Department of Social Anthropology

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Americana. Nostalgia through Tradition and Self-Expression in Music

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Master's thesis submitted at Department of Social Anthropology, spring 2015.

By: Johan Henrik Knutsen
Supervisor: Professor John Chr. Knudsen

In this thesis I explore the vague and hard to define musical genre that is often referred to as Americana music. I argue that part of the reason why it is so hard to define is exactly because there are a wide range of actors involved in making a musical genre, including businessmen and fans in addition to musicians. They all have different stakes in what is seen as good Americana music, and I argue that musicians themselves tend to avoid genre definition all together, in order to be able to draw from as many sources of inspiration as possible.

Furthermore, I argue that music that is seen as good Americana is music that is seen as authentic. There are two main ways for Americana music to be seen as authentic, “being true to the roots” and “being true to oneself”. The former is about being true to a musical tradition, and the latter about being true to one’s own creative instincts and integrity.