Colonialism Panel

Saturday, April 14, 9:30am
Room 1145
Erin Putnam, chair

"Aloha 'Oe: Politics and the Prison Songs of Lili'uokalani"

Cynthia Morris, Ethnomusicology
University of California, Santa Cruz

This thesis is an examination of the songs composed by Lili'uokalani, the last monarch of Hawaii during her incarceration at the hands of the Provisional Government, a cadre of American businessmen who had overthrown her government. She was imprisoned at 'Iolani Palace in Honolulu from February to September of 1895. Seven songs were composed during this period: "He Inoa Wehi No Kalaniana'ole," "Ku'u Pua i Paoakalani," "The Queen's Prayer," "Kili'oulani," "Leha 'Ku Kou Mau Maka," "E Ku'u Ho'ola (My Saviour)," and "Himeni Ho'ole 'A Davida (David's Hymn of Praise)." In addition to these seven composed songs, this paper covers the alleged politicization of a transcription of "Aloha 'Oe," transcribed by the Queen during the incarceration with the intention that it be submitted to a Chicago publishing house for publication. This manuscript was allegedly confiscated by the Queen's jailers and employed as a tool of oppression against the Hawaiians.

My research focuses on the political aspects of these songs. When historians look at Hawaii of the 1890's, they bemoan the fact that the Provisional Government destroyed all of Lili'uokalani's personal papers and journals from the beginning of her reign to the end of her incarceration. This period extends from the beginning of 1891 through the end of 1896. I argue that although the Queen's letters and journals may have been destroyed, her songs stand as important "in the moment" testimonials, composed in the midst of turbulence and upheaval. These are songs of resistance, hope, spiritual protest and subversion. As all art does, these songs provide us with valuable insights into the mind, soul and spirit of this dethroned and imprisoned Queen, still actively engaged in a fight for the sovereignty of her native lands.

"Reimagining the 'African Success Story' through Ivorian Coupé-Décalé"

Julia Day, Ethnomusicology
University of Washington

Côte d'Ivoire, dubbed the "African success story" and the "Ivorian miracle," was a rare example of political stability and economic success in West Africa from its independence from France in 1960 through the 1990s. In the past decade, however, Côte d'Ivoire has been racked by social and political turmoil. The music genre coupé-décalé developed and became popular during this time. Contrary to the social and political critique prominent in Ivorian popular musics of the 1980s and 1990s, coupé-décalé is characterized by depictions of the extravagant lifestyles of young Ivorians living abroad in Europe. Though seemingly unrelated to the sociopolitical climate, I argue that the development of coupé-décalé is a direct reaction to the disorder and conflict of the Ivorian civil war.

In this paper, the reimagining of Côte d'Ivoire as an "African success story" by Ivorian youth is examined through the music, dance, and video of coupé-décalé. I use three early coupé-décalé music videos by the founding artists of the genre to highlight depictions of young successful Ivorians abroad. Drawing on Turino's (2000) concept of "cosmopolitan loops," I contend that the representation of non-African places through image and sound in early coupé-décalé links Ivorian listeners to Ivorian successes across continental borders. Although the imagery in coupé-décalé does not resolve the difficulties that are a reality for many young Ivorians, it does provide a space where Côte d'Ivoire as a success story abroad is visualized and celebrated. Through coupé-décalé, Ivorian youth can respond to political helplessness, participate in multinational cosmopolitan loops, and realize values for new economic and social stability as a way to escape the realities of the conflict in Côte d'Ivoire.

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