Allison Adrian’s interest in music from the Andes region in South America stretches more than two decades. However, the ethnomusicologist and assistant professor of music and women’s studies at St. Catherine University has yet to conduct fieldwork in this geographic area. That will soon change.
Adrian was recently named a 2015–16 Fulbright U.S. scholar. Her grant will help fund a yearlong sabbatical in which she will research the music of Cañar and Saraguro, two indigenous communities in southern Ecuador, and study how changes in the music-making has affected the women and children.
“Music in Ecuador has not received the academic attention it warrants,” she says. “My research will help document some of its indigenous musical traditions, create a more robust record of music-making in the southern portion of the country, and help contribute to a more comprehensive portrait of Ecuador’s musical world.”
There is currently no published scholarship on Cañari music. While there are scholarly texts about music making in Saraguro, explains Adrian, most were written in the ’90s and deal with musical practices that are strikingly different from those currently practiced in Cañar.
Adrian, who is proficient in Spanish, will collaborate with author, photographer and Cañar resident Judy Blankenship. She will also tap the expertise and historical resources at Museo Pumapungo during her time in Ecuador, as well as the faculty at Universidad de Cuenca.
“Judy has been documenting Cañari life for over a decade, and is an established and trusted figure in the community,” Adrian says. “I am grateful for her assistance because it will facilitate access to a group of people that has learned to be suspicious of outsiders.”
Adrian will produce a collection of audio recordings and a short documentary film by the end of 2016. She also plans to share her qualitative findings in scholarly journals.
“This international opportunity to conduct research is the fulfillment of a dream that began when I was in high school,” writes Adrian, in her winning Fulbright proposal. “In addition, the project has the potential to make significant contributions to indigenous and academic communities alike.”
By Pauline Oo