Inventing the Sarod: A Cultural History

Inventing the Sarod: A Cultural History

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Item Code: IDE392
Author: Adrian Mcneil
Publisher: Seagull Books
Language: English
Edition: 2004
ISBN: 8170462134
Pages: 289
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9.8" X 6.5"

This book is an attempt to document the cultural origins, historical development and musical experiences of the sarod over the last three centuries. In doing so, this inquiry also considers the history of its musicians-sarodiyas-their oral histories, professional and social organizations, patron groups and the networks and structures of patronage which provided their livelihood. It investigates its material culture, i.e. the physical elements, design and construction innova-establish a connection between developments in this area and the strong desire to produce a particular musical sound and musical voice. The book also sets out to construct a methodology that makes musical sound, both in conception and practice, an object of study.

The historical development of musical repertoire and performance practice are also obviously important aspects of the instrument's past. Such a subject becomes all the more complex and fascinating when it is considered that the core of this musical corpus is transmitted orally and a competent performance is realized on the spot through improvisatory of its own separate and detailed inquiry, but also places such a subject beyond the scope of this study. Nevertheless, an outline of the main aspects of the musical elements, playing style and techniques of the sarod are touched upon whenever it is able to inform the primary aims given above.

These aims in part contribute to two overall objectives. The first of these is to highlight the cultural syncretism and diversity that has underpinned the development of the tradition to date. The second is to address the current climate of contestation over the cultural owner-ship of the tradition and its history. Contestation seems to have always been part of the cultural activity that produced the sarod. This was contained within the tradition. What is different now is that this contestation occurs in the mass media and other notable public spaces and is argued to be part of a wider tendency in contemporary India for re-imagining the pat-a practice that lies open to manipulation by pernicious agendas.

The use of the term sarod and rabab in this study perhaps requires a little explanation. This is so because it is not a term that is restricted only to Hindustani music. This term is shown to have historically had a wider circulation than this, not only in Persia but in the north-west of the subcontinent where it describes a number of other instruments that are morphologically very different from the Hindustani sarod. It was also the name by which the Afghani rabab was sometimes known before the modern form of the Hindustani sarod. This particular rabab, as distinct from Pubjabi or seniya rababs, was also known as the Kabuli rabab and the Pashtun or Pathan rabab. The terms were often used interchangeably to refer to the Afghani rabab, according to the practices found indifferent geographical and historical contexts. This situation can, and in some instances has, created some confusion in dealing with the instrument in both written and oral historical sources. As far as possible, this study specifies the context in which these musical terms are found and the particular instrument that they refer to.

This study tries to address how and why so many elements of the history of the sarod are highly and sometimes acrimoniously contested. In such a situation it is inevitable that the issue be taken with some of the interpretations and conclusions arrived at here. Any mistakes made in handling and representing the material, either inadvertently or otherwise, that may cause offence to some musicians, are not intentional and some understanding is requested, given the limitations of this study.

Finally, it should be pointed out that honorific titles customarily used to address Hindustani musicians of some caliber, such as Ustad and Pandit, do not appear in the text. For those familiar with Hindustani music, this may be regarded as an unacceptable compromise. No disrespect or offence is intended by this, however undesirable their omission may appears to some. It was a decision made on the one hand simply to give clarity to the text and on the other to overcome the difficulty in knowing on whom to confer such titles, when dealing with the large and diverse numbers of musicians this study is concerned with.

A Note from the Publisher

Musicological terms and proper nouns in Hindustani classical music pose certain problems of transliteration into English, with several spellings being accepted for the same term. This volume has followed the consistent principle of dispensing with diacritical marks, and the italicization of musicological terms and names of raags.

The elongated/accentuated vowel sounds in Hindi, Urdu and Persian have been transliterated with double vowels where the normal English pronunciation does not allow an elongation of sound. The more accepted/Sanskritized 'raga', 'tala', etc. have been made taan. However, excerpts/quotes from other sources retain their original transliterated spellings. A list of musicological terms and categories with clear explanations has been provided in the glossary.

The syncretic nature of the Indian classical musical tradition, enmeshed in a rich oral history tradition, has made chronology a rather dubious and problematic category. Dates are mostly conjectural and few versions concur.

We gratefully acknowledge the help and cooperation we have received from Anindya Banerjee, who has painstakingly checked last-minute queries from the rare texts, journals and pamphlets in his collection, pointed out certain anomalies which had eluded our notice and provided some rare stills for the book. We thank Amlan Das Gupta for his suggestions and especially for providing us with the invaluable glossary.

From the Jacket:

This is a major musical and cultural history of the sarod, a leading stringed instrument in Hindustani classical music, which documents the cultural origins, historical development and music styles of this instrumental tradition over the last three centuries. It does this by documenting the history of its musicians, their social organization, patron groups, modes of patronage, musical and aesthetic developments, instrument design and construction, narratives, musical terminology and conception of musical sound over this period. In so doing, it provides a detailed account of how this community of musicians devised and implemented strategies to deal with the major challenges generated by a succession of political economics from premodern times to the present. It highlights the cultural syncretism and diversity that has underpinned the development of the tradition of date. The book also sets out to construct a methodology that historicizes sound and makes it an object of study.

A primary aim of the book is to address the current climate of contestation over the cultural ownership of the tradition and its history, which is argued to be one of the cultural consequences of globalization and part of a wider tendency of re-imagining the past.

Informing this study are the rich histories and narratives that pervade the tradition; Sanskrit texts on music; primary materials and studies in vernacular languages; studies in Indian anthropological and sociological studies; colonial records; ethnographies; sound recordings; and the author's fieldwork and rigorous training in sarod over the last two decades.

The Most significant change in the social organization of sarodiyas, from the biradaris of premodern times to the gharanas of modern times, for example, coincided with the marginalization of feudal patronage structures and networks by modern networks, signified, and partly caused, by the growing inclusion of non-Pathans into the social framework of the sarod tradition. The long-term effects of these and similar other shifts in patronage could also be discerned in changes in the ways specialist musical knowledge was regulated and circulated and in the places and times that Hindustani music was performed, and how it was patronized.

About the Author:

Adrian Mcneil researches and writes on Indian classical music. Currently Senior Research Fellow in the Department of Contemporary Music studies at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia, he has published widely on various aspects of Indian classical music. He is a trained sarod player with several performances to his credit.


A Note from the Publishervii
Sounding out the Sarod1
Pathans and the Sarod11
Sarodis, Migration and Mohullas39
Inventing the Sarod67
Sarodiyas and Seniyas105
Sarodiyas and Sarod Gharanas137
Sarodiyas and the State177
Marketing Sarodiyas203
Conclusion: 'Do we deserve the sarod?'233

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