Malta Meeting 2010

The 8th Meeting of the Study Group on the theme “Musical Translations Across the Mediterranean took place in Malta (July 1-4, 2010) hosted on its premises by the Mediterranean Institute of the University of Malta. The Program Committee was made up of Marcello Sorce Keller (Study Group Chair), Philip Ciantar (University of Malta), Ruth F. Davis (Cambridge University), Simon Mercieca (University of Malta), Martin Stokes (Oxford University). We are all very grateful to Dr. Simon Mercieca, Director of the Mediterranean Institute, for the hospitality he offered and for all the good advice and organizational input he provided.


This 8th Meeting represented a new turn for the Study Group, in more ways than one. It took place in Malta for the first time (one can hardly get more Mediterranean than that…), and also its format was in part reconfigured. The Meeting was in fact part of a combined event entitled “Encounters with Mediterranean Music”, in which the paper presentations were preceded by two intensive days of International Music Pedagogy Workshops for primary and secondary school music teachers. The workshops comprised “Introduction to Ethnomusicology and Mediterranean Soundscapes” taught by Philip Ciantar (University of Malta) and “Applied Ethnomusicology in the Classroom” taught by Elita Maule (Conservatorio di Musica di Bolzano, Italy). The music teachers were also invited to attend the Study Group Meeting, so that they could see ethnomusicologists “in action,” and make contact with them. The rationale behind this combined event was that music teachers all over Europe are facing the challenge of teaching pupils from different cultural backgrounds, and may therefore benefit from interaction with ethnomusicologists, with their long and diverse experience in dealing with composite musico-cultural situations. Hopefully music teachers may have learned something useful from ethnomusicologists, and a few of us ethnomusicologists may have become more sensitive to how dramatically music educators need our expertise as a result of such “Encounters”.



Elita Maule


This was followed by a lecture demonstration by Ruben Zahra (University of Malta) who showed us how traditional Maltese instruments are used in world music groups.


Ruben Zahra

The Meeting proper began on July 1, with Philip Bohlman (University of Chicago and Hannover), delivering the Keynote Address “Found in Translation: Epic, Song, and the Discovery of the Mediterranean.” Martin Stoke (Oxford University) responded to Bohlman’s Address with a commentary that turned out to be a veritable parallel lecture, albeit an improvised one.

Philip Bohlman                         Martin Stokes

There followed presentations by Britta Sweers (Universität Bern), “Early Music and Mediterranean World: Historical Translations of Musical Encounters”; Ranier Fsadni (University of Malta), “Maltese Għana and Cultural Translation”; Francesco Del Bravo (Freie Universität, Berlin), “Translation or Transfer? Hermeneutical Perspectives on the Relationships between Mediterranean and Bellinian Song”; Michael Saffle (Virginia Tech), “Translating and Rebuilding Musical Place: ‘The Sopranos’ and Italian-American Musical Culture”; Philip Ciantar (University of Malta), “The Process of Musical Translation: Composing a Maltese Festa Band March from Libyan Ma’luf Music”; Simon Mercieca (University of Malta), “Translated Repertoires in Malta from Secular to Religious: The case of Vincenzo Mifsud”; Edwin Seroussi (Hebrew University, Jerusalem), “Translating from Nothing and from Everything: a Retrospective of Israel’s Band Habrera Hativeet”; Özlem Dogus Varli (Black Sea Technical University-State Conservatory, Trabzon-Turkey), “Music and Traditional Translation from Trabzon (Black Sea Region in Turkish Republic) To North Cyprus”; Nahoko Matsumoto (Tokai University, Japan), “What is ‘Our’ music/dance? Cultural translation style in the Association Activities of Circassian Turkish”; Marco Lutzu (Conservatory of Music, Cagliari) “Sardinian Rap Between Mass Culture and Local Specificities”; Franco Fabbri (University of Turin), “Found in Translation: Rembetika”; Maria Hnaraki (Drexel University, US), “Bridging the Local with the Local: Ross Daly and the Cretan Lyra”; Sarah Ross (Universität Bern), “Translating American-Jewish Feminism through Mediterranean Music”; Caroline Bithell (University of Manchester), “Ripples in a Sea of Ex(change): Songs and Sentiments in Translation”; Paul Sant Cassia (University of Malta), “Is ‘Ethnic Music’ Like Ethnic Cuisine? Some Reflections on the Paradoxes of ‘Essential’ Essentializing”; Linda Barwick (University of Sydney), “‘Oltre l’Australia c’è la luna’: an Australian Researcher Encounters the Tuscan Maggio”; Gila Flam (The National Library of Israel), “Jewish Music from Jerusalem to Jerusalem: the Mediterranean Timeless Music”. Regrettfully, because of a minor accident, that luckily turned out to be without serious consequences, Ruth Davis (Cambridge University) could not make it to Malta and deliver her paper “Tunisian Jewish Song, ‘El Ghriba’, and the Musical Semantics of Otherness.”


