Rick Deja

BA (ethnomusicology and jazz studies) Indiana University; MM (jazz studies) DePaul University; PhD (musicology) University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Rick Deja’s primary research interest focusses on jazz and popular music in southern Africa. His research is based on his work as a performer and ethnomusicologist with Malawian musicians in Malawi, South Africa, and the American Midwest since 1990.

Deja conducted his dissertation research in South Africa and Malawi under the auspices of a Fulbright-Hays dissertation completion fellowship. His dissertation, titled “From Place to Placelessness: Malawian Musicians, Commercial Music, and Social Worlds in Southern Africa,” investigates how the pragmatics of musical interaction and circulation, via international music industries, affect social allegiance such as citizenship and other community ties, particularly in relation to pan-regional interchange.

Deja's other research interests include: the intersection of ethnomusicology and music education; philosophies of musical improvisation; and comparative studies on the role of music in the lives of amateur and elite professional musicians.

Deja’s work as a musicologist is informed by a career as a performer and educator. During the 1990s, he worked in Malawi as a touring musician, recording engineer, and producer, collaborating with internationally acclaimed musicians including Wambali Mkandawire, Erik Paliani, and Nathaniel Chalamanda. The last of these culminated an album titled Hometown Stranger which eventually became a classic recording in Malawi and is listed in the 2006 edition of Rough Guide to World Music: Africa & Middle East.

Deja has also performed or recorded with a variety of international artists including: 10,000 Maniacs, Phil Woods, The O’Jays, Gary Senise, Babatunde Olatunji, Brian Mantia (Primus), and Vinnie Colaiuta (Frank Zappa), among others. He has performed in esteemed venues throughout the US including The Fillmore West, Berkeley Square, The House of Blues (Chicago and Cleveland), and Chicago’s Symphony Center.

Dejais an affiliated faculty member of the Center for African Studies at U of I, and also works with Rutgers Arts Online at Mason Gross School of the Arts. He has previously taught at Earlham College, in Richmond, IN, and the University of Illinois. Prior to this he served as adjunct music faculty at The Latin School of Chicago and other Chicago area schools.