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James Gabrillo

James Gabrillo

PhD student


James Gabrillo is a PhD candidate at Peterhouse and supervised by Nicholas Cook, Matthew Machin-Autenrieth, and David Trippett. Funded by a Cambridge International Scholarship, his dissertation examines issues of class and taste emerging from the lowbrow musical culture of the Philippines from the 1990s until today. His research interests include sound studies, digital culture, Western music of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, and film and television studies.

His recent article for the Journal of Popular Music Studies analyses a six-hour performance inside an art gallery by the rapper Jay Z. Forthcoming publications include an analysis of campaign songs in Philippine presidential elections (for Musical Quarterly) and an examination of the influence of Western psychedelic rock on Philippine music (for Rock Music Studies).

James has presented / is due to present his research at the conferences of the American Musicological Society, Society for Ethnomusicology, Society for American Music, International Musicological Society, Royal Musical Association, and British Forum for Ethnomusicology. He has also presented papers at the Music and Moving Image Conference and the International Hip-Hop Studies Conference. In 2016, he represented Cambridge at the Harvard Project for Asian and International Relations.

His work has been supported by the Bruckmann Fund, the Greta Burkill Fund, the Peter Stores Studentship, the Santander Mobility Grant, the School of Arts and Humanities Research Development Fund, Peterhouse, and the Faculty of Music.

James has taught for undergraduate courses on ethnomusicology, popular music of the Black Atlantic, and 1960s countercultures. He has also supervised undergraduate dissertations on boy bands, hip-hop music videos, and The Beatles.

He recently co-convened (with Nathaniel Zetter) the interdisciplinary conference “Excavating Media: Devices, Processes, Apparatuses” and serves as administrator for the forthcoming British Forum for Ethnomusicology One-Day Conference, “Listening to Difference: Music and Multiculturalism”.

Prior to coming to Cambridge, James was a full-time journalist and reported from cities including Abu Dhabi, New York, Tokyo, Berlin, and Sydney. As a freelance writer, his recent coverage include the Philippine drug war and the 2016 United States presidential elections. His work has been published in The National, Al Jazeera, Rolling Stone Italia, the Philippine Daily Inquirer, and Rogue Magazine.




Colleges, Departments and Institutes


Key Publications

2017, “The Rapper Is Present: Sound Art, Liveness, and the Negotiation of Identity in Jay Z’s ‘Picasso Baby’,” Journal of Popular Music Studies, 29/1 (March).

forthcoming, “The Sound and Spectacle of Philippine Presidential Elections, 1953-1998,” Musical Quarterly.

forthcoming, “The Untold Story of the Influence of Psychedelic Rock on Philippine Music,” Rock Music Studies, special issue on Global Psychedelia and Counterculture.