the mongrel


“Who what am I? My answer: I am the sum total of everything that went before    me, of all I have been seen done, of everything done-to-me… to understand  me, you'll have to swallow a world” (Salman Rushdie, Midnight’s Children).


            While scholars have spent much energy in recent years discussing the importance of hybridity in terms of musical products (Frith, 2007; Feld, 2000, 1994, 1996), particular world music artists and also as a marketing term (Taylor, 2007), few have engaged with the individual as a location of hybridity.  To understand the artistic practice of just one musician in our increasingly interconnected global reality, as Rushdie suggests, is to be consumed by the complexities of a whole world.  Yet, not enough research has focused on the performance practices of musicians involved in global music exchange, particularly those musicians who have undertaken serious study of a foreign instrument to their native culture.[1] 

In my previous investigation of foreigners studying North Indian Classical music in Kolkata (Noone, 2013) it became apparent that these musicians inhabited a complex cultural world which was resistant to traditional cultural, national or even musical framing.  Coming from a range of countries and musical backgrounds, these musicians were part of a global community that located home and the heart in several places at once. Each musician had a story to tell about the disconnection they felt with their musical or cultural home places and a longing for a something else.  I explored how the “complexities of being a performer in a foreign tradition can lead to the creation of, not just new musical forms, but personally transformative ways of Being-in-the-world” (Noone, 2013, p. 35-36).  While many were dedicated students of the Indian classical tradition, the music they made reflected much more than a clear hybrid between East and West.  Many musicians when returning home, as well as performing ‘pure’ Indian classical music, began to make various kinds of ‘fusion’ or 'world' music with musicians in their localities.  The projects that these musicians began to make outside of the traditional genre of Indian classical music, including my own fusion group, became an area of great interest to me as they challenged the usual definitions and critiques of the world music phenomenon.[2] 

Yet the labels of ‘world’ and ‘fusion’ music, are at best problematic. For that reason, as well as more which I shall describe later, I suggest that they may have become superfluous.  However, the problem then remains, what do we call music that falls outside of traditionally established genres?  As a category, 'music that falls outside of traditional established genres' does not make sense as a genre itself.   Many of the current terms used to describe global music made by instrumentation or musicians outside traditional rock and pop genres are confusing, mostly marketing constructs and have rarely been categorized critically.[3] Terms such as world music, fusion, cross-cultural collaboration and hybrid are often used interchangeably by critics, scholars and musicians themselves. While some scholars have attempted to define such labels (Aubert, 2007; Feld, 2002; Bohlman, 2002; Frith, 2007) few have explored these processes up from a ground level.  For this research, it will be useful to untangle some of these terms and also find productive language to describe my own musical process. 


World music

                        In trying to define world music, it is easy to slide down “a tautological slope” (Bohlman, 2002, p. i) because of the complexity of musics, musicians and musical processes involved in the exchanges.  Stokes says that the term world music is not even “remotely adequate for descriptive or critical purposes” (2004, p. 52).  Aubert suggests a broader position when he describes world music as, “intercultural experiences…resulting from the meeting of musicians…and the integration of “exotic” instruments and sonorities”(2007, p.53).  Although Hijleh offers a perhaps more accurate characterization when he says that “all music is to some degree world music, and world music is the music of synthesis” (2012, p. 2).  World music, in its broadest sense, represents a musical consciousness able to regard itself from nowhere and everywhere, it is a summing up of all “heres” and “elsewheres” which have woven our lives (Aubert, 2007, p.54).

At the same time, ethnomusicology is often concerned with the dissolution of local musics across the globe and has championed the cause of preserving traditions and vilifying world music artists in relation to ethnic status and commercial interests.   World music, a term popularised mainly for marketing musicians from Non-Western background, has also been critiqued as a homogenizing agent in this process.  A substantial amount of ethnomusicological research on world music has been primarily focussed on commercial, commodification and the deterritorialization of culture with particular reference to the dichotomy of power between East and West and the exotification of the Other (Connel & Gibson, 2004; Feld 2000, 1994, 1996; Stokes 2003b; Taylor 1997, 2007).  This branch of ethnomusicology has been informed by anxiety of Lomax's 'cultural grey-out' and Marxist critiques of the appropriation of power and capital.[4] 

In identifying the origins of the term 'world music', where record executives attempt to categorize, appropriately market and ultimately capitalize on music from outside of the western rock and pop model, it has been convincingly argued that ‘world music participates in shaping a kind of consumer-friendly multiculturalism...that follows the market logic of expansion and consolidation’ (Feld, 2000,p. 168).  Likewise, it is suggested that not only record companies are compliant in this commodification and cultural domination but 'world music' artists themselves, particularly those from Western countries who collaborate or incorporate instrumentation or musicians from other cultures.  Artists such as Paul Simon and David Byrne have been critiqued as quasi-paternal colonialists in their explorations with musicians from Africa and South America and electronic acts such as Deep Forest and Afro-Celts have been considerably lampooned for their cultural grabbing and sampling of 'ethnic' sounds (Feld, 1994, 1996, 2000; Frith, 2000).  These musics have been at best described as a “naive syncretic impulses” (Cooper, 2005, p.221) and at its worst as “music that functions as a backdrop to Western exotic consumerism” (Farrel, 1997, p. 202).  Toop has described the world music sample impulse as a “fantasy of new hybrid transculturation,” a utopian imaginary universe (the “Fourth World”) in which all musics and cultures “mingle freely without concern for authenticity or propriety” (1995, p. 260).

However, it could also be argued that it is “inauthentic to view any music as a museum piece” a trap to which many ethnomusicologists have fallen into (Hijleh, 2012, p.209).  I agree with Schippers when he argues that we need to put “the myth of authentic traditions in context” (2010, p.41).  Hijleh urges that “understanding cultural meaning increasingly depends on understanding cross-cultural synthesis” (2012, p. 209).  To deny this, Hijleh argues, is a kind of “reverse racism by isolating every culture from all others” (2012, p.10).  In analysing inter-cultural music making purely from recordings which are the epitome of modern musical commodity, then we actually contribute further to the consumer impulse and the exotification process of sound itself.  Frith concedes that ethnomusicologists and world music markets are intrinsically linked and act as a parody of each other.  His approach suggests “the fruitfulness of attending to how understandings of transnational music are created through a set of intertwined vernacular and academic discourses” (2000, p. 308).  

Feld has also asserted that ethnomusicologists have been accomplices in the creation of a psycho-acoustical split between the social and sonic immediacy of music with the development of a “global schizophonic condition” (1996, p. 12) where sound now is so separate from its origin that it causes many levels of anxiety.  The processes involved in world music certainly can be viewed from the perspective of cultural commodification and commercialism.  However, it is perhaps more productive to explore what Feld has alluded to in his work: that world music reflects a global condition of anxiety over identity of self, place and Otherness.  While the expansion of world music can be seen as an exemplification of the deterritorialization of cultures and emphasize the rise of cultural commodity, it also “could not have occurred without the construction and contestation of discourses of place and otherness” (Gibson and Connel, 2006, p.342). Bohlman suggests that world music’s “epistemological concerns for identity “struggles under the enormous weight of Western musical traditions” (in Stobart, 2008, p. 107).

