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

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Music in the Balance

Language, Modernity and Hindustani Sangeet in Dharwad

The paper examines the social role of Hindustani music in the Dharwad-Hubli region, situating the music's early 20th century emergence and proliferation against and within the debates on language that were central to cultural transformation in that area. What was the problem of Kannada and more broadly the language question in the mid to late 19th and early 20th centuries? What might have been the role of vocal music in negotiating the language conflict? The paper suggests that Hindustani music is part of the cultural labour undertaken in the region during the rise of Kannada "nationalism". The phrase draws attention to the nature of the work involved in cultural practice and performance, and the nature of performers' activity, through teaching, singing, playing, evaluating and arguing about music. Cultural labour references a visible aspect of social transformation and social process, the latter to be seen as marked by elusive shifts in ways of living, thinking and creating. The formation of the taste for Hindustani sangeet in Dharwad is one result of such shifts.

For their support and sharp questions, many of which I have yet to answer, I am grateful to Ashish Rajadhyaksha, Urmila Bhirdikar, Amlan Dasgupta and Ashwin Kumar A P. For stories that set me thinking, I am indebted to Girish Karnad, Jayant Kaikini and the late Ashok Ranade. Early versions of some of the arguments in the paper were fi rst rehearsed in an essay published in Sangeet Natak, XLIII(2) (2009). Research for this paper was supported by the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin and the Institut d’etudes avancees de Nantes.

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