Dr. Robin Attas presents her paper titled "The Many Paths of Decolonization: Exploring Colonizing and Decolonizing Analyses of A Tribe Called Red’s “How I Feel".
Despite ongoing calls for diversity in music theory pedagogy and analysis, for the decolonization of music research societies, and for the decolonization of academia more broadly, music theory seems slow to change. Perhaps this is partly because the field’s researchers are predominantly white and focused primarily on the repertoire and analytical techniques of Western Europe. Yet these should not be excuses. This presentation calls the discipline to action, not by providing definitive answers, but by showing that decolonization begins by asking appropriate questions. Using a case analysis of “How I Feel” by Indigenous DJ collective A Tribe Called Red, I focus on a particular kind of decolonization, considering the relationship between a white settler researcher and Indigenous musicians in present-day Canada. I begin by presenting typical analytical starting places (the song’s large-scale form, pitch content, texture, and rapped flow) before explaining how the preliminary analysis (and the sketch of the discipline it represents) might be seen as colonial and insufficient, given the dominance of a particular culturally-situated understanding of music and analysis. Drawing from Indigenous and settler scholars in multiple disciplines, I explore several research questions that could rebalance the analysis, and by extension the discipline, towards decolonizing and Indigenizing musical perspectives. By outlining numerous analytical strategies, I present a view of decolonization as a process, open the discipline to multiple perspectives, and inspire action among theorists to reconsider biases and decolonize analysis in their own local contexts.
Robin Attas is a settler educational developer on Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe territory at the Centre for Teaching and Learning at Queen's University. She is also cross-appointed in Queen's University's Dan School of Drama and Music. Prior to her current role, Robin held appointments in music theory and general education at Mount Allison University, Elon University, and the University of British Columbia. Her research on topics including popular music analysis, social justice and music theory, and music theory pedagogy has been published in journals including Music Theory Online, Music Theory Spectrum, the Canadian Journal of Higher Education, Music Theory Pedagogy, College Music Symposium, and MUSICultures.