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Collecting music, collecting life stories: The Cypriot Fiddler project




Speaker: Nicoletta Demetriou (University of Oxford)


In 2005, as part of my PhD fieldwork in ethnomusicology, I went back to Cyprus to do a series of interviews with elderly folk musicians. I was then interested in a group of folk songs. While interviewing these musicians on the folk songs I was studying, I would also ask them to tell me a few words about the lives they had led as professional instrumentalists in Cyprus in the mid-twentieth century. Their stories revealed far more than I could have imagined. They revealed not only the stories of individual musicians, but also the story of a distinct professional class that had, by then, all but ceased to exist. I made a note of these stories not really knowing why at the time. In 2012, as part of my new research in ethnomusicology and life writing at Wolfson College, Oxford, I decided to revisit them.

In this seminar I will discuss The Cypriot Fiddler project, my attempt to record the stories of Cyprus's last surviving traditional fiddlers both in writing and in a documentary. I will talk about what musicians' life stories can tell us about the music and society we are looking at, and about the importance of letting musicians tell their own story, in their own words. Finally, I will also show extracts from The Cypriot Fiddler documentary, released in April 2016, and made possible with funding entirely collected through an online crowd-sourcing campaign.


Nicoletta Demetriou is Research Fellow in Ethnomusicology and Life Writing at Wolfson College, University of Oxford, and Tutor in Narrative Non-Fiction on Oxford’s MSt in Creative Writing. She has written on Cypriot traditional music, its history and historiography, and is co-editor, with Jim Samson, of Music in Cyprus (Ashgate 2015).

The Cypriot Fiddler project was funded by a British Academy/Leverhulme Trust Small Research Grant, while The Cypriot Fiddler documentary (2016) was entirely funded by members of the public through an online crowd-sourcing campaign. In 2015, The Cypriot Fiddler project was chosen by the British Academy as a case study, and was profiled on the Academy’s blog.

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When & where

5.30pm - 7.30pmWednesday 25th January 2017

AG09 College Building City, University of London St John Street London EC1V 4PB United Kingdom