Based on extensive field research in India and Pakistan, this new study examines the ways drumming and voices interconnect over vast areas of South Asia and considers what it means for instruments to be voice-like and carry textual messages in particular contexts. Richard K. Wolf employs a hybrid, novelistic form of presentation, in which a fictional protagonist interacts with Wolf's field consultants, to communicate ethnographic and historical realities that transcend the local details of any one person's life. The narrative explores how the themes of South Asian Muslims and their neighbors coming together, moving apart, and relating to God and spiritual intermediaries resonate across ritual and expressive forms such as drumming and dancing. Wolf weaves in the story of a family led by Ahmed Ali Khan, a North Indian ruler who revels in the glories of 19th century life, when many religious communities joined together harmoniously in grand processions. His journalist son Muharram Ali obsessively scours the subcontinent in pursuit of a music he naively hopes will dissolve religious and political barriers. The story charts the breakdown of this naivete. A daring narrative of music, religion and politics in late twentieth century South Asia, The Voice in the Drum delves into the social and religious principles around which Muslims, Hindus, and others bond, create distinctions, reflect upon one another, or decline to acknowledge differences.
Subjects: History, Sociology, Music
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