AAS Annual Meeting

South Asia Session 491

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Session 491: A Comprehensive Anthology to Teach Music and Dance of South Asia

Organizer: Zoe C Sherinian, University of Oklahoma, USA

This panel brings together four ethnomusicologists to address remediation of the lack of pedagogical materials available to teach courses on the breadth of music and dance practices of South Asia. We argue there is a critical need for a comprehensive anthology that goes beyond the classical musics of North and South India such as that published by Oxford University Press (Viswanathan and Allen, 2004; Ruckert, 2003). We propose instead, a set of short articles accessible to upper-level undergraduates that include an historically-informed, inclusive study of folk, film, classical, devotional, and diasporic music, dance, and performing arts of South Asia. Further, to frame the articles we outline how the performing arts can illuminate the impact of gender, nationalism, caste, migration, technology and media on the cultures and nations of South Asia as well as the global economy. Our model for an anthology with such a theoretical framework is the text Everyday Life in South Asia (2002) edited by Diane Mines, which contains essays by thirty-three South Asian anthropologists. Our presentations focused on music, dance, and popular/diasporic music will outline the following issues and questions: the need, function, and scope of the book; proposed themes and content supportive media materials for teaching and demonstration; and the theoretical framework and scope of each section. Our respondent will engage participants in a discussion of narratives that our pedagogy continues to reinscribe, while scholarship leaps forward as well as the relevance of such a work to the wider community of scholars and students.

Teaching the Everyday Life of Music in South Asia
Zoe C Sherinian, University of Oklahoma, USA

The breadth of contemporary, post-colonial South Asian music that reflects the soundscape of people’s daily lives is sorely lacking in pedagogical materials available to teach courses like World Music and Music of South Asia in the American classroom. While we have two dedicated ethnomusicological textbooks published by Oxford University Press (Viswanathan and Allen, 2004; Ruckert, 2003), both deal almost exclusively with classical musics of South and North India and only one deals with the social aspects of classical dance, including nothing about its musical accompaniment. While ethnomusicologists have broadened their scope from almost exclusive focus on classical music since the 1990s to produce articles on folk, tribal, film, and diasporic music, little of this rich material has been integrated into accessible pedagogical materials for the undergraduate. This presentation analyzes the reasons for this lack of cultural/style diversity as founded in orientalist constructions of spiritual authenticity and the influence of caste and nationalist politics, and outlines the other socio-musical issues that facilitate a more inclusive scope in our proposed teaching anthology on South Asian music and dance. These include the historical constructions of the musical style categories of classical and folk; changes in form and presentation of music in the modern era, especially those resulting from interactions with colonial and global forces; The influence of gender, caste and class hierarchy in the identity of musics; nationalism and religion; transmission, technology and supportive media for teaching and demonstration. A case study drawing on film resources examines status change among Dalit folk drummers.

South Asian Popular Music’s Contributions to the Study of South Asian Cultures
Nilanjana Bhattacharjya, Arizona State University, USA

This presentation will discuss the current state of research and materials in South Asian popular music studies and their application to teaching on the undergraduate level. South Asian popular music is usually given short shrift in general introductions to South Asian music that focus on traditional music cultures. However an in-depth study of South Asian popular music offers particularly valuable insights into South Asian music, as well as South Asian cultures more generally. First, the study of South Asian popular music, particularly its technologies of mass distribution, offers a tangible record of India’s transition from a colonized power to sovereign nation—and more recently, to a global economic power. Second, the study of South Asian popular music exemplifies the history of South Asian immigration and the development of South Asian diasporic communities around the world-- including the travels of music from homeland to diasporic locations, from diasporic locations to the homeland, and among diasporic locations—as well as other sites. Lastly, the study of popular music lays bare the material processes in which South Asian identity and culture is defined, and questions the conventional understanding of South Asian culture’s relationships to tradition and modernity—in which the presence of South Asian culture is marked by so-called traditional elements, and more contemporary elements are considered to be “foreign” or “western”.

Movement in the Classroom: Developing Pedagogical Materials on South Asian Dance
Sarah Morelli, University of Denver, USA

This presentation will discuss the current state of research in South Asian dance with a particular focus on the ethnographic materials available and needed for teaching at the undergraduate level. For comprehensive courses on South Asian music and dance, I argue for the need for more materials that examine folk traditions, dance in film and filmi dance, movement in devotional settings such as Qawwali and dance that is part of the lived experience, but is not necessarily given genre status. As with music, in which available and suitable teaching materials are focused almost entirely on the South and North Indian classical traditions, in the case of dance, we find materials mostly on Bharatanatyam and Kathak (though even these are inadequate). I will discuss the need for materials that balance examination of historical and cultural issues (such as the place of dance in the nationalist movement or the historical role of devadāsis) with presentation and discussion of the theory and practice of the forms themselves. In the words of Cynthia Cohen Bull, “Dance finely tunes sensibilities, helping to shape the practices, behaviors, beliefs and ideas of people’s lives” (Bull 1997: 285). The study of South Asian dance can illuminate issues such as gender relations, caste politics, culture contact in the modern period, cultural embodiment and spirituality relevant to all scholars of South Asia.