International Council for Traditions of Music and Dance

A Non-Governmental Organization in Formal Consultative Relations with UNESCO

Winners of the 2021 ICTM Prizes

The International Council for Traditional Music is pleased to announce the 2021 prizes for Best Article, Best Book, and Best Documentary Film or Video. Details on each of the winning submissions are followed by comments from the members of the three subcommittees.

Prize Committee: J. Lawrence Witzleben (chair), Brian Diettrich, Lee Tong Soon, Razia Sultanova, Louise Wrazen

Article Prize Subcommittee: Brian Diettrich (chair), Clare Chan, Tyler Yamin

Book Prize Subcommittee: J. Lawrence Witzleben (chair), Beverley Diamond, Kirsty Gillespie, Lonán ÓBriain, Sean Williams

Documentary Film or Video Prize Subcommittee: Razia Sultanova (chair), Qiaoqiao Cheng, Leonardo D’Amico

Best Article


“Fostering Reconciliation through Collaborative Research in Unama’ki: Engaging Communities through Indigenous Methodologies and Research-Creation.” By Marcia Ostashewski, Shaylene Johnson, Graham Marshall, and Clifford PaulYearbook for Traditional Music 52, 2020: 23-40. 

  • This article is exemplary as a model collaborative approach in music research, by addressing new methodologies for work and lives within community.
  • The co-authors open new space to further decolonize ethnomusicology in their approach, methodology, and collaboration.  
  • The article is very timely in re-imagining our roles and responsibilities within communities and practices.

Honourable Mention

“Central Australian Aboriginal Songs and Biocultural Knowledge: Evidence from Women’s Ceremonies Relating to Edible Seeds.” By Georgia Curran, Linda Barwick, Myfany Turpin, Fiona Walsh, and Mary LaughrenJournal of Ethnobiology 39(3), 2019: 354–370.

  • The committee was impressed with the article’s attention to song and environment in new innovative aspects of research.
  • The article opens up new methodologies for exploring connections and synergies between Indigenous knowledge and the sciences.
  • The co-authors offer avenues of collaborative research with Indigenous communities and advocacy for Indigenous song knowledge. 

Best Book


Sonic Ethnography: Identity, Heritage and Creative Research Practice in Basilicata, Southern Italy, by Lorenzo Ferrarini and Nicola Scaldaferri (Manchester University Press, 2020)

  • "Ferrarini and Scaldaferri present a rich account of a musical culture and region relatively ignored in ethnomusicology, anthropology, and sound studies. They do so using text, image, and sound in equal parts to bring these cultural practices to life"
  • "This is a sublime and exhilarating work. Its multi-faceted, multi-media approach is truly breathtaking; the photography itself conveys sound just as much as the text and sound files do"
  • In the authors' own words, Sonic ethnography demonstrates how acoustic tradition is made and disrupted and acoustic communities are brought together in shared temporality and space"
  • "The sensory submersion into cultural practice has the effect of bringing the audience in as participants; a truly successful way of imparting knowledge and experience"
  • "Their thoughtful reflections on methodology and theoretical musings provide a wealth of insights on cultural politics, heritage policies, arts practice research, creative interventions, and photography in anthropology"
  • "It is experiential, exciting, and a genuine pleasure to read"

Honourable Mention

After the Dance, the Drums are Heavy: Carnival, Politics, and Musical Engagement in Haiti, by Rebecca Dirksen (2020, Oxford University Press)

  • "This book offers a you-are-there sensibility of living and musicking in Haiti, unfolding over time and space"
  • "Dirksen presents a model example of close listening for contemporary ethnomusicologists . . . The writing is poetically framed with techniques from the Caribbean literary movement of Spiralism"
  • "Dirksen's book is beautifully written, with a flowing narrative"
  • "Throughout the book she engages in a kind of vital conversation with other voices: Kreyòl- and English-speakers, living and dead scholars, Haitians and non-Haitians. This approach gives us a strong sense of local ideas, and offers a process of decolonization of access"

Honourable Mention

Ritual Soundings: Women Performers and World Religions, by Sarah Weiss (2019, University of Illinois Press)

  • "It is an absolutely fascinating drawing together of disparate vignettes in a cohesive recognition of the huge shadow culture of women’s agency in world religions"
  • "Her sensitive contextualisation, description, and juxtaposition of the case studies gently unravels diverse arguments on religious exceptionalism and reveals how women’s agency animates ritual practice"
  • As Weiss astutely observes, "Far from peripheral to the practice of religion in a particular place, women’s activities are instrumental in focusing and shaping local variants of the practice of world religions around the globe"
  • "The afterword conveys an important message: that people from different religious backgrounds might be able to value one another more once they realise the similarities they share"

Best Documentary Film or Video


Sakthi Vibrations, directed by Zoe Sherinian (2019)

  • Shot in observational style and adopting a participatory method of conducting fieldwork, Sakhti Vibrations offers the viewer a visual/audiovisual ethnography of the musical practices of the Dalit women, also known as “untouchable,” one of the most vulnerable and oppressed groups of women in the world. The narrative film directed by Zoe Sherinian interweaves scenes of performances by and conversations with singers and teachers while bringing to light musical practices of the Sakhti community not examined before by ethnomusicologists. Through observations of their activities, emotions, and worldview in a social educational institution, the exemplary ethnographic film reveals how music and dance heal and empower the Dalit women of India.

Honourable Mention

Kiraiñia (Long Flutes) directed by Juan Castrillon (2019)

  • This ethnographic documentary focuses on the kiraiñia, a long flute from the Cubeo musical culture, and the rich cultural heritage of the indigenous communities in Vaupés, Colombia. The film poses questions about the preservation and revival of disappearing music via personal narratives and deconstructing colonial ideology. Structured as a journey into memory with the testimonies of the bearers of culture as the main subject, the documentary directed by Juan Castrillon is both a reflection of the role of the ethnomusicologist as a catalyst of a revivalist process and the community’s attempt to restore its cultural heritage.