Special Fulbright awarded to Vanderbilt ethnomusicologist

May 16, 2002

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The United States Fulbright Scholar Program has awarded a special field research award to Greg Barz, assistant professor of musicology (ethnomusicology) and professor of religious music at Vanderbilt, to continue his research documenting the links between a recent decline in Uganda’s HIV infection rate and the efforts of women’s performance groups in poor villages.

“Dr. Barz is one of four United States scholars to have been offered an African Regional Research Program award in AIDS and AIDS-related research for 2002-03,” said Debra Egan, assistant director for the African/Western Hemisphere Unit, Council for International Exchange of Scholars (CIES).

The Fulbright grant will fund up to nine months of additional field research beginning this summer.

What began three years ago as a traditional research trip documenting indigenous, male-dominated music traditions in the Lake Victoria region of Central Africa, took an unanticipated turn when Barz was confronted by women using similar methods to educate other women and children about AIDS. With funding from Vanderbilt, Barz returned to the region last summer to focus on the links between such efforts by women across the region and the success Uganda has had in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

The World Health Organization estimates more than 28.1 million adults and children were living with AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa at the end of 2001.

“With limited access to education, electricity or radios, for many, essential information is only available through song texts performed by local women’s groups,” said Barz. “The methods are effective because the locally popular music and dance forms use the dynamic rhythms to attract a crowd in small villages and then rely on straightforward, often graphic, lyrics to de-stigmatize HIV, debunk myths and overcome sexual and religious taboos.

“We can learn a lot from their example,” he said.

The Fulbright Program is considered the flagship of the United States government’s international educational exchange programs. In the aftermath of World War II, freshman Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas proposed the program as a much-needed vehicle for promoting “mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries of the world.” The program was established by an act of Congress and signed into law by President Truman in 1946.

The program is sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. CIES assists the State Department in the administration of the Fulbright Scholar Program for faculty and professionals.

NOTE: More information on Barz’ research, including music and video samples of the women’s performances, is available in Vanderbilt’s on-line research journal Exploration at exploration.vanderbilt.edu. A high resolution photo of Barz is available via e-mail at: david.glasgow@vanderbilt.edu.

Contact: David Glasgow, (615) 322-NEWS

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