Interview with Mike Hajimichael
Mike Hajimichael is an Associate Professor at the University of Nicosia in the Department of Communications. His PhD was in Cultural Studies at The Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS) in England. Besides being an academic, Mike is also a performance poet, recording artist, radio presenter and freelance writer. These experiences have enhanced and informed his writing and research for the last two decades. Mike is particularly interested in art and social justice, media literacy, citizen media, colonial writing/texts, applied ethnomusicology and the impact of technology on creative processes. He also produces a weekly radio show ‘Outernational’ which is played on 5 different stations in various countries.
Describe a fond childhood memory.
Picking Konara with a friend in the fields around Marathovouno and trying to sell them for 1 bakira so we could make enough money to buy an ice cream – must have been around 1964… I was 4 years old!
How did you get into reggae music?
It’s a long story…Reggae got into me…It’s a music that stays with you for life and as a student in Thatcher’s England, Reggae was the music raising questions about racism, unemployment and injustice. It was a music that expressed the times we was in. It’s also a music that is not a passing fad or fashion, once you are into it, that’s it…lifelong affiliation.
You are Associate Professor of Communications at the University of Nicosia and a performer. Are these two careers compatible?
Yes and no…It’s good to be able to be an organic part of the things I study some times and as much of my writing is on popular music forms and how people create, living as a musician adds to a pursuit of auto-ethnography that is real and lived. On the other hand, some times the two don’t mix so much physically. The hours for example, the time I used to go to bed as a DJ in London, say 5:30 a.m. after a gig in Birmingham, is now the time I now wake up to get the kids to school. So being a performer for me now is more of a passion than a career as I have chosen a more academic track in life…I still DJ, I still create songs, do gigs, but only what I want to do and when I can do them time-wise.
Music brings people together. But is coming together in one place enough to effectuate change in society?
Depends really on the impact. Anyone who thinks music in itself can change the world is a fool. For change to happen it has to come from masses of people moving towards certain goals. So movements make change and music, if it can have a link with this public sphere of resistance, can play an important role. A good example of this is Rock Against Racism (RAR), The Anti-Nazi League (ANL) and School Kids Against Nazis (SKAN), which were all very active in the UK in the 1970s and 80s. Rock Against Racism played an important role in mobilizing hundreds of thousands of people against the rise of the far right in the UK. Something like this is really needed today, when racism is on the rise throughout Europe.
How can the arts promote diversity in Cyprus?
Art can only be art if it is diverse. When there is no diversity, then we have a dictated form of art. I feel diversity is not practiced in effect by certain institutions, like The Ministry of Education and Culture. They always promote and fund what I would call ‘high art’ elitist events, and not local music, which is rich and diverse. This is true for many promoters and organizations. So diversity comes from the people naturally, from a wide range of music sounds and scenes that are, despite all the current odds, able to survive.
What changes would you like to witness in the Cyprus music scene?
Too many…I could write a book on this…First of all music in Cyprus has to be recognized and supported, which it is not. This applies to funders, promoters, radio stations, TV and other media. Many groups and artists are more well-known and supported outside of Cyprus. Does any radio station for instance have a radio show which plays only locally made music, whatever it may be? Does any TV station have a proper music show, which features a diverse range of local artists? Until the music is recognized and supported properly, and by this I also mean the state itself has to have a proper and effective policy on music, then not much can change. I would also like to see a change in music education at all levels because what exists in Cyprus from school right through to University is not what should exist for people to have opportunities and jobs locally in music. What’s the point of studying music as notation when all you can do is teach it as notation in the future?
Tell us about your ongoing and upcoming projects.
For the last 18 months I have engaged in a 2-stage project called ‘From Cyprus to Fukushima’-‘From Fukushima to Cyprus’. This was done through crowd funding on www.gofundme.com We went to Japan last fall and this summer our friends from Direct Impact, a Reggae sound and label, came to Cyprus. I have recently taken part in an online net release through Dubophonic (Cyprus) and DubKey (Malta) on a track called ‘Dead Politiks’ with Red Star Martyrs. This is on a free download called ‘United As One’ more details @ https://dubophonic.blogspot.com/ and now I am on a break from music after a long and busy summer…
If you had three genie wishes, what would they be?
Health, Happiness and a United Cyprus!
What one piece of advice would you give the younger generation of Cyprus?
You may access Mike Hajimichael’s presentation on musical diversity, given at the 1st Diversity Arts Festival here.