Department of Music & School of Arts

Professor Angela Impey

Key information

Department of Music Professor of Ethnomusicology School of Arts Director of Research Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies Member Centre of African Studies Member
B.Mus (Cape Town) BA Hons (KwaZulu Natal) PhD (Indiana), SFHEA
Russell Square: College Buildings
Email address
Telephone number
+44 (0)20 7898 4433
Support hours
Thursdays, 3:00pm–5:00pm (from Term 2)

Research interests

My current research focuses on ethno-ornithology, climate change and the soundworlds of the Africa-Eurasia flyways. Focusing on African Drylands, it aims to build epistemological and methodological coherence between disparate climate ontologies, linking remotely-sensed data on climate change with ‘intimately-sensed’ quotidian knowledge of birds and environmental conditions as curated by indigenous and local communities. It argues that local observations of avian phenology have the potential to complement scientific data with detail that may be critical for modelling climate change scenarios on a broader spatial and temporal scale.

So too may it provide valuable insight into mitigation actions that sustain the resilience of people and their biocultural systems at interconnected local, regional and global scales. The project uses sound as the portal through which we build our analysis, arguing that environmental listening is core to local ecological literacies, and sound in turn, shapes ontological performativities such as songs, language, and ritual action.

From 2002 to 2010, I researched women’s mobilities in the borderlands of South Africa, Mozambique and Eswatini where the landscape that has been dramatically reconfigured by transboundary conservation development. This research built on narratives inspired by memories of the mouth harp – an instrument that had once been widely performed by young Nguni women to accompany walking, but remembered now by elderly women only – and explored how meanings given to gendered mobilities through sound, song and song routes inflect shifting experiences of land, livelihoods and senses of belonging.

My monograph, Song Walking. Women, music, and environmental justice in an African Borderland (University of Chicago Press 2018) received American Musicology Society (AMS) Publication Subvention Award (2018), The Society for Ethnomusicology Marcia Herndon Prize (2019), First runner-up, African Studies Association Aidoo-Snyder Prize, (2019) and Sole Commendation, British Forum for Ethnomusicology Book Prize, 2020.

From 2009 to 2011, I collaborated with the Department of Linguistics at the University of Edinburgh on an AHRC-funded project, entitled ‘Metre and Melody in Dinka Speech and Song’. The project, which fell under the ‘Beyond Text: Performances, Sounds, Images, Objects’ Programme, focused on supra-segmental features in four Dinka dialect clusters in South Sudan and examined how song systems interact with the unique combinations of tone, length and voice quality specifications of the language.

The research also sought to better understand Dinka song-making as a vital form of oral history and truth-telling, which led to the publication of several journal articles and book chapters on song and transformative justice in South Sudan. Our children’s song book, which was one of the first written documents produced in Dinka orthography, was distributed to primary schools across South Sudan and the Dinka diaspora to support universal mother-tongue literacy training. All recordings from the project are available in the British Library Sound Archives.

From 2013 to 2018, I worked in west Namibia on a project entitled ‘Future Pasts: Sustainabilities and Cultural Landscapes in West Namibia’. The research was funded by a AHRC’s 'Environmental Change and Sustainability' Large Grant under the Council's ‘Care for the Future’ scheme. The project, which was a collaboration between environmental anthropologists, Sian Sullivan (PI), Chris Low and Mike Hannis (Bath Spa University) and Rick Rohde (University of Edinburgh), sought to better understand the long histories of adaptation amongst those Khoesān communities that inhabit some of the country’s most arid regions, and focused in particular on perceptions of environmental change as encoded in songs, oral narratives and healing rituals.

The project was affiliated locally with the National Museum of Namibia and the Namibian film company, Mamokobo Productions, from whom I commissioned the film, Damara Kings Festival, which was nominated for the 2017 AHRC Research in Film awards.

PhD Supervision

Name Title
Victor Max Smith Sambactivists: Protest, Performance, and Play with Activist Samba-Fusion Bands in London
Robbie Campbell Dyslexia, Sensory Ethnomusicology, and Chopi timbila Xylophone Music in Mozambique
Michael Davidson Growing Through Music: Developing Teaching For Personal and Social Outcomes within Instrumental Music Teaching in UK
Aurélie Solenne Gandour Mixed-gender barbershop singing: Shifting tradition through the performative negotiations of gender (working title)
James Anthony Gardner The Course of the Hand: Formulas, Creativity and Processes of "Improvisation" in Mande Kora Music
Mr Sam Grant Metal Music and its Relationship to Folk Music and National Identity in the Middle East
Mr Hugo Hadji Listening to New Raï: Algerian identities in the 21st century.
Ros Hawley A Reflexive Study of Music Practice in a UK Paediatric Hospital Setting
Maya Youssef A Musical Intervention with Syrian Refugee Children at the Camps


Contact Angela