Undergraduate Research

Chudi Martin Jr. '24

OUR Featured Researcher: Chudi Martin Jr. '24

Photo Credit: Jacob Strauss
Photo credit: Jacob Strauss 

Chudi Martin Jr. (he/him) is an Africana Studies and Environmental Studies major conducting mentored research under Professor Charles Peterson. His project is titled “The Standing History of Music and Physical Expression through Capoeira Angola and Steel Pan". 

Please describe your project: 

My research aims at understanding decolonial and revolutionary efforts throughout the African Diaspora through music and physical expression. One connection point for physical expression and music is the game of Capoeira Angola from Brazil. I look at soca, calypso, and steel pan from Trinidad & Tobago for a deeper musical basis. By analyzing these Afro-Art forms, I can understand the effects of power, privilege, and oppression in settler colonialism. It is commonplace that such Afro-art forms are overlooked and dismissed in the academy, so it is vital to shine a light on these forms' great works and triumphs. Ultimately my research aims at answering the following: How do cultures around the world view and consume physical expression and music that have existed as decolonial acts? What tactics have decolonial activists used to ensure that people maintain or obtain their right to freedom through music and physical expression?

A brief summary (the elevator speech) of your research project:

Through Capoeira Angola from Brazil and steel pan from Trinidad & Tobago, I aim to see how music and physical expression aided in gaining independence for each nation. I specifically look at these Afro-Art forms as decolonial acts, which I define as actions that actively engage in challenging, delegitimizing, undermining, or overthrowing the authoritative rule of systems and institutions that exploit and extract from an ethnic community.

Why is your research important?

A historical mapping of Caribbean culture, specifically regarding what many may gloss over as fun exotic activities, helps institute the Caribbean as a valid source of historical importance. Regarding Afro-Brazilian culture, it is essential to realize that Brazil is one of the most African nations outside of the continent and that there is a uniqueness to the transformation of African culture within Brazil. These are just two stories that are pieces of the African Diaspora that I wish to connect with practitioners and scholars of other forms, such as Djembe and West African Dance.

What does the process of doing your research look like?

My research includes the use of textual, musicological, and self-ethnographic research methods. Through these methods, I try to center primary sources. I reach out to quite a diverse group of people who have had great recommendations of sources for me to look at!

In what ways have you showcased your research?

I had the amazing opportunity to present at the Office of Undergraduate Research Summer Symposium. Mellon Mays also holds a conference every fall that I will be presenting at this year!

How did you get involved in research? 

Many mentors in the Africana studies department, from professors to students, reached out about how I would be a good fit for Mellon Mays. I have not encountered much research that speaks to the importance of music and physical expression as a force of resistance, specifically in Caribbean culture. Due to this, I set out to do the research I wanted to see.

What is your favorite aspect of the research process?  

One of my favorite parts of my project is being able to share information that I gather with family and friends. Learning more about my ancestry and building a deeper understanding of my history while in a community with others is not something to take for granted. As far as the process goes, I watch many documentaries and listen to quite a few songs that speak to the wide variety of functions that music and physical expression serve.

How has working with your mentor impacted the development of your research project?  How has it impacted you as a researcher? 

My mentor is extremely thorough when it comes to explaining and understanding thought processes due to his being trained in philosophy. His background as a philosopher has made me reach deeper into fathoming the extent of individualism and societal standards and how they influence the progression of any group of people.

How has the research you’ve conducted contributed to your professional or academic development?     

My research has shown me that you can learn only so much from a computer or a book. To truly understand and experience music and physical expression, you must engage in musical practices and find ways to express yourself to the extent your body allows. It may sound cliche, but you have to immerse yourself in what you are trying to understand in order to understand it.

What advice would you give to a younger student wanting to get involved in research in your field?      

Always have a solid plan but do not fret when adjustments must be made, or specific tasks take longer than expected. Research is not always beautiful, meaning there will be times when content will be challenging to get through, especially regarding research that may tie to your identity. When you encounter such research, make sure you stay in community and have the opportunity to talk through what you have encountered.