Wade has suggested world music is not an adequate term to describe music making in the post-modern age and prefers the expression “music in global culture” (2009, p.166).  She argues that nothing is truly local yet the inverse is also applicable.  In this sense, the term global culture ceases to have a static meaning.  I would argue that a more meaningful expression would be to explore 'music in the global condition'.  This condition is a post-modern one of shifting signifiers of meaning of culture, selfhood and place.  Frith suggests that “the post-modern condition is reflected both in the collapse of grand musical narratives and authorities and in the blurring of musical borders and histories” (2007, p. 159).  World music then, for want of a better term, is the sound of the postmodern experience.  Bohlman agrees that asserting or reclaiming a positon and place in the world has become a “requisite context for world music” (2002, p. 114). This multiple level diasporic consciousness of placelessness “has become one of the places most articulated by world music” and is a reflection of the “multiple consciousness” of an increasingly connected global community who because of our plight, whether real or imagined, takes “placenessness and return” as its main themes (Bohlman, 2002, p.118, p.115).  Therefore, the global diasporic condition of multiple consciousness has become a “new aesthetic form of the global imagination.” (Erlmann in Born & Hesmodalgh, 2000) and a “musical context for encounter, hybridity and fusion” (Bohlman, 2002, p. 114).



            Next, I would like to problematize the term 'fusion'.  Although at times the terms world music and fusion can be used interchangeably, I would suggest that ‘fusion’ while also existing as a marketing term, perhaps describes musical process more than product.    Hijleh describes fusion as a” dynamic meshing of elements with each music itself while at the same time acknowledging perceivable differences between musics” (2012, p. 7).  The important distinction in this definition is that fusion “requires retention of difference” (2012, p.7).  In my own experience playing North Indian music, I always associated this term with extremely negative connotations, referring to a music which was sort of blended together into a sonic mess with no discerning characteristics.  It is a popular joke amongst Indian classical musicians to use the term ‘con-fusion music’ suggesting that in the retention of difference there is a struggle for a clear musical identity against a fragmented cultural expression.  This is indeed more than a little ironic as many Indian classical musicians are increasingly involved in such ‘fusion’ projects as a way to build both financial and cultural capital.[5] 

However, apart from anecdotal examples, it is difficult to explain exactly how fusion is manifested musically.  Like ‘world music’ it is often used as a term of convenience for describing music which utilizes non-western sounds.  While world music may describe an authentic traditional or indigenous music from a region, the term fusion often refers to the mixing of a clear sonic indicator of Eastern/ Western alterity.  Fusion is often western derived musical genres (pop/rock/jazz) with an ‘ethnic’ element such as the case with Afro Celt Sound system (1996) who basically are an electronic dance band with the exotic timbre of African percussionists, Irish traditional instrumentation and Sean-nós vocals.  Fusion may also be used to describe the collaboration of high profile world music artists, “two [or more] adept performers working together using two different musical systems” (Mc Neill, 2007, p.6).  Examples of this branch of fusion collaboration is evidenced in the recordings of V.M Bhat & Ry Cooder (1993) or John Mc Laughlin with Shakti (1991) featuring Zakir Hassein.  Fusion, or perhaps more accurately, world music fusion, can also refer to ensembles of musicians which utilize multiple ‘non-western’ instruments and relative musical systems sometimes drifting into the category of the new age sub-genre.[6] 

The point is that all of the above musical examples of fusion are markedly different from one another.  Furthermore, in every example of musical fusion, regardless of genre and instrumentation, we can identify varying degrees of a musical ‘coming together’ and also performances which retain the difference of their stylistic parameters.  The aesthetic balance, of what I would call the fusion continuum (the musical degree of enmeshment and divergence), provides endless and complex material for musicological analysis, one which ethnomusicologists have yet to significantly research.  But how do we go about understanding the degrees of musical enmeshment and also retention of difference in fusion music in a performance based manner?  To do this requires new kinds of questions about music and also tools of analysis in which to answer them. 

Hijleh (2012) has written extensively on possible musicological ways to interpret the fusion music paradigm by proposing a universal system of music analysis based on dyadic and triadic models.  His work is commendable in its detail but perhaps focusses too much on fixed musical elements rather than the processual nature of performance.  Adrien McNeill, importantly both an ethnomusicologist and a performer of sarode, offers a more practice based response for understanding music on the fusion continuum.  He suggests that, “it is probably best to start by considering the broader conditions and processes through which performers can establish meaningful dialogues in cross-cultural collaborations...the general principles observed could also be relevant to a range of other formats including greater numbers of musicians and styles” (1997, p. 6).  Stokes (2004) has also produced a wonderful set of ethnomusicological questions which may go some way to help analyse the processes of musical fusion when he asks us to:


distinguish between a variety of different ways in which styles, genres, instruments, and sounds perceived as different are brought together: Which constitute foreground, which background? Which subordinate which other musical elements to it? Which are deformed to fit a new musical environment? Which elements mark cultural difference, and which signify or engage with modernity? Which elements blend seamlessly, and which generate a frisson of difference? (p. 61).

 Interestingly, in this set of questions, Stokes uses the term frisson of difference.  Frisson could be described as a “sudden physical reaction of excitement, fear or a thrill” (Collins dictionary).  Perhaps it is exactly this frisson, the physical thrill of difference, which makes fusion music so popular and “sexy” for audiences and musicians alike (Stokes, 1997, p.201).  Indeed, Stokes may be taking the term ‘frisson’ from Barthes (1972) who argued that this thrill or novelty of difference becomes a commodity when subsumed into a recognised art tradition, “thereby economically combining the security of tradition with the frisson of novelty’ (p. 95).  Fusion, which one could argue is an emergent especially commercial tradition in itself, offers listeners exactly this novel experience of musical differences while still retaining some elements of a recognisable tradition.  Perhaps frisson is in fact created by a kind of musical friction, “the resistance that one surface or object encounters when moving over another” a discordant rivalry that the musicians and listeners must attempt to harmonize (Collins).  Yet, much fusion music fails to embrace the friction process and tends to employ a safe kind of frisson by simply introducing unusual instrumentation to create novel soundscapes.  Likewise, sometimes the friction can be so great that the music doesn’t come together at all and the resulting frisson is fleeting and unsatisfying. 


Ultimately, fusion as a musical descriptor, is also somewhat generic and broad in scope.  Hijleh asks that we question the safety and banality of the term fusion and attempt to focus on, “the point at which fusion ceases and something new is created in which boundaries are so crossed that the origins of distinctive elements are lost “(2012, p. 7).  The point at which fusion ceases and friction is integrated and harmonized could be considered a different kind of frission to the often formulaic sonic soup of con-fusion.  Perhaps a more apt term for this process is another word which is intrinsically linked with the world music tautological slope: hybridity.



