi, the film documents the process of recording Dai Lam Linh's debut album in 2009 and features an album-launch concert in the prestigious Hanoi Opera House.
The Director, Barley Norton is a senior lecturer in the music department at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is the author of the monograph Songs for the Spirits: Music and Mediums in Modern Vietnam (University of Illinois Press, 2009), and coeditor of volume Music and Protest in 1968 (Cambridge University Press, 2013), which won the American Musicology Society's 2014 Ruth A. Solie Award.
Fae Ploo T Plate
Tuesday 1 March 2016
Don Carney, director
This entertaining heritage film captures many aspects of a past way of life. Recorded in Aberdeenshire between 1991 and 1994, produced by Don Carney, who is a native of Aberdeenshire, the commentary features the Doric dialect of the North East. The film shows the whole process of ploughing, planting and harvesting featuring that gentle giant, the Clydesdale horse. Threshing with the steam engine and travelling mill, making corn into oatmeal at the water driven meal mill, and finally baking the oatmeal into oatcakes on a peat fire. All of these highly skilled tasks were undertaken by the rural men and women. Don Carney's motivation for making the film, and capturing over 650 hours of the past is based on cultural pride in his ancestors, the ordinary folk of the North East. Carney fell that the rich heritage/culture of the area should be captured before it was lost for good.
The film will be followed by a discussion with the film maker, Don Carney.
Say Amen, Somebody
Tuesday 2 February 2016
George T. Nierenberg, director
Gospel music is the subject of this lively film, which explores the history of the faith-rooted musical style. While the documentary features a number of gospel musicians, it spends the most time looking into the considerable contributions of Thomas A. Dorsey, a pioneering songwriter and pianist, and his popular associate, singer "Mother" Willie Mae Ford Smith. Also included are numerous concert performances by the Barrett Sisters, Sallie Martin and other gospel luminaries.
The Fiddlers of James Bay (1980); Scots in the Sub-Arctic
Tuesday 1 December 2015
Bob Rodgers, director; Frances Wilkins, director
Regarding Our Father
Tuesday 3 November 2015 (MacRobert Lecture Theatre)
Gerald S. Doyle was Newfoundland's first collector of folksongs. He was also a remarkable salesman, a patriot, and an avid filmmaker. In this documentary, two of his children delve into his film archives to create a compelling portrait of a farsighted man and a rich period in Newfoundland history.
The documentary follows Gerald S. Doyle's own story from his childhood in Kings Cove, through his growing business success, his fight against confederation with Canada, and his dedication to preserving and promoting Newfoundland folk music through his song books and records.
The lush Kodachrome images have been carefully restored and are startling in their immediacy, depicting Nerwfoundland life in the 1930s and '40s as it has never been seen on film. Interviews with folklorists, friends, family and contemporary musicians provide context.
The documentary is a tribute to a father who died too young, and a patriot's view of the country he loved.
Tuesday 6 October 2015 (MacRobert Lecture Theatre)
A screening and discussion with filmmaker Alan Marcus
In Place of Death (2008, 30mins) is an experimental film that uses close observation and metaphor to investigate the way people engage with an iconic urban site. With this year marking the 70th anniversary since the liberation of the camps, the film problematizes the role of the first Nazi state concentration camp, now a post-traumatic site attracting some 800,000 visitors a year, sited in the picturesque Bavarian town of Dachau. Eschewing archival images or narration, the film focuses firmly on the present as it observes scenes of people coming to the camp for a picnic or posing their children in front of the ovens. A film which studies forms of interactions and the stature and meaning of place, it developed from a video installation, Beautiful Dachau (2006), shown at Harvard, Princeton and Cambridge, and part of the In Time of Place research project (http://www.abdn.ac.uk/timeofplace/).
Prof. Alan Marcus, Chair in Film and Visual Culture at the University of Aberdeen, researches approaches to documentary film and representations of iconic urban environments. He received his MPhil and PhD at Cambridge University while at the Scott Polar Research Institute, where his fieldwork included research in four Inuit communities in the Canadian Arctic.
