ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Hindustani Music in Mumbai

Musicophilia in Mumbai: Performing Subjects and the Metropolitan Unconscious by Tejaswini Niranjana, New Delhi: Tulika Books, 2020; pp xii + 225, ` 695.


This wonderful study of Hindustani music in Mumbai from the late 19th century to the present is a treat for a variety of readers—more obviously for cultural anthropologists and ethnomusicologists but equally well for urban historians and geographers as well as music educators. Add to this the vast number of aficionados as well as urban folklorists and that makes a very large number of likely readers since the easy flow of the ethnographic accounts makes it accessible to generalists of all kinds. These remarks by no means intend to make light of the analytical sharpness reflected in the numerous narrative episodes meshed into the larger tale of what the author calls “musicophilia” in Bombay. Academic researchers seeking fresh topics of inquiry may find several clues in the wide-ranging narratives and analytical segments of the volume.

Musicophilia, a strong word by any measure, indicates the very nature of musical, indeed artistic activities as such, as well as the engaged communities and networks—they are often marked by an excess of zeal and devotion one commonly encounters only in the realm of music, religion or the sports. Native words like diwanagi/deewanapanutsah or uttejana form the semantic matrix that lends substance to a neologism popularised by the late neurologist and author Oliver Sacks. Sacks’s Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, published in 2007 aimed at understanding the intimate connections between the human brain and music by locating music within our neuronal networks. The idea was to emphasise a primal instinct closely entangled with our memories and thus leading to the emotive “excess” the author highlights more than once in the book. Probably a similar passion also goes into Bollywood with its high-risk investments, uncertain returns, years of struggle and an overflow of “movie-madness” that sustains a huge industry. The passions that go into Hindustani classical are of course much more refined and more akin to the demure ecstasy of an “alaap” than the invasive crescendo of popular entertainment.

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Updated On : 18th Oct, 2021
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