             Hybridity has been a prominent term in ethnomusicology for exploring the processes of inter-cultural musicking.[7] Yet in the world of literary studies, social sciences and anthropology, there has been a long debate about the use of such terms.  Stewart explains that , [a]nthropologists and social scientists have expressed ambivalence” about terms such as creolization, syncretism, hybridity” (1999, p. 40).[8]  Yet in musical terms, 'hybridity' is commonly summoned to represent the transnational, globalized imagined village of post-modern music making.  Accordingly, the concept of the hybrid has become circumscribed with a variety of ideologies and concepts of identity.  In particular, the implication of hybridity in music often has a somewhat clinical and genetic connotation, suggesting that the purposeful mixing of sources is done deliberately and even scientifically to attempt to create something new.  Biologically, usually the hybrid is the offspring of two animals or plants of different species. It begins as the confluence of two organisms to create a third 'improved' organism. Sharma asserts that, culturally speaking, an “underlying assumption is that hybridity produces new and more progressive cultural formations” (1996, p. 20).  

In this way, hybridity has become a brand of post-modern authenticity and is increasingly constructed as another kind of value marker of cultural capital.  Taylor (2007) has argued that the term is used as a marketing handle by world music industry and artists are also consciously adapting this word into their identity discourse.  Biographies of musicians increasingly point to a myriad of influences and a transglobal consciousness culminating in the creation of new progressive hybrid works.  “Whereas interpersonal interactions in “world music” tend to be viewed as “collaborations,” the resulting sound is often described as a “hybrid”, when music from different “cultures” mix (2007, p.140).  Hybridity is then “inevitably conceptualized as the encounter of a Third World culture with the West” (Sharma, 1996, p.20).  Sharma concludes that the consequence is that “hybridity is understood as part of the project of Western modernity” and that “cultural productions marked as hybrid are celebrated and valorised as being enlightened and politically emancipatory” (1996, p.20, 21).  Taylor argues that rather than this being an actual creation of a new kind of authentic cultural capital, this kind of hybridity usually represents a surface level musical and cultural interaction and furthermore is a continuation of colonial hegemonies where the non-western musicians are only given status and commercial success through the adoption of rock or pop instrumentation (2007, p. 141). 

It seems the term 'hybridity' is just as problematic as other terms in describing music in the global condition.  However, I fear that dominant critiques of hybridity, such as Taylor’s, are guilty of over simplifying hybrid music making into dichotomies of West and the Other: a determinist simplification of culture and industrial flows of capital that “marginalizes the complexity of so-called traditional cultures” (Sharma, 1996, p.20-21).[9]  While I agree that hybridity has become a catchphrase for authenticity in a world where the traditional is associated with nationalist agendas and old fashioned values, there is a risk of an over simplificationof complex musical realities if we subscribe to the belief that hybrid music is a binary intermingling of fixed cultural commodities.  This ideological complacency is further exasperated by over emphasis on the commercial recorded output of world music stars rather than individuals themselves.

 Ó Súilleabháin argues that is it “fundamentally within the individual” that hybridisation emerges and furthermore that “growth within the individual translates into the culture” (2003, p. 193, 196).  Blacking also reminds us that, “many if not all, of music’s essential processes may be found in the constitution of the human body” (1973, p.6).  Hybridity has announced itself as an essential process of music making in the post-modern age therefore perhaps we should be seeking its origins in the human body rather than musical works.  If we propose that musicians are processing the complexity of postmodern cultural hybrid selves through the creation of hybrid musical works, then we need a music making, human focused response to the issues involved in world musics. 

This means analysing “globalization from below” (Frith, 2007) and realizing that it is overambitious to “read off” from musical forms the wholesale meaning of cultural practices (Born & Hesmondalgh, 2000, p. 3).  If we merely study the schizophonic split at a macro-level, in particular the recording industry and the media, we will miss what is at the heart of music making.  Hybridisation is a creative impulse which comes “screaming from a heart that is bursting with fatality” and “offers a means to dignify and transcend misery” (Aubert, 2007, p. 54).  Aubert reminds us that the creation of musical hybrids is a response to, not just the financial, but the emotional, social and spiritual needs of humanity when he says, “art nourishes itself on necessity” (2007, p. 54).  Hybridity is perhaps the only sufficiently credible and powerful necessary call to action for “a whole generation with aching roots” (Aubert, 2007, p. 53). 

Farley (2001) suggests that as nothing is purely local or completely global, these binary boundaries are something which modern musicians can move between with ease and a “curiosity to wander the earth with their music and the integrity to stay connected to their homelands”(p. 7).  Ironically, when I reflect on my own musical wanderings I find it difficult to define simply one musical homeland to which I am connected.  Rather I am connected to several geographic and musical localities at once.  This connection is partly emotional, partly defined by reconfiguring lifestyle patterns in turn aided greatly by communication technology and the mobility of international travel.  This global musical wandering is reminiscent of Turino’s (2000) concept of the “translocal” as an approach to understanding music making.  Yet, I believe that the concept of translocal is still too abstracted and removed from performance practices of musicians integrating global influences.

An excellent example of local practices and translocal realities is encapsulated in the writing of Irish composer, scholar and self-confessed “musical magpie” Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin (in interview, 2013).  He has explored the processes of globalization within the tradition of Irish traditional music for several decades and prefers to use the term “lobal” to describe the conflux of local and global musical exchange. It “carries resonances of the lobe of the ear, of a kind of listening” and hence is respectful to the fundamental bodily experience of music and locality while leaving scope for complex intermingling of global realities (2003, p.193).  This term is very much rooted in the local phenomenological experiences of actual music making yet is broad enough to allow for the complex musical and cultural flows that constitute all modern music. 

Lobality as an analytical concept offers an insight into the embodied practice of musicians which acts as microcosm for musicking in the global condition and the artistic response to its placelessness and identity anxiety.  “Lobality listens to the process of leads us towards the real presence of a place where creativity resides” (2003p. 193).  The juncture of intermingling musical cultures that is held within the physical and sonic bodies of musicians is a “crossroads of becoming” that represents “the lobality of world” in a entirely different light than that of reviewing and critiquing commercial recordings.  The lobal becomes a “site on which new sorts of cultural theory could be developed, new futures glimpsed” (Frith, 2007, p.154).   This site is one necessarily of hybridisation. Must we consider the hybrid to be “fictive and divisive, ideological and hierarchical? Or can it be allied to a reflexive, analytical project?” (Born & Hesmondalgh, 2000, p. 2). Can the hybrid enunciate an emergent identity which does not seek validation for its authenticity from musical traditions?  More importantly, how can musical hybridity go beyond the need for commercial vindication and an integrity located in an authentic musical self?

