Written by Dr Chloë Alaghband-Zadeh
“Musical Memories” is a collaborative pilot project; it has established new links between the School of Arts Languages and Cultures (in particular, the Music Department) and Crescent Community Radio, a radio station based in Rochdale that primarily serves South Asian Muslim communities. Through participatory research with community members, the project explored themes of music and memory, initiating discussions about the role of music in connecting people with the past and in transmitting memories between generations. These discussions in turn contribute to emerging research in ethnomusicology and memory studies and engage with key themes in the Music Department’s core research area of Nationalism, Mobility and Identity.
The main project activity consisted of recording a series of interviews with listeners of the radio station, to be broadcast in April or May 2021. These interviews were held in Punjabi and took the form of intergenerational conversations (“co-interviews”) between pairs of family members. In these conversations, each family member shared a song or a piece of music that they associated with an important memory and the participants then interviewed each other about their chosen music. Having participants interview each other (rather than being interviewed by a researcher) proved invaluable: this gave participants the chance to dictate the direction of the conversations, what topics would be discussed and how they wished to narrate their stories. The result was a set of rich and wide-ranging conversations, in which participants discussed their life-stories, important relationships and their multiple different senses of connection with the past. These conversations will be broadcast as radio programmes on Crescent Community Radio and will also be available to listeners on the Crescent Radio website. Through these programmes, this research will reach a wide range of listeners in Rochdale’s South Asian Muslim communities.
Tasneem Shahzad, Community Projects Manager at Crescent Radio, writes:
“I have really enjoyed working on behalf of Crescent Community Radio on the Musical Memories project and have been fascinated by the links and stories people have shared with us. I feel we have only touched ‘the tip of the iceberg’ and there is so much more to explore regarding the connection between music and memory.”
As Tasneem suggests, this pilot project has highlighted the need for future research to consider in greater depth the intersections of memory and musical listening practices in South Asian communities; it has also demonstrated the strengths of participatory methods (in which participants are active partners in the process of academic research) for research in this area. It is hoped that this initial project will lead to a larger-scale collaboration with Crescent Radio in the future, broadening the scope of this project and fostering an ongoing dialogue between emerging research in the Music Department and local communities in Greater Manchester.
Project duration: January – April 2021
Project lead: Dr Chloë Alaghband-Zadeh (Dept. of Music, UoM)
External Partner: Crescent Community Radio
Audiences involved: South Asian Muslim communities in Greater Manchester
Funding source: SALC Social Responsibility Award