Skip to content
Skip to navigation menu

Dr Amanda Villepastour


Amanda Villepastour Position: Lecturer Email:
Telephone: +44(0)29 208 76226
Fax: +44(0)29 208 74379
Extension: 76226
Location: 33 Corbett Road (Annexe), Room 2.02

Dr Amanda Villepastour is currently Chair of the British Forum for Ethnomusicology. She is a graduate of the University of Western Australia (BMus, composition) and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London (MMus, PhD ethnomusicology), where she completed her PhD in 2006. Her research interests include the music of Africa and the African diaspora (with a focus on the Yorùbá), gender, linguistics, religion and music, organology and popular music. Dr Villepastour’s first monograph entitled Ancient Text Messages of the Yorùbá Bata Drum: Cracking the Code (Ashgate, 2010) is a linguistic study of the drum’s speech surrogacy system. Her forthcoming book entitled Wood that Talks: The Yorùbá God of Drumming in Transatlantic Perspective (University Press of Mississippi) is a multi-disciplinary edited collection about a transatlantic religious drumming tradition in Nigeria and Cuba. She is currently undertaking research in Cuba and Reunion Island.

Before coming to Cardiff, Dr Villepastour was a founding curator at the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) in Phoenix, Arizona, where she built the African collection and gallery. Prior to MIM, she was Ethnomusicology Instructor at Bowling Green State University. Dr Villepastour was awarded two consecutive postdoctoral fellowships at SOAS, University of London (2006–2007) and the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC (2008). Before her re-entry into academia in the mid-1990s, Dr Villepastour had a prestigious career as a keyboardist in the popular music industry, writing, recording and touring with British artists including Boy George, Billy Bragg and The Gang of Four.

At an undergraduate level, Dr Villepastour currently co-teaches the following courses and seminars: ‘Music in Human Life’ (Year 1), ‘Music in Cross-Cultural Perspective (Year 2) and ‘Project in Ethnomusicology’ (Year 3). At a postgraduate level, she teaches: ‘Music in Africa’, ‘Methods in Ethnomusicology’, and ‘Music and Language’. She chairs the Postgraduate Forum and co-ordinates the Guinean ensemble called Lanyi and also The Gamelan Ensemble (commencing October 2014).



(ed.), Wood that Talks: The Yorùbá God of Drumming in Transatlantic Perspective (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, forthcoming)

‘Talking Tones and Singing Speech’, Jahrbuch des Phonogrammarchivs der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 4 (forthcoming)



Ancient Text Messages of the Yorb Bt Drum: Cracking the Code (Farnham & Burlington: Ashgate, 2010)

Book Chapters, Journal Articles and Published Papers

‘Leading from the Inside: The Voice of Cuban Priestess Amelia Pedroso’, in Ruth Hellier-Tinico (ed.), Women Singers in Global Contexts: Music, Biography, Identity (Bloomington; Indianapolis: University of Illinois Press, 2013), 54–72

Review of Fiddling in West Africa: Touching the Spirit in Fulbe, Hausa, and Dagbamba Cultures, by Jacqueline Cogdell DjeDje, Notes, 66/2 (2009), 284–86

‘Two Heads of the Same Drum? Musical Narratives within a Transatlantic Religion’, Journal of Transatlantic Studies, 7/3 (2009), 343–362

Other Output

Entries on Yorùbá musical instruments in the Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments, Oxford University Press.

Journalistic articles and reviews in Straight No Chaser (1999–2003) and Glendora Review (2003).



Amanda Villepastour has researched diverse comparative aspects of Yorùbá music in Nigeria and Cuba, including technical studies of drum language and melody setting, and Yorùbá gesture and dance. She has also undertaken extensive transatlantic ethnographic and musicological research of orisha music and religion, employing interdisciplinary methods drawn from ethnomusicology, organology, linguistics, anthropology and religious studies. Beyond her specialized research of Yorùbá music and religion, Amanda has wide interests in Africa where she has travelled extensively. She is currently researching maloya music in Réunion, and is also working towards publishing her experience in 1980s pop music.

Research Papers, Public Lectures and Performances

‘Performing Memory: Reconstructing a Transatlantic Sea Goddess through Song’, paper presented at the Atlantic Sounds International Conference, Liverpool University, March 2014

Interview for BBC Radio 4 documentary, ‘A Portrait of Dancer and Choreographer Idrissa Camara’, March 2014

‘Ethnography of a Sidewoman’, paper presented at the Department of Popular Culture Colloquium, Bowling Green State University, November 2013

Interview for BBC Radio 4 documentary, ‘The Science of Music’, June 2013

‘Ethnography of a Sidewoman’, Ethnomusicology seminar at Oxford University, May 2013

‘Talking Tones and Singing Speech’, John Bird lecture at Cardiff University, December 2012

‘Giving Voice to Musical Instruments in an African Gallery’, lecture at the Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford, May 2012

‘Moving Song and Singing Moves in Transatlantic Yorùbá Music’, paper presented at the Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM) annual meeting, Philadelphia, November 2011

‘Yorùbá Òrìsà Songs in Transatlantic Perspective’, public lecture at the Institute for African Studies, University of Ibadan, Nigeria, July 2011

‘Video Production and Use at the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM), Phoenix: A Case History’, paper presented at the British Forum for Ethnomusicology (BFE) annual meeting, Falmouth, April 2011

‘Anthropomorphizing Àyàn: Gender in Àyàn Initiation, Taboo and Possession’, paper presented at the African Studies Association (ASA) annual meeting, San Francisco, November 2010

‘Yorùbá Melodic Structure in Transatlantic Perspective’, paper presented at the Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM) annual meeting, Los Angeles, November 2010

‘When Vocables Become Language: Transatlantic Bata Vocables as Identity Markers’, paper presented at the Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM) annual meeting, Mexico City, November 2009

‘The Bata Drum in Transatlantic Perspective’, two public lectures at the Explorations in Afro-Cuban Dance and Drum annual meeting, Humboldt State University, Humboldt, July 2009

‘Playing with Power’, public lecture at Women Drummers International annual meeting (entitled ‘Born to Drum’), Petaluma, California, July 2009

‘No Clause 28 and the Coming Out of Boy George’, paper presented at the EMP Pop Conference, Seattle, April 2009

‘Crossing the Divide: Bridging Ethnomusicology Theory and Mainstream Teacher Training’, paper presented at the Cultural Diversity in Music Education (CDIME) annual meeting, Seattle, March 2008