We may gain a more 'lobal' understanding of the complexities of cultural hybridisation in a similar way by comparison with hybrid biology.  Hybridity “threatens to dissolve difference into a pool of homogenization. It is biological, yet resists definition. It is precisely its resistance that forces us to look closely.  Under a microscope, the concept transforms before our very eyes, it does not stay still under our gaze” (Kapchan & Strong, 1999, p. 240).   It etymologically derives from the Greek hubris (sinful act against the order).  Both the biological and etymological meanings taken together make clear that a certain order is violated.   Due to its origin in hubris, “the concept of ‘hybrid might have a negative connotation” (Karoblis, 2012, p.3).  However, Stross (1999) has argued that biological mating is different from cultural procreation.  He explains that in biology the hybrid offspring of purebred parents possess a strength or ‘vigour’ which is desirable.  However, this does not continue if the hybrid is then bred with another pure breed or another hybrid.  In fact the opposite is true.  He explains that, if hybrids are mated together, this "vigour" decreases in succeeding generations “so the desired traits can be maintained only by crossbreeding the parental lines over and over again” (Schery 1972, p. 415). “The biological hybrid has only two possible alternatives at any given gene locus and has only a limited number of chromosomes” (Stross, 1999, p. 257).  However, he argues that this decrease in vigour is not a necessary outcome of hybrid cultural forms as “there is no limit on the number of traits or features that can be generated in a cultural hybrid form...moreover, adaptation to new contexts can be so much faster in the cultural domain. In short, increased homogeneity and a decrease in vigour are not a necessary outcome of hybrid forms "interbreeding “in the cultural domain (1999, p. 257-258). 

Stross also illustrates that hybrid organisms are can be interbred to create new pure organisms.  He argues that there “are after all no "pure" individuals, no "pure" cultures, no "pure" genres. All things are of necessity "hybrid." Of course we can construct them to be relatively pure, “and in fact we do so, which is precisely how we manage to get (new) hybrids from purebreds that are (former) hybrids” (Stross, 1999, p. 266-267).  In the domain of music, Stokes concurs that there is no such as thing as a “pure” traditional music form, as “all musics stem from some sort of hybridisation” (Stoke, 2004, p.60).  Aubert supports this idea when he talks of “hybridity” being “systematically disseminated” by the media until it becomes the universal norm (2007, p.4).  Feld has also drawn upon the biological philosophy of Bateson to examine how cultures could participate in a mutually reactive musical discourse and possibly lead to a “closer symbiotic interdependence of both groups” (1996, p. 6).  He has borrowed the term “schismogenesis”(2002) from Bateson to describe the mutual exchange of cultures which could also be likened to a Aubert's “vast game of distorting mirrors” (2007, p.54).  Shusterman (2001) would suggest that not only do we “learn to understand ourselves better by discovering the cultural others in us” (p. 192) but “our cultural selves are in fact actually composed of elements of the culturally other that we have so far failed to recognize and thus have not fully understood” (p. 196).  This theory of cultural other-ness relates back to Stross's hybrid model of biology which suggests that we are hybrids the whole way back.  I have further appropriated Bateson and used the term “alchemical schismogenesis” to describe the personally transformative nature of intercultural exchange (Noone, 2013).  This transformation perhaps is reminiscent the trans-cultural axiom of Schipper's (2010) model in which individuals cease to be differentiated by boundaries of the broad range of musical cultures to which they are exposed. There is a fundamental change of the Being-in-the-world of musicians who have deeply immersed themselves in a foreign musical culture that has personal as well as new musical ramifications.  Aubert articulates the inevitability of hybrid musical production when he questions, “How could this [hybrid] reality, alive in our flesh and soul, remained without musical consequences?” (2007, p.53).

The problem arises in any performance based or ethnomusicological research into hybrid music of how to “make conceptual allowance both for the fluidity of syncretisms and hybrids and for the continuing existence of bounded cultural traditions” (Born & Hesmondalgh, 2000, p 27).  How do we account for and analyse “the differential permeability of the boundaries of various cultural lineages and forms?” (ibid, 2000, p 27).  While biological hybridity is a useful process for an analogical understanding it does not adequately provide a model for a satisfying cultural analysis.  Despite being biologically defined, hybridity is still too abstract to be applied to a ground up examination of trans-cultural exchange.   However, still I sense that we are too far removed from the “heart bursting with fatality” musical impetus to which Aubert so eloquently referred.  It is within the Self of the artist that the complexities of global music are being lived.  It is from here we should truly begin our analysis. For as Bohlman asserts, “[p]erceiving and understanding otherness in music depends on the knowledge of selfness but also on the will to extricate otherness from selfness” (in Stobart, 2008, p. 108). 

Ethnomusicology has for too long been concerned with distancing it's Self from the Other through the analytical tools of anthropology, ethnography and Marxist analysis of musical commodities.  Ethnographic research needs to be lived to realise the full ethical ramifications of theory.  Blacking said that, “Ethnomusicology has the power to create a revolution in the world of music and music education, if it follows the implications of its discoveries as a method, and not merely an area of study” (1973, p.4).  Perhaps it is even “untenable” to attempt to protect a musical culture (Hijleh, 2012, p. 6, 209).  While the risk of loss is real in accepting such an axiom, perhaps the rewards are worth the risks.[10]  Hijleh argues that in accepting the dissolution and confluence of musical traditions “musical possibilities are increased exponentially...some local expressions die away but are replaced by a music more robust” (2012, p.6).  There is perhaps a “natural evolutionary role of fusion” which leads to the creation of new hybrids (ibid, p. 8).  This idea is supported by Stross's notion of hybrid vigour or the strengthening of organisms through hybridisation.  This he has provocatively called “mongrel factor” (1999, p. 247).   


The mongrel

                The mongrel is a complex beast.  A mongrel could, perhaps most benignly, be described as something which arises from a variety of sources (Collins dictionary, 1998). As a noun, the term mongrel can be used to describe individuals, plants or animals, particularly of the canine species, resulting from the interbreeding of diverse breeds or strains; with mixed or unknown breeding.  Originating around the 15th century, the word itself is a mixture of sources from the Middle English word ‘mong’ meaning mixture, which was possibly a shorthand version ofymong which again originated from the Old English gemong meaning 'crowd', 'more at' or 'among' (Collins dictionary).  The sense of the mongrel being one of unknown ancestry generally also has deep negative subtexts.  The Latin hybrida is sometimes translated as a mongrel or a bastard.  The mongrel, certainly more so than the term hybrid, has a history of being tied up in extremely negative discourses of inter-racial mixing and ethnic impurity (Burr, 1922) (Cornwell 1999) and is often associated with the ”ugly history of racism and has been used to demean couples of different ethnicities and children of mixed race” (The View, 2013).[11]  In terms of perhaps its most common usage, in reference to man’s best friend, it is also largely negative. The image of the mongrel, both in a canine sense and in its dominant associations, is confrontational, undesirable and even dangerous.

Yet, the origins of a term and its misappropriations should not require that we let it fall under the dust of habit.  As Salman Rushdie states, [n]ames, once they are in common use, quickly become mere sounds, their etymology buried…like so many of the earth's marvels” (1988 , p. 127) I believe the concept of the mongrel has indeed fallen under the dust of habits, the powers of cultural hierarchy and been misappropriated as a defence against the danger of the intricate unknown. To paraphrase Stewart, if this past can be understood, then we are in a position to consciously re-appropriate this term and set the ethnographic study of cultural mixture on new tracks (Stewart, 1999, p. 40).

The term ‘mongrel’ took on a whole new meaning for me whilst deploying Chang’s (2007) autoethnographic method as part of the narrative arc of this research.  Chang’s model proposes self-reflection and the development of a self-narrative which forms the backdrop for the research.    In analysis of my own speech patterns to describe my historical musical experiences, the term mongrel kept re-appearing but not with the same negative stereotypes as discussed earlier.  I realised that I first encountered this word growing up in South East Queensland, in Australia. 

