The voice, especially the singing voice, is a vehicle of a complex variety of messages. Not all these messages are related to the languages itself, many of them relay a more articulated heritage. But what is this heritage? How does the legacy work when a vocalist sing? How does s/he connect her/his voice to this memory? How the vocal tradition can be used as an expression of new cultural identities?

The project aims to investigate the role of traditional vocal styles in reshaping cultural identities related to the African diasporas in America and Europe. Such vocal styles go back to the African origin and African vocal traditions. So that, the singing voice could be considered as the place where the connection still exists and is operating (Zumthor). Nevertheless, the connection – as well as the vocal styles themselves – is evolving by passing through new contexts, new social relationships, new forms of religion, new technologies, etc. The effort of vocal performers and composers is both to overcome voice’s limits and to go back to ancient vocal techniques. Research will focus on how much performances of contemporary African-American vocal styles – from different musical genres – influence (and express) the reshaping of a new cultural identity. The project will deal at the same time with musicians of a more recent African Diaspora in Europe, where new cultural identities are evolving. Archives will be investigated in order to trace the history of the development of African related vocal styles in the African-American culture. However, a fundamental source will be interviewing professional musicians. During the return phase, professional musicians with African origins who are operating in Italy nowadays will be interviewed. Besides, the contemporary philosophical approach (such as the pioneer study of Adriana Cavarero on social and political function of the voices) will be used, as well as linguistic analyses, in order to enlighten the role of vocal styles in negotiating cultural identities.

In addition to academic outcomes, research will implement a map of the performed vocal styles to be showed in a specific website. Furthermore, a documentary, focusing on African-American and African-European vocal styles, will be released.

  1. Tracing the presence – both hystorical and geographical – of African related vocal styles.
  2. Understanding how African related vocal styles are taking part in reshaping new cultural identities in the frame of African diaspora (in America and in Europe).
  3. Analysing the singing voice as a complex vehicle of expression, not only a musical instrument nor just a means to transmit the words.

The first objective will produce a book and scientific articles on the topic, where the different vocal styles, and the variety of individual and collective approaches will be shown. The second objective will carry to the production of a website and a documentary, where all the interviews will be collected, in order to show the role of African related vocal styles in reshaping cultural identities. The third objectives is related to the possibility that such a project will generate a multidisciplinary dialogue on the voice. A dialogue that could bring considerable improvement to many disciplines connected to the topic, such as speech therapy, phonology, linguistics, music teaching, etc.