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Is there popular music out there?

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Is European popular music actually ‘popular music’? Of course it is, especially if we consider that the United Kingdom is part of Europe. But perhaps the question should be formulated as follows: ‘Is continental European popular music actually “popular music”?’ Yes, if we consider that the first conference on popular music research was held in Amsterdam and offered a number of papers on non-Anglophone popular music, that IASPM was established in Sweden, that its second conference (titled What is Popular Music?) was held in Italy, that many popular music scholars are based in continental European countries, and many of them study their local genres and scenes. However, those genres and scenes are not called, in local languages, ‘popular music’, and only a semi-informal international convention made continental European scholars adopt the English term for their object of study. On the other hand, there are also many signs that Anglophone scholars, when they use the expression ‘popular music’, tend to refer to Anglo-American popular music, and incline to call other popular musics ‘world music’. Of course, the issue is not just about linguistic usage: in the article examples both from the media and the academia are commented, and their ideological implications are discussed.
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Keywords: colonialism; commonsense; ethnocentricity; genre; ideology; popular music studies

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Turin

Publication date: April 1, 2013

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  • The Journal of European Popular Culture investigates the creative cultures of Europe, present and past. Exploring European popular imagery, media, new media, film, music, art and design, architecture, drama and dance, fine art, literature and the writing arts, and more, the journal is also of interest to those considering the influence of European creativity and European creative artefacts worldwide.
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