In Oz-English slang, mongrel has a distinctive colloquial meaning. While also used to describe the mixed breed of dogs, in Australian and New Zealand sporting slang, the quality of mongrelity relates to toughness and physical aggression and is highly prized.  Commentators may describe a player as having a bit of mongrel in them or if lacking conviction and passion a team could be said to have lost that bit of mongrel.  While the term is more probably more commonly used as a direct insult e.g. ‘Ya bloody mongrel’, it is interesting to note how mongrel qualities can be valued and even cherished.  My grandfather was particularly fond of the 'mongrel' and used it as a double edged sword both as an insult and an affectionate back of hand. Working dogs of mongrel mixes are said to be hardier, more intelligent and even to live longer than pure breeds.  These dogs are prized for their unique mongrel mixes and consequentially given a certain affection. The mongrel, while not being of pure breed or class, is often stronger for its unique combination of genetic sources. To mongrelize then, the transitive verb, is the process of intentional or organic creation of crossbreeds or hybrids which enables, “newness to enter the world” (1991, p. 394).

While certainly, the term mongrel is not unproblematic, I have found in my own experience, its distinctiveness provides a useful differentiation from the more general notion of hybridity. I do not, however, wish to champion these practices as some kind of utopian postmodern performative shape-shifting “Fourth World” (Toop, 1995).  In the mongrel metaphor, nothing is clear-cut, it encompasses the messy reality of inter-cultural musical mingling.  The mongrel is a combination of many sources and is not necessarily to be considered a refinement.  Rather the mongrel embraces the multiplicity of difference.   Presence of the mongrel does not necessarily strengthen or a weaken culture but challenges the binary distinction of West and the rest.  It also offers the possibility of acting as a personal subversive diffusion of categories.

Importantly, I would like to define the mongrel as a self-referential system.   It is not a term I am proposing to describe the mixing of different ethnic musics as a broad category.  I suggest that one can invoke the mongrel in one's Self rather than indiscriminately labelling the Other. Labelling oneself a mongrel results from, and causes, self-reflection and a questioning of identity. Labelling the Other a mongrel is fraught with difficulty.  Calling another does not necessarily, to paraphrase Heiddeger (1966), 'call what was unknown into Being', it does not draw close the Other.  Rather it places the unknown onto a Being and distances the Self from knowing the Other.  Invoking the mongrel in the Self intimately includes the Other. In this way, I am attempting to clarify the uses of this term not just for ethnomusicological theory but, more importantly, as an invitation for other musicians to explore the veracity of the term for themselves.  For the mongrel is an internal form that requires internal ways of knowing.  I would like to propose, then, that hybridity in fact is a more theoretical and abstract socio-centric process in which the practice of personal mongrelity resides.


Music and the Mongrel

                  The truth of all inter-cultural musicking, regardless of ethnicity, is that music is cultural capital, it represents knowledge, and therefore relates to the politics of power (Bordieu, 2011).  This dynamic is at play among traditional performers of Indian music and also for a mongrel like me.  However, in invoking the mongrel, I am in fact attempting to relinquish the weight of some of this cultural capital and give back agency to the traditional culture bearers.  This act positions me in relation with the tradition, but differentiated, so that the totality of my Selfhood may come into view. An acceptance of difference and individual integration of that very difference are key to my understanding of the mongrel.  It also is a willingness to be honest, open and vulnerable, both in interactions with musical cultures but also with the self.  As an inter-cultural-relating musician, this involves maintaining personal integrity, a consciousness of the dangers of miscommunication and unequal power relations yet also keeping a grounding in the Self when in engaging with others.[12]

I accept that mongrelity may be a challenging term to be coupled with traditional musics.  It would seem, that in Irish traditional music at least, the mongrel does not have the same level of begrudging respect as in Australia.  Seamus Tansey, conservative agitator and Irish traditional musician, has infamously stated that, “America is a mongrel nation, her musical culture is also a mongrel” (1996, p. 212).  In reference to musics from other cultures and the Irish tradition he says, “you can’t mix them….or else you have a mongrel representing nothing or speaking nothing, just a noise or an obscene sound that should never have been heard” (1996, p. 211).  ).  In the world of Irish traditional music, it would certainly seem that the mongrel is not welcome.    Its path to rehabilitation may be a difficult one.  Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin, sympathized that the term mongrel was “highly negative and a put down of the poor dog” (2013, in interview). Although the views of figures such as Tansey represent an offensive extremist vantage point, a more benign subscription to the same underlying idea is common.  Irish traditional musical culture is often defined as possessing a pure ancient heritage.  This is a definition which positions itself in opposition to other cultural influences rather than the acceptance of the diverse strains of musical immigration and intermingling.     

However, this is in fact the very point of my reclamation of mongrelity, in that it may open a possible dialogue that questions assumptions about the Purity of musical cultures, the stability of culture as a concept, and the porous nature of cultural traditions.  I believe that hybrid cultural figures, which I am characterizing through the metaphor of the mongrel, may have an important role to play in reshaping musical cultures.  It is perhaps because of the charged moral overtones of the word mongrel that I believe that it may assist us to look more closely at the complexities of cultural forms.  I would like to undertake Ó Súilleabháin’s challenge to “throw down the gauntlet” (in interview, 2013) and entertain the notion that in reclaiming the mongrel and attempting to rehabilitate and reintegrate its dark undertones we may gain insight into the ubiquitous reality of trans-global inter-cultural identities in a way that might otherwise be impossible. The term elicits such varied and emotive responses that it would seem that its re-appropriation could stimulate new thinking in both ethnomusicology and in musical traditions. 


Third Space

           Hybridity theorist and postcolonial scholar, Homi K. Bhahba, has reflected that we are living in “a moment of transit where space and time cross to produce complex figures of difference and identity” (1994, p. 2).   The mongrel, both as a word and as an embodied sense of identity, is uniquely positioned to engage with these complexities and develop new understandings.  To paraphrase Bhabha, the mongrel is “pregnant with potential for new world views with new internal forms for perceiving the world” (1994, p. 17).  Heavily influenced by Said's (1978) Orientalism, Foucalt's (1982) ideas of power, and Derrida’s post-structuralism (1982, 2004, 1996), Bhabha has been concerned with how colonized people resist and subvert the power of the coloniser and how this power can be manifested through cultural works.  Hybrid musical works and musicians can easily be viewed as part of this process of resistance to dominant power structures, particularly in postcolonial interpretations. 

While Bhabha has mostly focused his theories on postcolonial readings of literature and the cultural dialogues between the dominant and the oppressed, I believe that his work can be applied with equal if not more success to music, particularly in the realm of hybridity, inter-cultural and trans-cultural performance.  The metaphor of the mongrel may enable us to focus discussions of musical hybridity on individuals.  The cultural theory of hybridity in post-colonial studies seeks the location of cultural meaning and in particular supports the notion that culture and its announcement or enunciation of identity is located in the in-between or liminal places (Bhabha, 1994).  In this perspective, migrants, who are betwixt and between several cultural frames, have a unique perspective on and role in creating new cultural identity as “to migrate is to express deep changes and wrenches in the soul…the migrant is not simply transformed by his act; he also transforms his new world.  Migrants may well become mutants, but it is out of such hybridisation that newness can emerge” (in Rathjen, 2002, p.553). 

