Women Singers in Global Contexts: Music, Biography, Identity

By Ziegler, Susanne | Yearbook for Traditional Music, January 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

Women Singers in Global Contexts: Music, Biography, Identity


Ziegler, Susanne, Yearbook for Traditional Music


Hellier, Ruth, ed. Women Singers in Global Contexts: Music, Biography, Identity. Afterword by Ellen Koskoff. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2013. 253 pp., photographs, index. ISBN 978-0-252-03724-5, 978-0-252- 09436-1 (e-book).

Women Singers in Global Contexts contains ten articles by different authors, each presenting a woman singer in a different region of the world. The ten women singers presented had to find their own ways to perform, often in spite of obstacles; nevertheless, they became famous in their respective fields, whether locally, nationally, or even internationally. The music performed by the singers ranges from classical to traditional local, (commercialized) folk, ritual, jazz, popular music, and rap. The areas concerned include Afghanistan, Australia, Canada, Cuba, Cyprus, Iran, Japan, Mexico, Poland, South Africa, Torres Strait Islands, Turkey, and the United States.

Shino Arisawa focuses on Akiko Fuji, a hereditary singer in Japan, who followed in the steps of her mother and grandmother in performing the classical jiuta genre despite personal difficulties. In the life story of Amelia Pedroso, a ritual singer and priestess in the Afro-Cuban spiritual tradition (santería), Amanda Villepastour follows Amelia's career and personality, highlighting her as an extraordinary woman and cultural icon. Thomas Solomon's article on the Turkish rap singer, Ayben, compares songs from different periods in Ayben's life to show how she successfully uses her voice within today's male dominated Turkish rap scene. Ruth Hellier's article on "enchantment" in the performances of the young Mexican-American singer Ixya Herrera shows how Ixya's identity as singer is shaped by genre, vocal ability and expression. Kyriakou Pelagia, by contrast, described as "The Housewife/Grandmother-Star of Cyprus" by Nicoletta Demetriou, became famous only later in life. Her success is due to her authenticity and conservative attitude. Lexine Solomon, a Torres Strait Islander living in Australia, is the heroine in Katelyn Barney's contribution. Lexine (singers are referred to by first names throughout the book) uses singing as a medium to connect with and celebrate her homeland. Connection with the native country is also the topic in Louise Wrazen's article on Marysia, a local singer whose identity is shaped by nature in the Podhale landscape in Poland. Mother of twelve children, Marysia adapted her singing to conditions in her new home country, Canada. Carol Muller's article on Sathima Bea Benjamin starts with a description of the cover photograph on one of her CDs, which the author sees as a clue to understanding the uniqueness of Sathima's feminine kind of jazz. Singing and social engagement are also found in Gay Brayley's article on the Iranian singer Sima, who succeeds in connecting politics, love, work, place, and spirituality in traditional songs. …

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