CONNER SINGH VANDERBEEK
ethnomusicologist // media artist
Essays and Articles
2016. Singhs on the Small Screen. A Northwestern University Undergraduate Research Blog. https://blog.undergradresearch.northwestern.edu/blog/conner/
This research blog explores Sikh cultural performance and politics at the 2015 Nagar Kirtan in Yuba City, California, and during the 2014 Liberal Party of Canada MP primaries in Brampton, Ontario. Singhs on the Small Screen was made possible by a Northwestern University Undergraduate Research Grant.
2016. “Sunday, baṛī* Sunday: An Ethnography of the Gurdwara Sahib of Chicago.” In Northwestern Undergraduate Research Journal “2015-2016 ‘Best Senior Theses’” Issue, 73-77. https://issuu.com/nurj/docs/creative_116pg_r2
This is an abridged version of my undergraduate thesis, "Sunday, bari, Sunday: An Ethnography of the Gurdwara Sahib of Chicago," which won the Hsu-Wigmore Prize for Best Thesis in Asian Studies. In it, I explore the role and composition of Sikh sacred music (kirtan), along with the structure and flow of the standard Sikh Sunday service.
2017. “Who belongs in the Indian city? – an experiment in defining Indian urbanity.” Culture Monks. https://culturemonks.in/2019/08/05/who-belongs-in-the-indian-city-an-experiment-in-defining-indian-urbanity-by-conner-singh-vanderbeek/
This essay is part of Urban Body : entrapments & releases, a series by Culture Monks, an experimental art/theater/intellectual movement based in Calcutta. Urban Body explores the ways in which Indian urbanity destroy the souls of individuals, and how to move from that: "Writings which helps us to negotiate, envision and determine – to love , to live and progress as individuals & as a collective, in and from – this urban dystopia."
2019. “Changing brands, shifting sites and sights: A reflection on 5X Festival’s programming challenges.” In Rungh, Vol. 6, No. 4. https://rungh.org/changing-brands-shifting-sites-and-sights/.
This article discusses challenges faced by 5X Festival, a diasporic South Asian arts festival held in Vancouver and Surrey, BC, each year. These challenges are reflective of tensions in multicultural societies wherein ethnic minorities are encouraged to express themselves in the cultural mainstream but are then almost always pigeonholed into their perceived ethnic identities.
2019. “To be a child of diaspora: The irreconcilable outsider in Sikh discourse.” In Sikh Formations, 16:1 (2019-20), https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17448727.2018.1545192.
This article, which is published in Sikh Formations, explores the conflict between hegemonic Sikh identity politics in diaspora and the fact that diaspora constantly generates difference and fluidity of identities. It is written in response to Michael Nijhawan's 2016 The Precarious Diasporas of Sikh and Ahmadiyya Generations.
2020. “No drone zone, pushing stylistic boundaries: Mohamed Assani's Wayfinder reviewed.” In Rungh, Vol. 7, No. 3. https://rungh.org/no-drone-zone-pushing-stylistic-boundaries/.
I discuss Mohamed Assani's Wayfinder -- a fusion album of sitar conversing with idioms of Western classical music, EDM, jazz, Middle Eastern music, and worldbeat -- through the lens of musical fusion and the power dynamics that label carries.
2020. “Found in Translation: Ruby Singh and the Khan Brothers’ genre-bending musical collaboration.” In Rungh, Vol 7, No 3. https://rungh.org/found-in-translation/.
I discuss Jhalaak, a collaboration between Vancouver-based rapper and emcee Ruby Singh, and the Khan brothers --19th-generation Rajasthani musicians of the Manganiyar tradition. This album blends rap, EDM, qawwali, and Rajasthani folk in a way that stays true to the musical upbringings and talents of both sides.
2020. "Mitraan da Gangster Scene": Punjabi Gangster Music and Internalized Racism in Punjabi Canada. Presented at the 65th Annual Meeting of the Society for Ethnomusicology.
Beginning with a discussion of Punjabi gangster music, I discuss the interrelationship of suspicion by the Canadian state on the Punjabi community of Surrey, BC, of negative stereotypes of new Punjabi immigrants and international students, and how artists in Canada and Punjab alike embrace this negative attention and channel it into a massively popular subgenre of Punjabi music.
2021. "#MovingVancouverFwd: Vancouver Culture/Shift funding revisited." In Rungh, Vol. 8, No. 4. https://rungh.org/movingvancouverfwd/.
This article explores the outcomes of the City of Vancouver's dual-COVID-19 arts-focused relief and Culture|Shift plans, roughly a year into each. This work is done with special attention to (1) where arts relief money is coming from and what its objectives are and (2) how Culture|Shift is addressing broader issues of programming diversity in the city.