The Indian diasporic electronic music scene in the UK is a good example of musical hybridity which uses the tools of dominant culture (electronic dance music/ pop genres) to subvert and politically retaliate against perceived injustice and the alienation of displacement.  Artists such as Asian Dub Foundation (2003), Nithin Sawhney (1999)  have overtly political themes in their musical lexicon and the importance of this has been explored elsewhere (Sharma 1996; Taylor, 2007; Frith 2000, 2007).  Bhabha (1990,1994) has described at length how the colonized mimics the cultural forms of the colonizer to create new hybrid symbols which challenge the authority of the dominant culture . Yet, Sharma has suggested that although Bhabha’s work  offers “advanced and compelling theorizations of hybridity...there remains a tension in his work...suggesting that migrant hybridity is more emancipatory than that of a traditional culture (1996, p. 30).  In an analysis of the politics of what is described as “new Asian dance music” Sharma, Hutnyk and Sharma (1996) provocatively invoke of some Bhabha’s ideas but also point to the limitations and postcolonial problematics of the term hybridity.[13]

Taylor argues that simply using, “the term hybridity makes us complicit in perpetuating and intensifying historically unequal power relations and the entrenched conservatism of the cultural categories employed by the music industry” (2007, p. 159). While certainly, the term mongrel is not unproblematic, I have found in my own experience, its distinctiveness provides a useful differentiation from the more general notion of hybridity.  I would like to propose that hybridity is a larger process in which personal mongrelity resides. Perhaps hybridity can be considered a more abstract socio-centric process in which the practice of personal mongrelity resides. 

Rice asserts that music “does something else for humankind besides creating meaning, something just as or even more important’ (2010, p. 126).  It is the musical “creative possibilities of mongrelisation” (Siddhartha, 2004, p. 78) which may begin to provide an answer to the question of whether “the complexity of the unhomely, intrapersonal world” can “lead to an international theme” (Bhabha, 1994, p. 17).  The mongrel stands for proactive advocacy in the tyranny of absolutism and the myth of cultural purity.  Salman Rushdie articulates this when he speaks of his own novel, The Satanic Verses.  He suggests that his work,


celebrates hybridity, impurity, intermingling, the transformation that comes of new and unexpected combinations of human beings, cultures, ideas, politics, movies, songs. It rejoices in mongrelization and fears the absolutism of the Pure. It is the great possibility that mass migration gives the world…(it) is for change-by-fusion, change-by-conjoining. It is a love song to our mongrel selves. (1991, p.394)

In my own investigation of foreigners engaged in learning Indian music, I discussed how musical migrations contribute to not just personal transformations but also may reconfigure musical cultures (Noone, 2013, p. 35).  The musicians I have studied are corroborating Rushdie’s notions of ‘change-by-fusion’, change ’by conjoining’ of the parameters of Indian music and also sonic landscape of the western world.  A sonic example of this is evidenced by The Monsoon Trio’s (2016) recent release entitled, Pranaam, which has been described as “the product of a very unique cross-cultural synthesis, in which the Eastern traditions are confronted by Western modernity” (Ganguluy, 2016).  The group features two brothers Johnathan and Andrew Kay on saxophone and Justin Gray on a new hybrid instrument, the ‘bass veena’. The Kay brothers have been studying Indian Classical music in a traditional guru-shishya manner in Kolkata for many years and have developed a unique style on the decidedly non-traditional instrument of the saxophone.  Likewise bass player, Gray found it necessary to modify a fretless bass with extra sympathetic strings.[14]

However, there are scholars who are critical of westerners’ engagement with Indian classical music and argue that it relates to a ‘colonial imagination’.  Korpella, who has conducted ethnographies of foreigners (although not always necessarily musicians) living in Varanasi and Goa suggests that westerners “imagine’ India according their own needs” (Korpela, 2010, p. 1299).  While studies such as Korpela’s are useful in representing the flows of western tourist migration within India, in dismissing all western students of Indian music as “lifestyle migrants” she has ignored the difference between touristic engagement with Indian culture and expert performer’s knowledge.[15]  Melrose has described how an “expert disciplinary mastery” of a musical form represents “complex and internally differentiated theoretical practices" which are by their nature, "inventive". How may it be possible to consider mongrelity as a natural evolution of post-modernity that could lead to strengthening traditions and creating inter-connected and socially conscious individuals who work as cultural agents and provocateurs? 

An important and provocative element of Bhabha’s work, which is relevant here, is the distinction between cultural difference and cultural diversity.  He argues that the concept of cultural diversity is a commodification which allows the dominant culture “to collect and appreciate” others (1990, p. 208). This is an attempt to categorize, distance the Other and safeguard the dominant culture.  Also implicit in this concept is the presumption that culture is fixed and stable. In cultural diversity, which he suggests is complicit with liberal multiculturalist societies, true brotherhood is not achieved and racism is still prevalent. He argues for cultural difference, where the uncomfortable possibly antagonistic nature of Otherness is allowed. 

Bhabha suggests that,

it is very difficult, even impossible and counterproductive, to try and fit together different forms of culture and to pretend that they can easily coexist...with the notion of cultural difference, I try to place myself in that position of liminality, in that productive space of the construction of culture as difference, in the spirit of alterity or otherness. (1990, p. 209)
Within the perspective of cultural difference, mongrelity can be understood as a liminal process of negotiation and differentiation where sonic mixture challenges the authority of colonial identity.  The act of the mongrel representing aspects of the dominant culture back to itself is unsettling.  In this way I would suggest that mongrelity may “intervene in the agnostic space of authority” (Bhabha, 1985, p. 152). Ironically, Bhahba suggests that postcolonial authority uses hybridity for its own means; this authority “requires the production of differentiations...modes of discrimination...that disallow stable unitary assumption of collectivity” (1985, p. 153).  This cultural authority is predicated on a subversive theory of hybridization, in which the mongrel is devalued by dominant culture rather than simply repressed.  Taylor has argued that,  “Bhabha fails to consider that the colonializing or other dominant powers might interpret the hybrid forms produced by subalterns as simply inaccurate, or mimetic or inferior versions of what dominant culture has thrust upon them” (2007, p. 145-146). 

However, Bhabha does account, in theory at least, for the possibility of hybrid musical products being ridiculed or considered inferior.  In fact, this criticism of the hybrid product is perhaps part of its subversive nature.  In his seminal work, Signs taken for wonders, Bhabha describes how the production of a hybrid cultural product, in particular an Indian translation of the Bible, while challenging the authority of colonial English identity actually also serves the purpose of allowing the colonial master to denigrate the colonial subject through its barbaric mongrelised interpretations.  What takes place is “a discrimination between mother culture and its bastards, the self and its doubles, where the trace of what is disavowed is not repressed but repeated as something different…a mutation, a hybrid” (Bhabha, 1985, p. 153).  However, while the mutated hybrid may be subject to ridicule, it is nonetheless a powerful disruptive challenge and a “revaluation of the assumption of colonial identity...the articulation of the ambivalent space where the rite of power is enacted on the site of reveals the ambivalence at the source of traditional discourses on authority and enables forms of subversion” (1985, p. 154). 

