Decolonization, Collaboration and Choral music
Hussein Janmohamed

Workshop description
description Lise Vaugeois (2007, 2009, 2013) interrogates colonial ideologies and modus operandi
as they appear in Western classical music (including choral music). She describes musical practices as patriarchal, top down, apolitical, and Western-focused. Pursuing meritocratic, universal and transcendent musical outcomes, she argues, makes absent unique cultural identities and social realities of the singers. In counterpoint, Vaugeois recommends critical approaches that use collaboration and composition—favouring cooperative, explorative, generative models of music making. For me personally, choral composition has provided pathways to express unique cultural identity; to ‘write back’ (Ashcroft, Griffiths & Tiffin, 2003) or ‘sound back’ to the status quo; and, to stand up peacefully to negative representations of my Muslim faith and heritage in musical dialogue with global and indigenous Canadian soundscapes. In this conference workshop, participants will use choral music to explore the difference between patriarchal colonial ways of being and matriarchal, de-colonized, differently occupied ones. Participants first learn formal chant-based music (including a publicly available chant by Lil’wat First Nations writer Russell Wallace) and basic compositional tools guided by the facilitator. Participants then work in small groups to re-compose the chants in sonic dialogue to create mini pieces of music. Musical and creative leadership shifts from a top down approach to one is shared, regardless of prior musical knowledge. Choral music, a Western colonial art form is used to interrogate itself; to re-translate unique cultural voices into choral textures;
to explore our relations with history (contested and friendly) and the possibilities of being in the same room together to re-imagine a decolonized and “re-matriated” (L. Maracle, personal communication, March 21, 2015) shared future with mutual respect and care.

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