This literature review begins with a brief historical narrative that provides the reader with an understanding of how we have reached the point we have in the narrative of music festivals today. It is followed by an examination of the difficulty in categorizing music and then is concluded with an insight into the various works undertaken in relation to music in South Asia and the different focuses of these works.
The Historical Narrative
Raja, Deepak. “Chapter 1.” Hindustani Music: A Tradition in Transition. New Delhi: D.K. Printworld, 2005. N. pag. Print.
To begin with the historical narrative, Deepak Raja’s book on “Hindustani Music- A tradition in Transition”, the reader receives an insight into how classical Hindustani music has transitioned over time in relation to the growing audiences. Although, Raja’s book is only focused on classical Indian music and its historical narrative, the insights given in his book reflect on the historical changes that lead us to the diversity of musical genres and the number of music festivals and events we are experiencing today.
He begins the first chapter of his book by discussing the changes that Independence brought for Hindustani music by suggesting the disappearance of feudal patronage due to market forces, which essentially changed the way art forms began to be appreciated. He goes on to suggest the role of technology in creating a mass market for music, which created audiences that didn’t have the experience or the knowledge to judge music. Here, it is important to understand, that although the availability and exposure to musical experiences became something that could be enjoyed by the masses, Raja who considers himself with the aesthetics of music sees this as a devaluing of Hindustani classical music. He also reflects on how these circumstances gave rise to the popularizing of Hindustani music, which lead to its globalization, because of which the West showed a great interest in such music.
With this being the scenario with classical music, it is important for this paper to showcase the scenario with more popular and mainstream forms of music. It is true, that the West almost always has had this imaginary idea of the east and thus chooses to concern itself with those aspects related to tradition and the classical and shows the least amount of interest in those aspects of the East that aspire to be like them. Thus the globalization of Hindustani classical music as spoken about by Raja, is highly linked to the scale of the audience in India that showed an interest in popular music.
When discussing the historical transition of the setting of concert it is important to look at Raja’s interpretation of the change in the concert setting. Raja points out that there was a time when concerts were limited to the aristocracy of major cities, which typically hosted concerts in their private spheres and audiences attended by invitation, thus making music available to a highly selected few. He speaks of how overtime, with the audience scale increasing, concerts have become less selective in terms of audiences as well as become less exclusive in terms of pricing. If I am to compare this to, contemporary music festivals as discussed in this paper, it is possible to note that these music festivals see a rise in ticket prices, making the spaces available still to the elite yet widening the scale of the audience. This in comparison to the decreasing prices of classical music performances, mark the transitioning audiences, tastes and well as aspirations attached to musical experiences. This leads me to question, that what is it about contemporary music concerts that people are willing to pay a high entry fee, to me swamped in a space with the over use of substances, as well as maneuver through crowds of people, whereas would not desire to pay to enjoy a quiet sophisticated evening in the surrounding of a traditional musical experience? Is it simply that musical tastes have changed so drastically? Or is it that the idea of patronage completely eludes the modern youth attending music festivals?
Raja tentatively answers my questions by stating, “it can be argued that the constituency of every musician- no matter how popular- will be limited to a certain generational profile.” Thus, the type of music enjoyed by audiences has changed and the way we understand music festivals today may not have the same meaning attached to them with the generation to come. Thus, even though the historical narrative helps us understand how we have reached where we have, it is up to, to conceptualize the reality of these audiences and spaces in light of our reality as it is.
Subramanian, Lakshmi. “Introduction.” From the Tanjore Court to the Madras Music Academy: A Social History of Music in South India. New Delhi: Oxford UP, 2006. Print.
In the book, “From the Tanjore Court to the Madras Music Academy”, Lakshmi Subhramanian uses a social historical approach to public culture, consumption and the practice of representation in South India. The book explores the Madras Music Academy as a critical moment in the making of classical tradition, in the staging of Carnatic music as a classical regional art form of Southern India. In this sense, the socio-cultural approach established to understand classical music suggests that the cultural consumption and representation of classical music in South India was rooted in modernity and nation building as in the development of a new auditory culture in the region in the second half of the 19th century. Subhramanian discusses the component of reinventing the tradition which is important in understanding the relationship between the past and present in music in South Asia. She outlines that new listeners (the middle class) transformed the modes of consuming and reflecting upon music through the medium of performance, interpretation and preservation. She points out that in the 18th and 19th century which is the focus of this book, patronage and politics shaped performance, its reception and transmission in South India. Thus, “the consumption of music became tied up with questions of identity that appeared to have immediate roots in Tanjore’s classical past”, which in return appealed to the new middle class audiences.
Challenges in Categorizing Music
Folk, classical and mainstream, contemporary music have been the general divides by which we judge and understand music and its classifications, but what if this was not the only method of classifying music? The most obvious challenges in categorizing music is the variety of topics, the categorical question of what music comprises of and the constantly changing boundaries by which to judge and understand music that are problematic for chronicling music.
When we turn to identify new categories of music the first problem that can be noticed is how music borrows from the past. Traditional and classical music have an influence on popular music today, thus making it impossible to escape the historical narrative of the contexts that different musical forms, genres and spaces gained popularity in. Music is representational of people and places and thus tends to be context sensitive. Here, the question arises then how do we escape the historical narrative when aiming to create new categories to understand musical representations? The truth is we can’t escape the idea that music has its roots in the past, thus this type of narrative can be made more specific in order to incorporate a different type of narrative about music. So instead of looking at the historical significance of a musical event or space, this method of categorization aims to identify identities that have been created through music. This in itself is a historical approach but it situated music not as a product of history but identities throughout history and contemporary society as a product of what music represents. Thus, these specifications allow us to narrow this classification to emotional collectives that exist in group identities that share a similar musical experience.