Rather than having an ambivalent response, Bhabha suggests that “the display of hybridity...terrorizes authority with the ruse of recognition, its mimicry, its mockery” (1985, p. 157). Hybridity, and by extension what I have suggested is a more personal manifestation in the form of mongrelity, “represents the terrifying, exorbitant object of paranoid classification” (1985, p. 155).  This sense of fear and threat is sympathetic with my reclamation of the transformative and elusive nature of mongrelity which is “uncontainable because it breaks down the symmetry and duality of Self/Other, inside/outside” (1985, p. 158).

The productive ambivalence of the distance between Self/ Other is perhaps best encapsulated in Bhabha's concept of Third Space.  I believe that the concept of Third Space may also be the most productive in relation to understanding and articulating hybrid music making.  While Bhabha has never extensively defined Third Space and generally has evaded its practical applications, it is an extremely provocative term to describe the in-between nature of both hybridity and mongrelity.  The concept of Third Space originates in the idea that,”cultural practices construct their own systems of meaning and social organisation” (Bhabha, 1990, p. 209).  This construction of meaning happens in a continuously liminal space of relationship between the cultural Self and the Other.  It is the almost invisible communication of signs and symbols between dominant culture, its mirrors, mimetics and mongrels.  He argues that interpretation of meaning between the Self and the Other is a dialogical process mediated by this Third Space.  Cultural meaning between the Self and Other must be “mobilized in the passage through a Third Space, which represents both the general conditions of language and the specific implication of the utterance in a performative and institutional strategy of which it cannot “in itself” be conscious” (Bhabha, 2006, p. 156). 

As a musician, what is interesting here is Bhabha's reference to the performative strategy of hybrid meaning 'of which it cannot in itself be conscious'.  Yet surely an on-the-ground reading of this process of hybrid dialogue in music making could reveal the conscious and unconscious decisions made my artists engaging in this theoretical Third Space?  Perhaps Third Space can be consciously adapted and appropriated as a responsive and transformative model in not just hybrid music making but music in general.  Bhabha agrees that Third Space acts as an “intervention which makes the structure of meaning and reference an ambivalent process, destroys this mirror of representation in which cultural knowledge is continuously revealed as an integrated, open, expanding code” (2006, p. 157).  Bhabha here offers insight into the inevitable futility of attempted cultural dominance and the elusive if not illusionary nature of culture itself.   The intervening act of Third Space “properly challenges our sense of the historical identity of culture as a homogenizing, unifying force, authenticated by the originary past, kept alive in the national tradition of the People” (ibid, p. 157).  Third Space may allow us to circumvent the dichotomy of emic/etic, coloniser/colonised, East/West, Self/ Other and challenge cultural fundamentalism and the absolutism of cultural Purity.

Metaphysically and meta-musically, Third Space acts as a “precondition for articulation of cultural meaning” (Bhabha, 1994, p. 38).  It is a sort of primordial space from which meaning emerges which evades the limiting reference of hybridity.  As a concept, Taylor concurs that Third Space “obviates some of the problems of the hybridity metaphor...referring to the momentary, evanescent nature of culture, social formations and music” (2007, p. 160).  Bhabha could easily be describing the formation of hybrid musical identities when he suggests that “these in-between spaces provide the terrain for elaborating strategies of selfhood...the initiate signs of identity, and innovative sites of collaboration and contestation, in the act of defining society itself” (1994, p. 2).    The Third Space is the in-between state where hybridisation occurs and the mongrel is conceived. 

The Third Space is “unrepresentable in itself [yet] constitutes the discursive conditions of enunciation that ensure that the meaning and symbols of culture have no primordial unity or fixity; that even the same signs can be appropriated, translated, rehistoricized and read anew” (Bhabha, 1994, p. 55).   In this way the Third Space is the “theoretical recognition of the split-space of enunciation” or the announcement of new cultural identification (ibid, 1994, p. 56).  This theorization has musical ramifications if we can consider that the Third Space “may open the way to conceptualizing an international culture, based not on the exoticism of multiculturalism or the diversity of cultures, but the inscription and articulation of culture's hybridity” (ibid, 1994, p. 56). I quote Bhabha at length here as he explains that; the third space that enables other positions to emerge.  This third space displaces the histories that constitute it, and sets up new structures of authority, new political initiatives, which are inadequately understood through received wisdom.  The process of cultural hybridity gives rise to something different, something new and unrecognisable, a new area of meaning and representation” (1990, p.211). 

While Third Space theory can be both inspirational in its expansiveness and emancipatory in its implications it is also frustratingly elusive and perhaps phenomenologically un-grounded.  Critics of Bhabha have suggested that he “assumes an older model of sovereignty that no longer exists” (Hardt & Negri in Taylor, 2007, p.146).  Postcolonial globalization is much more complex than the binaries of dominant and subjugated and is perhaps only sufficiently explored through the somatic experiences of individuals rather than hegemonies.  Bhabha argues that “it is the trope of our times to locate the question of culture in realm of the beyond” yet theories are only of use if they can be put into practice (1994, p. 1).  Furthermore, it is baffling to consider that hybridity theory such as Bhabha's has not been applied more to its 'playing out' in music. Taylor argues that,


It has not been a major part of Bhabha's work to examine how the oppositional and destabilizing effects of hybridisation might actually play out...the marketing of hybridity frequently triumphs over the third space (2007, p. 145-146).  

Hardt & Negri suggest that, the “real revolutionary practice refers to the level of production.  Truth will not make us free, but taking control of the production of truth will” (2000, p.156).  Taylor would seem to support this idea when he suggests “like all terms and categories you have to watch what happens to hybridity in practice” (2007, p.160).  However, in re-reading some of Bhabha's work we may find allusions to possible phenomenological grounding of his theories.  He suggests that “by exploring this Third Space, we may elude the politics of polarity and emerge as the others of ourselves” (1994, p. 56).  Perhaps then, the Third Space is not a passage we may enter and leave, it is a continuous and organic embodied process.  This is an “interpretation of the Third Space as a liminal site between contending and contradictory positions.  Not a space of resolution, but one of continual negotiation” which may locate culture in the liminality of the body (Hernandez, 2010, p. 95). 

Certainly, though, Bhabha seems to contradict himself and complicate his theories unnecessarily, particularly in relation to the interchangeability of the terms hybridity and Third Space (Hernandez, 2010).  Hybridity can be viewed as a product, such as in his discussion of the book as hybrid representation of colonial identity, (1985) yet he also suggests that hybridity itself is the Third Space (1990) despite Third Space being unrepresentable (1994).  Furthermore, on one had he argues for the illusory nature of cultural stability or fixity purporting that “the difference of cultures can no longer be identified or evaluated as objects of epistemological or moral contemplation: they are simply not there to be appropriated” (1985, p. 156).  Yet at the same time Bhabha argues that “Culture...can be transformed by the unpredictable and partial desire of hybridity” (1985, p. 157).   


