Adriana Helbig

  • Chair, Department of Music
  • Associate Professor


Applied Ethnomusicology - Activism/Advocacy; Music and Disability Studies, Body and Sports Studies, Critical Race Studies, Critical Prison Studies (Pitt Prison Education Project), Development Studies, Minority and Migration Studies (Romani Music and Human Rights in Eastern Europe), Working-Class Studies, Bluegrass, Global Hip Hop


My first book, titled, Hip Hop Ukraine: Music, Race and African Migration (Indiana University Press, 2014) is the first ethnographically based analysis of hip-hop in Ukraine and stems from long-term research among Ukrainian and African musicians in Ukraine and Uganda. The book incorporates ethnomusicological and ethnographic analysis in the growing research on migrants in Ukraine, which receives the fourth-largest number of migrants after the United States, Canada, and the Russian Federation. It contributes to research on African diasporas and sheds light on experiences of African migrants and student populations in the former Soviet Union through an analysis of Cold War discourse on race in music performance. The book is also the first ethnographic account of African musicians in a postsocialist society. It examines how U.S. popular music is interpreted and appropriated in East Africa, the birthplace of the majority of African migrants living in Ukraine. This multi-sited ethnography draws connections with Ukrainian musicians’ appropriations of U.S. hip hop styles with the hip hop ideologies of musicians in countries such as Uganda. It speaks in particular to scholars of hip hop who increasingly analyze the genre’s influence beyond the U.S. It shows how numerous interpretations of U.S. hip hop (East African, postsocialist) engage with each other in other parts of the world.

I have continued to contribute to the growing conversation on global hip-hop by co-editing a volume titled Hip Hop at Europes Edge:Music, Agency and Social Change (Indiana University Press, 2017) with sociologist Milosz Miszczynski. The book features 16 chapters written by scholars in Eastern Europe on the role hip hop plays in social movements, politics, and identity negotiations. More than 20 years after socialist collapse, the former Eastern Bloc countries are as dissimilar as ever. There has been a war in the Balkans. Czechoslovakia has split into two countries—the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Romania have entered the European Union. Russia has used military might against Georgia and Ukraine. Pre-socialist histories are shaping post-socialist narratives. The edited volume offers country-based analyses of hip hop histories in Eastern Europe and does so in relation to the complex historical, economic, social, and political realities that determined how hip hop has been appropriated, and where, why, and by whom it is deemed a source of agency and identity.

My current book project Romani Music and Development Aid in Post-Soviet Ukraine analyzes the impact of international development aid on two generations of rural and urban Romani musicians in Ukraine. Drawing on 15 years of ethnographic research among non-governmental organizations working with Romani musicians, this project theorizes the ways music has shaped Romani identity politics in post-Soviet society. Specifically, it analyzes the ways development aid has facilitated social mobility and class formation and examines the impact such changes have had on musical repertoires of urban Roma elites and impoverished Roma in rural contexts.This book also builds on my extensive work as a human rights activist, applied ethnomusicologist, researcher and a professor. Since coming to the University of Pittsburgh in 2008, I have worked with countless students on issues of equality relating to the intersection of music and race, gender, class, disability, and sexuality. I have led Romani music-themed study abroad programs to Central and Eastern Europe and have involved our students in social movements abroad. I have also brought numerous musicians, including the late Esma Redzepova, for performances at the University of Pittsburgh and have used the Carpathian Music Ensemble, which I directed and led from 2008-2018, to draw student attention to the relationship between music, politics, and cultural rights. The dissertations I lead are guided by interests in social equality and global consciousness. I welcome working with students interested in all genres of music who wish to use scholarship for positive social change.

Recent Courses

Graduate Courses Taught

  • Music and Disability Studies
  • Marx, Music and Labor
  • Music, Culture and Technology
  • Fieldwork and Laboratory Methods
  • Music, Gender and Sexuality
  • Music and Social Movements

Undergraduate Courses Taught

  • Global Hip Hop
  • Romani Music
  • Music and Sports
  • Music, Art and Conflict
  • Global and Popular Music
  • World Music
  • Music and Ethics
  • Carpathian Music Ensemble
  • Bluegrass Ensemble

Selected Publications


In process. Romani Music and Development Aid in Post-Soviet Ukraine.

2017. At Europes Edge: Music, Agency, and Social Change. Edited by Adriana Helbig and Milosz  Miszczynski. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

2014. Hip-Hop Ukraine: Music, Race, and African Migration. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.

2009. Helbig, Adriana, Oksana Buranbaeva and Vanja Mladineo. Culture and Customs of Ukraine. Westwood, CT: Greenwood Press.

Selected Chapters

Forthcoming. “Lament as Protest: Music, Memory and Mourning in War-Torn Ukraine.” In The Oxford Handbook on Protest Music. Edited by Noriko Manabe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Forthcoming. “Political Satire and Popular Music in Easter Europe” Routledge Companion to Popular Music and Comedy. Edited by Nicholas Baxter-Moore and Thomas Kitts. New York: Routledge.

Forthcoming. “The Piano and the Performing Body in the Music of Arvo Pärt: Phenomenological Perspectives”  Co-authored with Maria Cizmic. Edited by Jeffers Engelhardt. New York: Fordham University Press.

2014. “Ivana Kupala (St. John’s Eve) Revivals as Metaphors of Fertility and Contemporary Ukrainian Femininity”. In The Oxford Handbook on Music Revivals. Edited by Caroline Bithell and Juniper Hill. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

2013. “Music and Sports” in Music in American Life: An Encyclopedia of the Songs, Styles, Stars, and Stories that Shaped our Culture. Edited by Jacqueline Edmondson. (Westwood, CT,: Greenwood Press).

2012. Ukraine.” In The International Recording Industries. Edited by Lee Marshall, 192-206.      Abington: Routledge.

2010. “The Dialogics of Development: NGOs, Ethnopolitics, and Roma in Ukraine” In Orange Revolution and Aftermath: Mobilization, Apathy, and the State in Ukraine. Edited by Paul D’Anieri, 254-273. Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars/ John Hopkins University Press.

2009. “Representation and Intracultural Dynamics: Romani Musicians and Cultural Rights Discourse in Ukraine.” In Music and Cultural Rights. Edited by Andrew Weintraub and Bell Yung, 269-295. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.

Dissertations - Major Advisor

“Singing is a Drag: Voice, Body, and Gender in Drag Performance” - Alec MacIntyre (Ethnomusicology PhD, 2017)

“I Believe I’ll Go Back Home”:  Blindness in Blues and Gospel Race Records - John Bagnato (Jazz Studies PhD, 2018)

“Take Me Brown Girl”: A History of the Subjugation and Liberation of Women of Color in Capoeira Music - Ashley Humphrey (Ethnomusicology PhD, expected 2019)

“Sound, Science, Islam: Music as Healing in Turkey”  - Steven Moon (Ethnomusicology PhD, expected 2021)

Professional Affiliations

  • Society for Ethnomusicology (Council, 2014-2017)
  • International Council for Traditional Music
  • (ICTM) Study Group on Applied Ethnomusicology (Vice-Chair, 2015-2018)
  • (ICTM) Study Group on Music and Minorities
  • American Musicological Society
  • Association for Slavic, East European, & Eurasian Studies
  • American Association for Ukrainian Studies (Treasurer 2006-2016)
  • Shevchenko Scientific Society

Faculty Groupings

Core Faculty

Main Department Affliliation

Associate Professor