Ep# 79 A Journey to the West: Nicholas Ng on the Music of the Teochew Diaspora in Western Sydney

We’re back this week with familiar stranger Jarrod’s first interview!

For this episode, Jarrod sits down with Dr Nicholas Ng, from the Institute for Australian and Chinese Arts and Culture, and Institute for Culture and Society (Western Sydney University).”

Jarrod and Nicholas start by defining the term of ethnomusicology and where it sits in relation to anthropological practises of the past. They then explore Nicholas’s musical journey and how he ends up in a community centre filled with old men in Western Sydney. 

We hope you enjoy this very musical episode and tune in this week for a special musical break! 

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Our Patreon can be found at www.patreon.com/thefamiliarstrange

This anthropology podcast is supported by the Australian Anthropological Society, the ANU’s College of Asia and the Pacific and College of Arts and Social Sciences, and the Australian Centre for the Public Awareness of Science, and is produced in collaboration with the American Anthropological Association.

Links and Citations

Check out Dr Nicholas Ng’s work here:


If you were interested in the Zoom event Dr Ng mentioned: https://westernsydney.edu.au/iac/events/upcoming_events/music_and_spirituality_symposium_2021

If you wanted to re-listen to our special musical break today:


“I guess i had a bit of a one track mind, cause I just knew that I would become a musician” 

“Right now I’ve got a foot in both camps and I think it’s because I want to prove my professor wrong” 

“”Nicholas you’ll have to make your mind up, you can’t be a composer and an ethnomusicologist” and deep inside I wanted to say “you’re wrong”” 

“Realistically I’m not super famous, and I don’t get commissions everyday, if I did then yes I’d have to give up my research work” 

“The teochew identity is a little bit squashed, or you know, I guess you could say marginalised”  

“Because nobody my age is interested in their music you see” 

“The more and more I heard it the more I came to appreciate this sound world, because it was totally different” 

“What is now called the Chinese orchestra is actually this very polished version of what they were hoping music would become in China”  

“They’ll be a touring orchestra from china and they’ll say “East meets West concert” I wish they’d call it something else” 

“For me I tried to develop it a bit more in an Australian way, whatever that means” 

“Composition isn’t just about writing music, there’s a lot more to it” 

“There’s always something that will inspire you for life, it may change, but there’s something that inspires the composer” 

“I find that with a creative artform like composition, there is no text book, I mean there are textbooks, but there really isn’t a textbook” 

“With my own PhD supervisor, he made it very clear that he was not going  read a single word of my thesis” 

“those conversations we had, even though not all of them were musically related were inspiring” 

“Sometimes I wondered why we had a lesson about that topic which had nothing to do with anything, but I think all of it mattered” 

Music by Pete Dabro: dabro1.bandcamp.com
Shownotes by Matthew Phung
Podcast edited by Jarrod Sim and Matthew Phung

Feature image “Vividly-sequinned costumes look great under stage lights, Pulau Ubin Teochew Opera” by Jnzl (2014)

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