Online event: Pub­lic de­fence of the doc­toral dis­ser­ta­tion of Leena Lampinen

Title of the dissertation: Our Songs and Other People’s Songs. Music and Identities in a Lutheran Diocese in Tanzania.

Opponent: prof. Jean Kidula (University of Georgia)

Examiners of the dissertation: prof. Jean Kidula (University of Georgia), prof. Johannes Brusila (Åbo Akademi University)

Chair: University Lecturer, DMus, Jorma Hannikainen, Sibelius Academy, University of the Arts Helsinki


Opening of the Public Defense (Jorma Hannikainen)
Lectio praecursoria 
Statement of the Opponent (prof. Jean Kidula)
Examination of the Dissertation 
Closing Statement of the Opponent (prof. Jean Kidula)
Closing of the Public Defense (Jorma Hannikainen)


In the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT), singing in a choir is a popular activity, and there are many choirs of different kinds within its parishes. In this study, the focus is on church choirs and choir conductors (walimu wa kwaya) within the North Central Diocese of the ELCT in the northern part of Tanzania. The central question of this research is: In what ways are choral repertoires involved in the formation of diverse identities within church choirs in a Lutheran diocese in Tanzania?

The main theoretical concept employed in this study is that of identity, which I approach from individual, social, and group aspects. In addition to the differentiation between individual, social, and group, identities can be further labeled according to the context to which they are related, which in this study includes religious, ethnic, and national viewpoints. All the aforementioned sides of identity are related to music sung by church choirs of the North Central Diocese.

Methodologically, I have combined several approaches. The main focus was on thematic interviews with ten choir conductors. A larger group – 105 choir conductors – participated in the study through a written survey that contributed especially to the creation of a framework and a basic understanding of the context in which the participants of this study function. In addition, this work contains ethnographic features.
In this research, religious worldview and the church context form the basis for choirs’ activities. The choirs also define themselves by choosing a certain way of functioning, including musical and organizational choices. Repetition and routines are important factors in creating cohesiveness within choirs and are accentuated in this context, in which choirs gather for rehearsals several times a week and participate in worship service every Sunday. Sunday services and choirs’ various roles within them are important occasions for shaping the choirs’ self-understanding. Choirs see themselves as active agents: they are conveying the Christian message and supporting congregational singing.

At the individual level, the research participants identified themselves in several ways. The interviewees saw themselves as choir conductors, music teachers, composers, singers, performers of certain musical styles, representatives of particular ethnic groups, and/or members of a religious community. Musical collaboration is an important feature in the work of walimu, which offers a means for expanding musical resources. It is also a source for the feeling of belonging and collegiality, both within the ELCT and ecumenically with walimu from other denominations.

The selection of choral repertoire is a process through which walimu and other people involved in repertoire-related decisions influence the image that a choir presents of itself. It is a way of defining who they are, who they are not, and/or who they would like to be. On the other hand, the identity of a choir influences the repertoire selection. In this study, the choral repertoires consist of old and new materials, local and global influences, our songs and other people’s songs, and they are intersections of personal, group, musical, religious, local, and ethnic identities.

More information about Leena Lampinen

Leena Lampinen (b. 1975) graduated from Sibelius Academy (Helsinki) with a master’s degree in church music in 2000. She has worked as a church musician in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Finland, as a music teacher in the Lutheran church in Senegal (2005–2009 and 2016–2018) and as an assistant lecturer at Tumaini University Makumira in Tanzania (2010–2015). Currently, Lampinen is finishing her doctoral degree at Sibelius Academy, University of the Arts in Helsinki. The title of her dissertation is “Our songs and other people’s songs. Music and identities in a Lutheran diocese in Tanzania.” The topic for the doctoral research arose from her experiences with church choirs during the years spent in Tanzania. Lampinen also studies music therapy at the Roiha Institute in Jyväskylä.

Leena Lampinen


10.5.2021 at 16:00 – 19:00


Online event