Programme: Musicology - MMus

Year: 2009

After a "magical" year studying Musicology in Edinburgh, Dr Cara Stacey knew she wanted to work in African music and focus on musical performance. She has completed two further degrees and released two albums.

Your time at studying Musicology

When I came to enrol for my Masters in Musicology at Edinburgh, I had never been to the United Kingdom. I had never left the African continent for an extended period of time and I had never lived in a cold country. I was nervous. Despite this, I had the most magical year – a year I think of often and think back on as pivotal for my intellectual and personal development. It was a year of incredibly hard work, beautiful countryside trips, and total emersion into the musical life of the city.

The music department exposed me to electroacoustic music and historical musicology which I hadn’t had any experience of before in my studies. I attended incredible early music choral concerts in the various churches across the city, and towards the end of my studies, I volunteered for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and got to attend incredible symphonic concerts of the highest quality. I worked at the Christmas Market and drank mead to keep warm in the wet, cold at the end of long days. I went to folk sessions in various pubs and heard incredibly beautiful songs which I still think of today.

I learned and did so much with my fellow students and friends, but I think my best memories are solitary ones: practising the piano early in the morning in the quiet basement practice rooms; studying in incredibly old, dark buildings; exploring the city and country with my own thoughts, processing everything I was learning.

Your experiences since leaving

Whilst at Edinburgh, I got to study with Professor Simon Frith and that was important to me. I came back from my programme with some clear direction: I wanted to work in African music and to focus on musical performance. I lived in Cape Town briefly and then went to SOAS to enrol in their Masters in Performance programme.

After that, I returned to the University of Cape Town to register for my PhD specialising in indigenous music in the Kingdom of eSwatini (where I grew up), supervised by Professor Sylvia Bruinders. I was awarded a Commonwealth Split-Site grant which allowed me to do half of my PhD at SOAS under Dr Angela Impey, a notable Africanist ethnomusicologist who works in eSwatini as well.

Cara Stacey & Camilo Ángeles - Stolenboosch
[Merlin] KudosRecords (on behalf of Kit Records)

"...take absolute advantage of the rich intellectual and research heritage of Edinburgh University, and also to make the most of the city and Scotland broadly. There is so much to be gained from working very hard and living to the fullest in that city."

Cara Stacey, 2009 MMus - Musicology alumna

Since completing my PhD, I have lectured at the University of Cape Town on a part-time basis and now have a postdoc fellowship as part of the interdisciplinary and inter-institutional research project “Recentring Afro-Asia: Musical and Human Migrations in the Precolonial Period 700-1500AD”. I have been granted the African Humanities Postdoctoral fellowship for 2019 and so will be working on developing a book manuscript from my PhD research.

Beyond my academic research, I am an active musician and composer. Since my time at Edinburgh, I have released two albums on the UK-based label Kit Records and have collaborated with many interesting musicians. I have been lucky enough to be granted various artistic residencies in South Africa, the USA, Switzerland and Brazil. I look back at my time in Edinburgh as the moment when I clarified my interests, musically and academically, and so much of what has happened for me professionally stems from that period. I wish I could return regularly to that special place, but it is unfortunately on the other side of the globe from my current home.

Alumni wisdom

I would simultaneously advise current students to take absolute advantage of the rich intellectual and research heritage of Edinburgh University, and also to make the most of the city and Scotland broadly. There is so much to be gained from working very hard and living to the fullest in that city.

Cara's profile was first published on the University of Edinburgh Alumni page


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