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Justice Forum: Music of the Oppressed

Public Humanities, Justice Forum

dateApril 3, 2024 timeWednesday, 6:15pm EDT location Casa Hispanica, Room 201, Columbia University locationVirtual Event
  • African American and African Diaspora Studies
  • The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities
  • Department of Classics
  • Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures
  • Department of Music
  • Stavros Niarchos Foundation Public Humanities Initiative (SNFPHI)
  • Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life
  • Tamer Center for Social Enterprise
  • Sing Sing Prison Museum
  • Justice-in-Education
email address [email protected]
  • Free and open to the public
  • Registration required. See details.
Musical instruments of the Marutse

Music of the Oppressed: Tradition, Un-tradition, and the Unschooling of Music.
Helga Davis and Alkinoos Ioannidis in Conversation

Helga Davis and Alkinoos Ioannidis have independently of each other engaged with the question of music as political engagement from the vantage point of the creator and the performer, especially with what could be called, a la Paulo Freire, “music of the oppressed." They have been articulating this question in the music that they create and perform, especially from within the context of what constitutes “tradition” in musical education and what the role of the Classics can be in the production of modern music. As teachers, they have taken these questions to their students actively facing the challenges of what it takes to un-school children in music and school them again in a music project that is emancipatory (or e-womancipatory, e-humancipatory) utilizing the long tradition of humanity (mythology, in the case of Helga Davis, or "traditional" music, as Alkinoos Ioannidis does). They are both engaged in reorienting music for children as a pedagogical project, teaching them what music can do for humanity.

Moderated by Stathis Gourgouris, this dialogue will cover what can be possible for music on the stitches, borders, and folds of its being.

This is a joint event with Leros Humanism Seminars (LHS/ΣΛ), a project of Columbia Global Centers, Athens.


Helga Davis, a Harlem native, is a multifaceted, critically acclaimed artist, curator, and cultural convener widely respected for her expansive creative practices. She is currently an inaugural advisor to Brown University Arts Institute, working on curatorial and programming initiatives, and a Teaching Artist/Mentor for The Park Avenue Armory Youth Corps. In Spring 2023, she was commissioned by the National Sawdust/Onassis Foundation to write a work based on C.P. Cavafy's poetry for a children’s choir and orchestra, featuring herself as soloist and conductor. Between 2019 and 2022, she was a Mellon Foundation-funded Creative Futures Fellow at UNC Chapel Hill. Her eponymously named New York Public Radio podcast, Helga, now in its sixth season, unfolds as a long-form conversation engaging artists across disciplines to explore current cultural issues with rare candor. She is the winner of the 2019 Greenfield Prize in composition and a 2019 Alpert Award finalist. Her new artistic venture is the study and application of CONDUCTION, a method of spontaneous composition developed by Lawrence Douglas “Butch” Morris. Helga was a principal performer in the 25th anniversary revival of Robert Wilson and Philip Glass's Einstein on The Beach; in Robert Wilson and Berniece Johnson Reagon’s The Temptation of St. Anthony; Toshi Reagon’s Parable of the Sower; and in Courtney Bryan’s Yet Unheard, among many others. As a curator, she developed performances at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and recently completed a three-year position as the Visiting Curator for the Performing Arts at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. She has collaborated with Nick Cave, Claudia Rankine, David Byrne, Bill T. Jones, Solange, Glenn Ligon, and many others. She serves on the Board of the Jerome Foundation.

Alkinoos Ioannidis was born in Nicosia, Cyprus. He studied classical guitar at the European Conservatory. In 1989, he moved to Athens, Greece, where he spent the next three years studying theatre at the National Theatre Drama School and philosophy at Athens University. In 1993, he signed to Universal Music. As a singer-songwriter, he has released eleven solo albums, most of which have gone gold or platinum. As a guest singer, he has performed on more than 40 albums with various artists. He has also written music for dance and theater, while his symphonic work is often performed by orchestras in Greece and abroad. His influences range from traditional Cypriot music, Greek composers of the last decades, Byzantine, Classical, and Rock. His classical work was performed at the Berlin Philharmonie Kammermusiksaal, by the Camerata Europaea and Ernst Senf Chor, and at the Athens Concert Hall, with the Cyprus Symphony Orchestra. His work was been the opening concert of the "White Nights" Festival of Petrozavodsk, Russia, with the Karelia Philharmonic Orchestra, presented by The Hermitage Symphony Orchestra in St. Petersburg's Philarmonia, and in Germany by Thuringer Symphoniker. He is also the flutist, percussionist, and singer of the avant-garde group FMS (Friends of Miltos Sahtouris). Alkinoos Ioannidis has worked as an actor, playing leading roles in ancient drama at the Epidaurus Theater in Greece, and more recently, has been working with youth musicians in Greece (Volos and Leros).


Stathis Gourgouris is a poet, essayist, translator, sound artist, and professor of Classics, English, and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He writes opinion pieces on contemporary politics and culture in newspapers and internet media in both Greek and English. He is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2022, a former president of the Modern Greek Studies Association, and a former director of the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society at Columbia (2009-2015). He is a member of the Sublamental Artists Collective, which releases his music and sound art compositions under the name of Count G.