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1.1: Introduction to Migration

  • Page ID
    233021
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    People have been moving from one place to another for a long time. Evidence from pottery as well as linguistic similarities demonstrates that some four thousand years ago, the seagoing people of the Polynesian islands explored and settled new territories, building a set of trade routes between islands. Likewise, early written histories describe groups of people in motion. Jewish people were forced into exile by famine and persecution. Greek people conquered areas around the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea and sent colonies of people to live there, often building walled cities to defend themselves.1 Although the difficulty of travel in some regions encouraged a settled lifestyle, it is common for populations to migrate out of one place to settle in another. Environmental crises, economic ambitions, political conflicts, or the urge to explore have led people to migrate—by choice or by force. In contrast to immigrants who migrate into a specific territorial area, we refer to indigenous people—descendants of people who originally lived in that specific area or who were living there when colonists arrived. Even though the concept of indigenous people gives us the image of people eternally rooted in one place, it is important to remember that over the course of the long history of humanity, most territories have been used by more than one group.2

    Music has also always been in motion, for people carry their customs with them when they can. Migrant peoples also come into contact with other groups, whether en route or upon arrival in their new homes. Whether these contacts are friendly or hostile, whether peoples meet on equal terms or not, these encounters often result in an acquaintance with new kinds of music—sometimes also in the borrowing or adopting of that music by the migrants or by the people they meet. On arrival in a new place, migrants have tended to shed customs that are difficult to practice in a new environment. They may change their food ways or stop building instruments for which they no longer Page 14 →have raw materials. They may adapt their musical performance style to fit into a new lifestyle for themselves or to better sell their music to others. In short, migration offers us many opportunities to see peoples coming into musical contact with each other.3

    Of course, migration has also led people into political conflict. Whereas early in human history transportation was difficult, borders were comparatively easy to cross and frequently in flux. The Roman Empire, for example, had no fixed boundaries: the borders of the empire moved as the emperor and commanders on the ground decided what territory they were willing to defend.4 In most places the edges of kingdoms or territories were not always marked by physical barriers or policed by guards. By contrast, in our time, crossing borders has become a carefully regulated process—easy for some people, difficult or impossible for others.

    This regulation is a result of how human beings have organized themselves. Our globe is carved up into states, which organize people, territories, and governing powers. A state organizes a system of laws and boundaries, keeps track of the people living within those boundaries, and defines what rights they are entitled to. States also issue passports, identity papers that mark the citizen as belonging to that state and allow the state to control who enters its territory.5 Some states, called nation-states, are founded on the idea of a nation—a coherent group occupying a particular territory, defined by ethnicity, heritage, or some other features held in common.

    The citizenship granted by states can mean different things: it might define a legal status, possession of rights and privileges, or economic advantages. It may also offer a collective identity, sentimental attachments, a sense of belonging, or “cultural” ties to the nation-state—that is, shared ways of being that connect a person to the other citizens within that state.6 For many people there is a strong sense of personal identity associated with the nation-state. If one is French, for example, one might take pride in the habits and practices that come with being French, whether that might be a love of good food and the arts or a 35-hour workweek. This description seamlessly blends elements of the nation (cooking and artistic traditions) with elements of the state (the right to a limited workweek and governmental support for the arts).

    Thus, the practical challenges migrants have experienced include not only transportation and finding means to support themselves but also administrative difficulties in gaining and keeping the right to be in a new place (dealing with the state) and the challenge of being perceived as foreign by people who share a strong sense of belonging (dealing with the nation). The presence of Page 15 →minorities within the nation has often been perceived as a threat to national unity. Members of the majority nation have tended to emphasize the difference between migrants and themselves. For example, Muslim immigrants to Europe, many of whom are refugees, face the question of how they might retain some elements of their way of life and yet integrate into European society. In various parts of Europe citizens have expressed fears that Muslim immigrants might refuse to adopt European customs, increase the crime rate, or incite terrorism. Whether they are based on facts or not, these fears encourage citizens to keep migrants out.7 Migrants can be granted citizenship, partial rights, or no rights at all once they enter a place that is new to them. About 3.7 million people worldwide are “stateless”—they have no citizenship anywhere.8 Citizenship in a state serves as an important protection: it can also serve as a sharp line of demarcation between those who have rights and those who do not. Saskia Sassen has written that one of the ways we can define citizenship in a given place and time is to notice who is excluded and how the people in power draw the line.9