 The mongrel as Third Space

            A resolution of the ambiguities and tensions in Bhabha’s work is perhaps best resolved in practices and the somatics of Self.  Hybrid music making and mongrel musical identities offer a unique solution to the unstable and abstract nature Bhabha's postcolonial theory and circumvent the outdated modalities of power and oppression by which much of Bhabha's writing is unnecessarily weighed down.  If we agree that Third space is not fixed or static identity but “identification” then we must look at the elusive hybrid process in motion (Bhabha, 1990, p.211).  I believe mongrelity may be an extremely useful concept to employ in reference to an embodied hybrid process.  More than the idea of hybridity, mongrelity, “calls attention to disjunctions as well as conjunctions and encourages a focus not on structure but on practice (Kapchan & Strong, 1999, p.249).  This is what Samuels refers to as "radically local experience” (in Kapchan & Strong., 1999, p. 250).

I would like to attempt to localise or more pertinently lobalise the experience of the performance of musical mongrels as a radical subversion of categories.  For the mongrel “does not challenge us to disentangle influences like tradition and modernity or to unravel strands of difference. Rather...[it] stands in resistance to such disarticulations: instantiating identity at the same time that it is subverted” (Kapchan & Strong, 1999, p.245).  This is a practical response to Bhabha's most radical and antagonistic ideal of cultural difference rather than a liberal pluralist rhetoric of cultural diversity.

Bhabha suggests that, “the possibility of producing a culture which both articulates difference and lives with it could only be established on the basis of a non-sovereign self” (1990, p. 212).  The musical mongrel stands outside of national or cultural sovereignty and its practices are its evolving and non-static identification.  Bhabha concedes that, hybridity has no “perspective of depth of truth to provide; it is not a third term that resolves tension between two does not produce a mirror where the self apprehends itself, it is always a split screen of the self and its doubling, the hybrid” (1985, p. 156).  The mongrel does not produce a mirror but perhaps embodies the mirroring process of the hybrid and its double.  The mongrel as an embodied concept may offer a solution to the problem of hybridity's elusiveness.





[1]Exceptions here include the work of Adrien Mc Neil (1995, 2007; see also Durrant, 2003; Booth, 2010). I wish to distinguish from this discussion some of the excellent work of ethnomusicologists using a phenomenological approach to studying a musical culture (Bakan, 1999; Farley, 2010; Friedson 1996; Rice 1994). I would suggest that much ethnomusicological research using practice is informed by Mantle Hood’s (1960) concept of ‘bi-musicality’ as a means of studying another culture which is different from the arts practice approach I am attempting to outline in this research.  It should also be noted that there is significant research into the pedagogical manifestations of ‘world music’ in the classroom (Nettl, 1992; Mc Neil, 1996; Thompson, 2002; Solis, 2004). The focus of this research, while cognisant of these frameworks, attempts to investigate ‘world music’ and inter-cultural exchange from a performers’ perspective.


[2] The Bahh Band was a seven piece ‘fusion’ group based in the West of Ireland featuring sarode, dobro, bodhran, double bass, tabla and vocals.  Their debut album was entitled Worlds Colliding (2010)-self published.  The group performed at major world music festivals across the country and was funded by Culture Ireland in 2013 for a 3 week tour of India.

[3] This type of discussion begs the question when does a ‘new’ music becomes its own genre? Also, we must be critical of 'traditional genres' as a category itself as this may vary according to context and community.  It is a very personal dilemma for myself as self-recognised ‘mongrel’ musician as people often want to know what they can call my music if it isn’t Irish, Indian or fusion. I do not yet have an answer to this conundrum, however in my own mind I, somewhat ironically, would refer to myself as a traditional musician, as for me tradition is something which has flexible boundaries and can accept difference.

[4] Lomax argued that the globalization of cultures was creating a ‘grey-out process’ which he feared would “fill our skies with the smog of the phoney and cut the families of men off from a vison of their own cultural constellations” (1977, p.21).

[5] For a more detailed exploration of this concept see Booth (2010).

[6] There is a plethora of artists who fall under the new age world music fusion category.  For an interesting cross section of this phenomena please see:

[7] Hijleh notes that hybridisation is perhaps “the most healthy and accurate paradigm of globalisation” (2012, p. 6).  I use the term ‘musicking’ here in reference to Christopher Small’s (1998) understanding of music as a verb rather than a noun.  This concept allows us to understand music, not in just in relation to performance and sound but also incorporates wider musical discourse and processes.

[8] It is not the scope of this paper however to fully explore the categories described here.  Although I believe the concepts of syncretism and creolization have much to offer ethnomusicological perspectives.  For further reading see: Stewart & Shaw (1994), Glissant (1997,) Khan (2004) and the more musically focussed DennisConstant (2008) and Guilbault (1993).


[9]  Likewise, Sharma (1996, p.20) explores Hall’s (1988) idea that the fixing of ethnicity is partially achieved by the use of the term hybridity.

[10]  Ó Súilleabháin stated in an interview this idea when discussing Irish traditional music, suggesting that,“you can dilute a music out of existence through fusion. It is potentially a dangerous process. But it is no more dangerous and 

maybe less dangerous than cultural fundamentalism” (in interview, 2013).   


[11]Interestingly, the mongrel has a history of use in modern literature as a subversive term used to describe cultural and racial mixture. See Guneratne, A. R. (1998). The Chronotopes of mongrel literatures: Rushdie, Ondaatje, Naipaul and the problems of postcoloniality. Journal of Postcolonial Writing, 37(1-2), 5-23.  Likewise, the term mongrel, while certainly has been negatively linked to notions of race (Schultz, 1905), it also has been used as a provocative metaphor to understand cultural mixing, particularly in a post-colonial urban context (Douglas, 1995; Cornwell, 1999; Sandercock, 2003, 2006; Dawson, 2007).  Also, Stewart’s (1994) concept of syncretism´bears some semblance to my invocation of mongrelity, albeit from a more top down theoretical perspective.

[12]This is somewhat in accord with Glissant’s (1997, p. 11) notion of Relation which is rhizomatic, drawing from Deleuze and Guttari and not bound to one dominant root. Also his concept of ‘opacity’ in regards to his philosophy of poetics of relation could be of service here.


[13] Sharma in fact uses the term ‘Radical Otherness’ rather than hybridity as a “strategic positionality responding to the essentialist discourses of absolute difference and cultural assimilation” (1996, p. 31).

[14] A similar path has been furrowed by numerous western musicians in the Indian Classical world.  John Mc Loughlin famously created the ‘scalloped’ fingerboard guitar to bend notes like a sitar in his work with Shakti.  Likewise, increasingly, foreigners who have been learning Indian music on western instruments have begun to introduce the instruments to classical audiences to very positive acclaim.  Examples include the use of western flute in dhrupad and Saskia Rao’s innovations in use of the cello.

[15] In her work, Korpela documents that westerners “embrace a precolonial understanding of India as they appreciate its ancient past rather than modern present” (2010, p. 1300).  She implies that foreigners learning Indian classical music are more interested in socialising with other westerners and “smoking hash together” than an actual serious dedication to learning music (2010, p.1301).