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North Indian Classical Music and the West: The Journey from the Realm of Multicultural to Transcultural

Goswamy, Soumya

In popular and scholarly discourse, the term globalization is widely used to define the way things have shaped up in the contemporary world. The general agreement of the social scientists and researchers today hinges on the concept of a hybrid global culture. While the importance of this hybrid fabric becomes inevitable, cautious attention needs to be exercised towards the fact that the elements of hybridity do not become rigid constituents of an unaccommodating discourse. The inherent nature of this discourse on the one hand runs the risk of generating the constant urge on the part of the participants to modify and fit into this new and over-arching template, while on the other, its growing contemporary relevance might indulge in casting a shadow on the long history of give and take that have existed between cultures for a very long time. This paper suggests that cross-cultural encounters and mutual appropriations have been a regular feature even though they might have come with a cost. In order to have an empirical understanding of such transcultural processes the author has chosen to explore the encounters of North Indian classical music with the West. This is not simply about how Western or Indian musicians have used each other’s elements to give piquancy to their own creations; rather, it is about a wider issue how one culture perceives the cultural products of another and what grows out of it. Music, that most enigmatic form of human expression, seems a suitable subject for understanding this complex cultural process. The paper intends to investigate this by focusing on the experiences of two very eminent personalities, Vishnu Narayan Bhatkhande and Pandit Ravi Shankar whose contributions to their craft have been remarkable as well as controversial.

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