Two Years at Sea
Tuesday 5 May 2015
Using 16mm cameras, artist Ben Rivers documents the solitary existence of Jake, a man who lives in isolation in the middle of the forest in a remote part of Scotland. The film follows his unconventional life, capturing moments of profound beauty. Jake is seen in all seasons, surviving frugally, passing the time with strange projects, living the radical dream he had as a younger man, a dream he spent two years working at sea to realise.
Gracefully constructed, Two Years at Sea creates an intimate connection with an individual who would otherwise be a complete outsider to us.
The star of the film, Jake Williams, will be taking questions following the screening.
Lomax the Songhunter
Tuesday 3 March 2015
Alan Lomax was 'the song hunter'. He devoted his life to recording the world's folk tunes before they would disappear with the rise of the modern music industry. In Lomax the Songhunter, filmmaker Rogier Kappers seeks to tell Lomax's story by interviewing friends such as Pete Seeger, combining it with archival recordings of music greats Woody Guthrie and Leadbelly, and gathering footage of the cotton fields, rock quarries and prisons where Alan Lomax captured America’s quintessential music. Finally, Kappers follows the route that Lomax took so many years ago and travels to remote villages in Spain and Italy, hearing memories and music from the farmers, shepherds and weavers whose songs Lomax recorded decades earlier.
2015 marks the 100th anniversary of Alan Lomax's birth.
Our Lives in Our Hands; People’s Stuff
Tuesday 2 December 2014
Our Lives In Our Hands examines the traditional Native American craft of basketmaking as a means of economic and cultural survival for Aroostook Micmac Indians of northern Maine. Filmed between 1983 and 1985, when the US government did not yet officially recognize their tribal status and before their successful land claim (1991), this documentary aims to break down stereotypical images. Basketmakers are filmed cutting brown ash trees in the winter woods, at their craft in their homes, at work on local potato farms and at business meetings of their tribal cooperative. First person commentaries are augmented by music based on an early 17th-century Micmac melody.
People's Stuff is a documentary of six collectors of unusual objects. Creating an environment for storytelling, the subjects reveal inner dreams and motivations as they share both their collections and their lives with the viewer. Charmaine Burrell collects Purple Cows. Fred Crane, Professor Emeritus of Musicology at the University of Iowa, collects jaw or jews harps (he calls the instrument a trump). George Preston collects commercial signs. Ruth Rasmussen is in the Guinness Book of World Records for her salt and pepper shaker collection. Irene Redfearn collects sea shells and Craig Starr, spark plugs.
The Language You Cry In
Tuesday 4 November 2014
The Language You Cry In tells an amazing scholarly detective story reaching across hundreds of years and thousands of miles, from 18th-century Sierra Leone to the Gullah people of present-day Georgia. It shows how African Americans have retained powerful links to their African past despite the horrors of the Middle Passage and the long years of slavery and segregation. The film dramatically demonstrates the contribution of contemporary scholarship to restoring what narrator Vertamae Grosvenor calls the 'non-history' imposed on African Americans: 'This is a story of memory, how the memory of a family was pieced together through a song with the powers to connect those who sing it with their roots, their silent history.'
Ustad Rahim: Herat's Rubab Maestro
Tuesday 7 October 2014
Shot in 1994 in the city of Herat, western Afghanistan, during the period between the fall of the last leftist government and the coming of the Taliban, this is a portrait film of an outstanding musician, Ustad Rahim Khushnawaz. He is a master of the Afghan rubab, a double-chambered plucked lute with sympathetic strings. Using the observational cinema style the film shows Ustad Rahim in various contexts. These include a guided tour of the photos in his music room that recount his musical career, being at home with his wife and children, showing off his pigeons, erecting the tombstone for his father’s grave, and teaching and playing the rubab. Of particular interest is the gormani ritual, a gathering of musicians where Rahim accepts a new student.