Miah, Shamim, and Virinder Kalra. Muslim Hip-Hop: Politicisation of Kool Islam. 1st ed. Vol. 2. SACS. 12-25. Web.
In the article on Muslim Hip-Hop, we identify the relationship between the genre of music and Muslim youth living in Britain. This relationship creates new spaces for versatile Islamic identities; the idea of Muslim Hip-Hop transcends the notion of the passive audience and makes them important components in their identity formation related to the musical experience. Muslim Hip-Hop demands engagement that allows the youth to push boundaries of traditional musical practices, encompassing that musical identities are ever changing and traditional practices as the norm can become enviable in this ever changing scenario. Thus there is a relationship between the old and new and similarities and differences between the old and the new, in a sense this could be viewed as eco cultural cartography as proposed in the Pluralism and Diversity in South Asia article where local specificities and distinctiveness and acceptance of interconnectedness create multiple routes and paths of categorization. It is in this regard that I don’t aim at providing a framework that chronicles music in historical events as to decrease the multiplicity and fluidity of musical genres and identities but I am to show the multiple identities that emerge through a specific or even multiple genres and how these identities can be viewed as created through music.
Literature on Music in South Asia
Bose, Fritz. “Western Influences in Modern Asian Music.” Journal of the International Folk Music Council 11.1 (1959): 47-50. Jstor. International Council for Traditional Music. Web. 1 Jan. 2014.
In the article, “Western Influences in Modern Asian Music”, Fritz Bose explores the infiltration of Asian music by western stylistic elements. These western stylistic elements are derived from the European and American folk traditions of 20thcentury. According to Bose, these influences obliterate categories of geo-cultural and socio-political themes that constitute national identity. The example Bose provides is of Tagore who consciously imitated western music and collaborated it with stylistic elements of classical Indian music. This amalgamation created a new national identity attached to music which deferred from traditional norms, it collaborated the European art of song and the Indian art of singing to create a new stylistically different identity. Tagore understood the difference in Indian and Western music in terms of presentational imperfection. He believed that Indian music allowed for presentational imperfection as the audience was content with listening to the song alone and the devotion in India resided in the song, where as the devotion in western music resided in the voice and western music contained a romantic element that didn’t allow presentational imperfections. Although, this claim can easily be contradicted, it is possible to see how the idea of a music festival in India is highly western and the audience is a highly westernized one. Thus, the element of western influence is a way in which others can identify the creative community discussed in the close reading. It is the perfection of the location of the Escape festival and stylistic techniques of western genres of music that gain a westernized audience, the creative community.
Greene, Paul D. “Nepal’s “Lok Pop” Music: Representations of the Folk, Tropes of Memory, and Studio Technologies.” Asian Music 34.1 (2003): 43-65. Jstor. University of Texas Press. Web.
In the article “Nepal’s Lok Pop Music: Representations of the Folk, Tropes of Memory, and Studio technologies”, Paul D. Greene explores Nepal’s Lok Pop Music which is a form of Nepali folk pop which was started in the 1990s. The genre belongs to the Nepali youth residing in urban cultures in order to take one back to their identity formed by their roots of rural landscapes and culture. The music is said to invoke the tradition of imagining mountainous Nepal, something which Nepalese associated themselves with, where their identity belongs. What is interesting about Lok Pop is how far away from tradition it is stylistically (youth oriented and the use of high tech Nepali pop) yet it invokes an identity that resides in tradition and origin. The article explores how memories are invoked, constructed and framed through song texts, melodies and sound studio effects.
Manuel, Peter. “North Indian Sufi Popular Music in the Age of Hindu and Muslim Fundamentalism.” Ethnomusicology 52.3 (2008): 378-400. Jstor. University of Illinois Press. Web.
In the article “North Indian Sufi Popular Music in the Age of Hindu and Muslim Fundamentalism”, Peter Manuel explores the different ways in which Sufi music is repackaged and re-articulated through various styles and sub genres in North India. In this regard, he refers to it as the Sufi movement. He identifies two reasons for such a movement, the rise of the Indian bourgeoisie and the Hindutva socio-political movement. He explores the dynamics of traditional and modern Sufi music in all its sub styles, genres and various contexts. In this regard he identifies tensions between traditional forms of Sufi as devotional music and other sub genres. He looks at the commonality between sects in which Sufi music gets associated but clearly identifies the Hindu-Muslim artistic syncretism created through Sufi music, which fundamentally becomes the essence of his paper.
Clayton, Martin. “Theorizing the Local : Music, Practice, and Experience in South Asia and Beyond.” Google Books. Web. 21 Dec. 2014.
In the article, “Local Practice, Global Culture- The Guitar in India as a Case Study”, Martin Clayton takes the guitar as a case study in India of a global instrument having local connotations. He identifies that to understand how global music culture is given local interpretation one needs to look at the instrument, time and place. Thus his paper is situated in the urban area of Mumbai. Clayton embarks on an important claim that the west has remained largely uninterested in that part of Indian musical culture that most wants to identify with the west. In this sense, the classical and traditional are always given importance for scholarly work but there is little known about the stylistic intricacies about contemporary music in South Asia. Clayton’s focus is mainly on Anglo-Indian communities, Goan catholics, Parsi and Northeastern musicians living in Mumbai. He comments that the Indian guitarist is aware of the significance of their place and community of origin to their music. In this sense, music resonates with the past and the past is viewed as a benchmark to judge musical progression. So although, we aim to shift the focus to contemporary music, the music itself may be a product of contemporary times but the association to it resonates with the past. In all, the article provides an interesting perspective on South Asian music through the words of Indian guitarists.