Small Voices Sing Big Songs: Music and the Development Imaginary in Western Rajasthan, India

12:30 pm on Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Musicology Seminar Room (Fuller 281) 808 Commonwealth Avenue
This talk examines intersections of development, institutionalization, and community building in contemporary regional music practice in South Asia. The Manganiyar are a community of hereditary professional musicians who live in western Rajasthan on the India-Pakistan border, and have maintained musical practice within a strict patronage system as their caste and livelihood for centuries. However, for a number of reasons, customary musical patronage is in decline in the region. The dilemmas posed by the need for economic and social stability once secured by hereditary patrons are profound, yet Manganiyar musicians have been extremely resilient and resourceful in creating new opportunities to sustain music as a profession. At the same time, in recent years there has been an unprecedented number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) conducting development work in Rajasthan state. Musicians from the Manganiyar community have become involved in development initiatives in the region through various creative means. In this talk, I track the interplay between themes of tradition, preservation, and the contemporary, drawing on Development Studies and Subaltern Studies, in examining the social understandings of development among the Manganiyar in what I call the "development imaginary." Shalini Ayyagari is an ethnomusicologist who specializes in the music of South Asia. To date, her research has explored the connections between South Asian regional music, Subaltern Studies and postcolonialism, Borderland Studies, and Bollywood film music. Her current book project, Small Voices Sing Big Songs: Music and Institutional Culture in Rajasthan, India, is a sociocultural history and musical ethnography of the Manganiyar, a community of hereditary musicians who have maintained music within a patronage system as their caste and livelihood for centuries. She draws on Subaltern Studies and Development Studies to show how musicians in a postcolonial society have mobilized discourses of tradition and preservation, along with their own ideas of development, to use music as a way to empower their communities. Sponsored by the Department of Musicology and Ethnomusicology and the BU Arts Initiative, Office of the Provost