Collections: Richard Wolf - The EVIA Digital Archive Project

Music, Dance, Ceremonies, and Rituals in Pakistan and India (1990-1999)

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Nur Muhammad, an itinerant musician (jogi), plays the sārangī while singing dahas. Hallaur, Basti district, Uttar Pradesh, 1998. Image from video © Richard Wolf.

This collection features music, dance, life cycle ceremonies, and religious rituals recorded during research in India (1990-92, 1996-99) and Pakistan (1997-98). The documented performances relate to two projects, one on Kota tribal music in the Nilgiris district of south India, the other on drumming, recitation, and musical performance associated with Shī'ī and Sufi Islamic devotional traditions from Panjab state (Pakistan) and Uttar Pradesh state (India). For comparative and exploratory purposes, the data also include additional local material that offers more regional context for the specific genres studied. Examples, then, are of variegated depth and scope: intimate and extensive portraits of local communities alternate with distanced, sometimes transitory, views of a variety of peoples, places and genres.

Roughly 18 hours of video highlight the cultures of the Nilgiris district and supplement the author's monograph The Black Cow's Footprint: Time, space and music in the lives of the Kotas of south India. The footage treats extensively both the god ceremony (devr), and mortuary ceremonies, in several Kota villages. Also covered are instrument making; performances of melodies suitable for technical analysis; pottery and basket-making; and a variety of other ritual activities that do not necessarily involve music. One Toda funeral and one segment of an Irula wedding also figure in this part of the collection. Viewers may avail themselves of the sung and spoken texts provided in the Kota language with transliteration and translation.

About 6 hours of video concern Muslim religious occasions in Pakistan and North India. This section of the collection showcases examples of massive processions and rituals associated with the observance of Muharram by Shī'ī and Sunni Muslims in Lahore and Multan, Pakistan. Demonstrations of the drumming genres typically performed for Muharram in villages of eastern Uttar Pradesh, India, then offer an alternative perspective on Shī'ī observances. Sufi material includes the mystically inflected qawwālī and Panjabi folk music performed at one 'urs (celebration of the death anniversary of a Sufi saint) in Okara district, Panjab, Pakistan. This Indo-Islamic material also offers other performances of the religious "song" genres qawwālī and na't, from the shrine of Data Ganj Baksh Hujwiri in Lahore. By way of contrast, Lucknow, India, offers a brief view of a Hindu Rām Līlā procession complete with human tableaus, brass bands, and, again, drum ensembles.

Verbal performance forms in several languages are transcribed and translated to supplement much of the collection's audio-visual material, including Kota songs, Tamil kummi and kolāṭṭam songs, dahas sung in an eastern dialect of Hindustani, qawwālīs in Urdu and Panjabi, and nauhahs in Urdu and Saraiki.

This collection is currently in production and is not yet available to the public.

Image © The EVIA Digital Archive Project

Richard Wolf is currently teaching ethnomusicology in the Music Department at Harvard University. He has been studying the classical, folk, and tribal musical traditions of the Indian subcontinent since 1980. The present videos relate to doctoral work on the Kotas of South India and postdoctoral research on ritual drumming traditions of the subcontinent.

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