Britta Sweers                     Ranier Fsadni            Francesco del Bravo

Michael Saffle                     Philip Ciantar                 Edwin Seroussi

Özlem Dogus Varli              Nahoko Matsumoto             Marco Lutzu

Maria Hnaraki                       Linda Barwick


Finally, Goffredo Plastino (Newcastle University), delivered a paper, entitled “Different but Equal. On Mediterranean Musical Translation”, that was not just an original paper, which it certainly was, but also a clever summary of the themes discussed by all the previous papers!

Goffredo Plastino


In conclusion the Marcello Sorce Keller (University of Malta) announced what the Study Group has the pipeline. The web Journal founded by Tullia Magrini for the Study Group, Music & Anthropology, will continue to exist with the new name of Mediterranean Music Studies but will no longer be a periodical publication. It will host contributions, multimedia complementary to the books published by the Study Group, and information about Mediterranean associations, centers and journals whose interests include music. Mediterranean Music Studies has been in preparation for a long time, for too long actually. The difficulty has been that of finding technical expertise at no cost - because the SG has no money whatsoever. Finally, in Malta the home page was presented and with a bit of luck MMS will be officially open by the end of the year. In this connection Artemis Vakianis (Fachhochschule Kufstein; Association for the Promotion of the Music of the Mediterranean) showed us a huge portal also in preparation, with support of the EU, devoted to Mediterranean music and musicians that, in some way to be examined, could become complementary and/or supportive of MMS.

A proposal to the Secretary General has been submitted for the next Study Group Colloquium on “Dueling songs in the Mediterranean” that we would like to take place in October 2011, in Portugal, hosted by Salwa el-Shawan Castelo Branco. Details will be released as soon as possible, pending approval.

The proceedings of the Cambridge Colloquium of 2008, “Al-Andalus and its Jewish Diasporas: Musical Exodus” edited by Ruth Davis, is expected to be published by Scarecrow Press in 2011.

The proceedings of this Maltese 8th Meeting also deserve to be published, because the quality of contributions presented was very high. More than one possibility seems to be available. Mediterranean Music Studies could naturally host contributions essentially based on multimedia. The Journal of Mediterranean Studies (University of Malta) could be another possible venue. Scarecrow Press may possibly be persuaded to publish a second volume ,which would almost be tantamount to initiating a book series?

Last and not least, it should be noted that our Maltese Meeting was enriched by the presence of Maltese scholars, of historical musicologist (as the tradition has it, as in the Mediterranean one cannot conceive of anthropology without history), and of several scholars who for the first time became part of our group. This is the recipe that we would like to apply for the future: an alternation of Meetings (possibly in Malta) and Colloquia (in other parts of the Mediterranean broadly defined); and time after time, the participation of new people and people representing the locale hosting us.
So, when and where are we going to have the 9th Meeting? Definitely the year will be 2012, and Malta is the likely place. The theme might be “Mediterranean Islands: Patterns of Isolation and Contact, but a final decision will be made before the end of the year”.

Ethnomusicologists at lunch      Seroussi & Fabbri           Studji Muzicali

Lunch in Gozo              Seroussis & Marcello     Valletta-Grand Harbour


Marcello Sorce Keller






On the evening of June 30th, as a prelude to the Meeting itself, a concert and reception were held in the Parish Church of Bormla (not far from Valletta) where we were treated to a performance of music by Maltese composers on the historical Ottavino Organ of the Parish Church.


Evening Concert


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