    Music does not always acknowledge the administrative borders of nation-states. For example, there are plenty of communities along the US-Mexican border where the arts, information, and money move freely among community members who cross the border regularly.10 The wishes of individuals and communities about how to live and what to hear often contrast with the way in which a nation-state defines its typical culture.11 Furthermore, transnational forces (that is, forces that act across the borders of nation-states) can render the nation-state less important as they interact with local and regional music-making. In 1999, for instance, responding to the difficulty of breaking into the worldwide market for electronic dance music, the Nortec Collective of Tijuana, Mexico, formulated a new strategy. It began including samples of identifiably Mexican regional musics within its electronic dance tracks—creating a distinctive music with a “local flavor” that was, ironically, easier to market in distant places.12 Here, a desire to make music available transnationally affected the sound of the music. Thus, we have to be wary of defining music by its place in a national or state system; these are important layers to consider, but there are always broader and narrower fields of view to take into account.

    One of the important broader views is that of colonialism: the practice of institutional control by one people over another people, their territory, and their resources. From about the year 1500 until the mid-1900s European principalities sent expeditions all over the world, conquering peoples and territoriesPage 16 → to form colonies. The Spanish presence in Latin America; the British presence in the United States, India, Canada, Australia, and Africa; and the US occupation of the Philippine Islands are all examples of colonialism. European powers competed to control trade routes and distant sources of wealth, which included indigenous people as well as material goods such as precious metals and sugar cane.13 Some colonies were kept merely as points of transit, but in others colonists from the occupying nation settled in the occupied territory for the long term. These colonists faced the usual challenges of migrants but did so from a position of military and political might. They supported themselves and their home nations by taking resources. They imposed new forms of state administration on people who were already there, aligning the operation of the colony with the occupying nation’s vision. The colonists established new social hierarchies, defining how they and the colonized people would relate to the occupying nation.

    The Spanish occupation of South America and much of North America, for example, established worldwide musical connections. Beginning in 1492, Spanish militias arrived in the Americas, bringing with them African slaves and imposing new ways of life. They destroyed many religious sites belonging to indigenous peoples, replacing them with Catholic churches and missions. The Spanish brought musicians with them and set up church choirs and orchestras to duplicate European musical institutions in the Americas. In Mexico they required Aztec people to attend their churches and sing in the European style. Example 0.1, a piece called Lamentations of the Prophet Jeremiah, was written for a choir by Manuel de Sumaya, the chapel master of the Cathedral of Mexico City, in the early 1700s.

    Example 0.1. Excerpt from Manuel de Sumaya, “Hieremiae prophetae lamentationes” (Lamentations of the Prophet Jeremiah), performed by Chanticleer. Mexican Baroque (Teldec, 1993).

    Link: https://doi.org/10.3998/mpub.9853855.cmp.1

    Sumaya, a composer of mixed Spanish and indigenous ancestry, mastered the European style: different vocal lines move independently of one another, creating lush harmonies, then come together at the end of each phrase of the text. The words are in Latin, a typical trait of Catholic church music of the time. Outside the church, musicians in New Spain had options: they could make music in the styles Europeans had brought, but they could also create indigenous or African musics, or blend any of these. As travel became easier over the next several centuries, composers and performers trained in the European Page 17 →manner routinely traveled to Europe or the United States, creating international networks that ensured the circulation of music across the Atlantic.14

    Colonialism has had a dramatic impact on the lives and music-making of both colonized and colonizers, and this impact continues to the present day. Chapter 1 examines the effects of colonialism on music, drawing its key musical examples from Indonesia. We will see that Indonesians who were hired to make music for the Dutch people who ruled their island changed their music-making to suit Dutch tastes. This colonial connection also meant that Indonesian music traveled to Europe and influenced composers there. And even in the present day, traditions invented by visiting Europeans play an important role in attracting new tourists to postcolonial Indonesia.

    The other two case studies in part 1 describe experiences of diaspora—the spreading out of a population away from its place of origin. In chapter 2 the music of Europe’s Roma (“Gypsy”) populations in Hungary reveals how the Romani minority have adapted to local performing conditions and made choices that reflect their particular economic circumstances, and how the music of the Roma has become a vital part of European culture. Chapter 3 offers selected examples from the African American tradition. During the three centuries of the slave trade, African communities were disrupted as African people lost the freedom to choose where and how to live. Some historians have traced “survivals”: African approaches to music-making that were maintained even after Africans’ arrival in the New World. At the same time, African Americans were one of many overlapping populations in North America, and their music both reflected and influenced the music of those other populations. Through these examples we can see that the practice of music changes as musicians meet new audiences and encounter social constraints in new places.


    This page titled 1.1: Introduction to Migration is shared under a CC BY-NC 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Danielle Fosler-Lussier via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.