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Michael Iyanaga

John & Audrey Leslie Associate Professor of Music and Latin American Studies

Office: Music Arts Center, room 209
Phone: (757) 221-1044
Email: [[miyanaga]]


Michael Iyanaga, Associate Professor of Music and Latin American Studies; Director of Latin American Studies; PhD in Ethnomusicology from the University of California, Los Angeles. 

Dr. Iyanaga's areas of research interest are music and religion in Latin America (esp. Brazil), Atlantic History, research methodologies, and translation. The courses he teaches relate generally to music, ethnomusicology, and Latin America.


B.M. in Guitar and Lute Performance, University of California, Irvine
M.A. and Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology, University of California, Los Angeles


Michael Iyanaga specializes in the music of Latin America, with a concentration on religion in Brazil and the African Diaspora, as well as an interest in musico-devotional practices of the broader Atlantic world since the 15th century. His work blends historical and ethnographic methods in the analysis of cultural practices, musical sounds, and historical transformations. 

Iyanaga's first book, Alegria é devoção: sambas, santos e novenas numa tradição afro-diaspórica da Bahia (Editora da Unicamp, 2022) is an ethnographic study of residential patron saint festivities in Bahia, Brazil. Please click here for an English-language review of the book. 

Iyanaga's current book project, “Genealogies of a Saint's Song: Silenced Histories of Africa in Bahia, Brazil,” is a meditation on historicity that examines the confluences of historical processes as they play out in a single family’s devotion to a Catholic saint in Bahia, Brazil.

Iyanaga has, moreover, published award winning articles and essays in English and Portuguese, dealing not only with music and religious practices in Brazil but also with historical and ethnographic methodologies, and intellectual history in ethnomusicology, anthropology, and history. He also specializes in the translation of academic texts from Portuguese to English. In addition to book-length translations (such as A Respectable Spell: Transformations of Samba in Rio de Janeiro, University of Illinois Press, 2021), Iyanaga's translations appear in a number of journals as well as in several edited volumes. 

Selected Publications

2023    “Ecos de outras Áfricas: festas domiciliares de santos católicos nas Américas." Caminhos da História 28(1): 10-38.

2021     Translator's Foreword: The Decolonial Spark of a Translated Spell." In A Respectable Spell: Transformations of Samba in Rio de Janeiro, by Carlos Sandroni, ix-xxvi. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. 

2018    “A Reflexive Response to J. Lorand Matory’s Retrospective on the Critical Reception of Black Atlantic Religion.” Journal of Africana Religions (Special issue roundtable) 6(1): 114-122.

2015    “Why Saints Love Samba: A Historical Perspective on Black Agency and the Rearticulation of Catholicism in Bahia, Brazil.” BMRJ 35(1): 119-147.

*Received the 2016 Jaap Kunst Prize from the Society for Ethnomusicology*Received the 2016 Irving Lowens Article Award from the Society for American Music

2015    “On Flogging the Dead Horse, Again: Historicity, Genealogy, and Objectivity in Richard Waterman’s Approach to Music.” Ethnomusicology 59(2): 173-201.

*Received Honorable Mention for the 2016 Bruno Nettl Prize from the Society for Ethnomusicology


Michael Iyanaga first arrived at William and Mary as a Mellon Faculty Fellow in Latin American Studies (2014-2016), after which he received a joint appointment in Music and Latin American Studies (2017-). Prior to his current position, Iyanaga taught at UCLA (Department of Ethnomusicology) as well as at a number of universities in Brazil: Universidade Federal do Recôncavo da Bahia (Center for Culture, Languages, and Applied Technologies), Universidade Federal da Paraíba (Graduate Program in Music), and Universidade Federal de Pernambuco (Graduate Program in Anthropology). He also worked in Brazil’s public sector, from 2013 to 2014, as an ethnographer and ethnomusicologist for government-sponsored intangible cultural heritage projects.

At William and Mary, Iyanaga teaches courses in the Department of Music as well as in Latin American Studies. His teaching interests include expressive culture and history in Latin America, ranging from the enslavement of Africans in the Atlantic World and the Mexica and Inka Civilizations to 20th- and 21st-century nationalisms, mass mediated cultural forms, and intellectual history. In addition to his strictly academic courses, Iyanaga founded, in 2015, the W&M Brazilian Music ensemble. The ensemble––made up of students who play a number of Brazilian chordal and percussion instruments––performs a variety of traditional musical styles, from southeastern genres such as samba and choro to northeastern genres such as forró and samba-de-roda.

Some of Michael Iyanaga’s more recent courses are:

  • MUS E99 / LAS 290 – Brazilian Music Ensemble
  • MUS / LAS 150 – Music and Noise in Latin America
  • MUS / LAS 100 – Music, Myth, and Possession
  • MUS / ANTH 241 – Worlds of Music
  • LAS 350 – Latin American Culture, Politics, and Society
  • LAS 390 / MUS 350 / AFST 306 - Musics and Cultures of Brazil