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BY 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access May 13, 2019

Music at the Black Baltic Sea

  • Antti-Ville Kärjä EMAIL logo
From the journal Open Cultural Studies


Music is intimately implicated in racialising discourses. This is particularly pronounced in the case of so-called black music, i.e. the types of music that are commonly associated with African-American identity, most notably jazz and various forms of popular music. Genres of popular music are furthermore constructed continuously on the basis of a notion of their “black roots.” The idea of the “black roots” of jazz and popular music is an essential ingredient of Paul Gilroy’s (1993) analysis of a specific authenticity of blackness. To stress the history and consequences of the pre-twentieth century slave trade and institutionalised racism, Gilroy has coined the concept “Black Atlantic” that builds on the idea of a distinct double consciousness inherent in blackness as simultaneously a fundamental constituent and the ultimate other of the West. In the article, I aim at rethinking the notion of the Black Atlantic in relation to North-Eastern Europe. By way of marine analogy I ask, and building on the notions of the Black Pacific and the Black Mediterranean, how to formulate an analytical design “the Black Baltic Sea.” In addition to addressing the impact of global racialising tendencies in music, this entails considering the cultural dynamics at issue in relation to the dynamics of postsocialism in the Baltic Sea Region (BSR) and Northern European indigeneity. On the basis of such a consideration, I argue that the styles of “black music” have been appropriated and adopted throughout the BSR, albeit in clearly different national manifestations which for their part imply variegated intersections between postcolonial and postsocialist processes. These intersections become manifest in the discourses over “new Europeanness” in music and the construction of national musical traditions, particularly when juxtaposed with the prevailing Islamophobia as regards treatments of Muslim music in mainstream media.

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Received: 2018-08-31
Accepted: 2018-12-09
Published Online: 2019-05-13
Published in Print: 2019-01-01

© 2019 Antti-Ville Kärjä, published by De Gruyter Open

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 Public License.

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