Sonic Returns: Repatriating Sounds in Exile

Sonic Returns: Repatriating Sounds in Exile is a project of the Sonic Entaglements research initiative funded by the Dutch Scientific Research Organization and housed in the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis and the Department of Theatre Studies at the University of Amsterdam. The wider project seeks to interrogate the colonial history of Southeast Asia through research and archival practices in music, performance, and sound.

Sonic Returns was a series of events organized by Sonic Entanglements and Decoseas held at SOAS, University of London, chiefly dealing with issues in repatriating and digitizing Southeast Asian historical sound recordings. Notable events included Prof. Verne de la Peña’s presentation of the repatriation project in the University of the Philippines’ Center for Ethnomusicology, a conversation between MeLê Yamomo and Cristina Juan about their digitization work with Decoseas and other initiatives, as well as other archival encounters, lectures, and panel discussions. The goal of this project was to analyze and discuss ways of better connecting historical sound heritage and sound archives with their communities, not simply repatriating colonial sound archives but also reconnecting them with the collective memory of the communities that keep them alive. Through its series of presentations, Sonic Returns seeks to ask the question: “Are these recorded voices, music, and sound cultures just in exile, waiting for their return to their communities?”