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The Voice in the Drum

The Voice in the Drum: Music, Language, and Emotion in Islamicate South Asia

Richard K. Wolf
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    The Voice in the Drum
    Book Description:

    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.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09650-1
    Subjects: History, Sociology, Music

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. An Essential Note from the Author
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Note from the Editor
    (pp. xv-xviii)
    Sufiya Rizvi
  6. Note on Transcription and Musical Symbols
    (pp. xix-xxiv)
  7. Map
    (pp. xxv-xxviii)
  8. CHAPTER 1 Drumming, Language, and the Voice in South Asia
    (pp. 1-22)

    At age twenty-nine, anxiety-ridden because she had been unable to conceive, Sakina directed her prayers to the Panjatan Pak. These “five pure” figures in the Shī’ī faith, the Prophet and his closest family members, are believed to have the power to intercede on behalf of the faithful. Sakina vowed to tie her future son’s head with a turban and send him out on procession as a drummer in their honor. Drumming would commemorate, in a manner befitting the boy’s station, the sacrifice of Husain in 680 CE. On the dusty fields of Karbala, Husain and his companions were crushed mercilessly...

  9. CHAPTER 2 Emotional Agents
    (pp. 23-54)

    Muharram Ali was not the only pupil fidgeting on Founder’s Day at La Mar tinière College. Well over one hundred years after their predecessors had helped defend the Lucknow Residency against the rebels in the 1857 Indian uprising, the boys assembled at this select school found its storied past, whether recounted in speeches, novels, or memoirs, less than enthralling. It was a rare morning of cool sunlight after the monsoon on this September 13, 1969, and the boys had to sit quietly—which only, of course, increased their urge to sneak off and play cricket. Claude Martin (1735–1800), a...

  10. CHAPTER 3 Tone and Stroke
    (pp. 55-80)

    Muharram Ali lingered after his cousin’s wedding reception in Lahore to speak further with thedholplayers Niamat Ali and Shahid Ali.

    “So you have learned only a few patterns on this . . .tāshā. Can you recitebolsfor those patterns?” Shahid asked Muharram Ali.

    “Unfortunately not. We picked uptāshāplaying during Muharram, on the street in my town outside Lucknow. There were no ustads, so I never had the chance to learn drumming properly. The best players lived in theqasbatand thedehāt, some in nearby villages. They’d show up in the larger cities and...

  11. CHAPTER 4 Beyond the Mātra
    (pp. 81-114)

    The day after the wedding, Ajmal and Ali departed together by train to Multan. Travel in the poorly maintained—but inexpensive by Indian standards—first-class cabin had left them both weary. Ajmal assured Ali it would have been even more tiresome by car owing to the dilapidated condition of the Lahore-Multan road. Although both men were traveling light, the 37°C temperature that late afternoon made it unbearable to walk. They flagged down an auto rickshaw. A short distance northeast on Akbar Road separated them from Haram Gate, the entrance to the walled city of Multan closest to Ajmal’s home. Ajmal...

  12. CHAPTER 5 Muharram in Multan
    (pp. 115-144)

    Cānd Rātwas swiftly approaching. Ali’s ears waited, attuned. Since child hood, Ali had associated this evening with the rapidfire strokes of thetāshāand the slothful booming of thedhol. This drummed announcement of the new moon effectively signaled the onset of the new year as well as the Shī’ī season of ritual mourning. At home, Ali’s father would pay a nomi nal sum to the head of an impoverished household near the family estate in Aminabad to arrange for this service. Ahmed Khan’s great-grandfather had provided this modest annual revenue to atone for one of his wayward son’s...

  13. CHAPTER 6 Shah Jamal
    (pp. 145-164)

    It was March; clear skies, 20 degrees. All electrical phases were working and there was no water shortage. Since returning from Pakistan in mid-October, Ali had been asked to write snappy copy for stories in the local news: “Five Die in Mustard Oil Adulteration Case, Mustafabad”; “Twelve-Year-Old Girl Rescued from Temple Dedication Scam.”

    This had been the arrangement. Still, Mr. Chandlal felt guilty as he reached out to receive Ali’s latest report. His tongue slid against the leafy juices of betel and masticated tobacco pooling in his mouth, but all he could come up with was a platitude: “True journalism...

  14. CHAPTER 7 Madho Lal
    (pp. 165-187)

    Ali spent several days after the interview exploring the area around the Madho Lal Husain shrine as preparations were under way for the‘urs. Ali Muhammad deposited Ali and Salim on Goray Shah Road and the two men wended their way north through Baghbanpura. They passed the shrine of Abdul Ghani and its graveyard. They ambled down a market road. The vendors who sharpened knives and other metal tools created such a rumbling screech that the two were forced temporarily to suspend their conversation.

    A wide footpath beyond the market traced a curve from one shrine and graveyard toward another....

  15. CHAPTER 8 The Manifest and the Hidden
    (pp. 188-221)

    Ali’s departure the next day was in equal measures dreadful and inevi table. After returning to Salim’s flat from Baghbanpura for much-needed rest and tea, the trio had planned to dine stylishly in Model Town. Sufiya now complained of a headache and exhaustion and didn’t want to go out. Salim dispatched himself to a nearby Afghan kabob stall for more modest victuals, leaving Ali to tend Sufiya. The two now alone, Sufiya owned up to her ruse: she was feeling just fine, thank you very much. So much had been communicated between the two. The touch of digits and limbs,...

  16. CHAPTER 9 The Voice in the Drum
    (pp. 222-249)

    Ali awoke at 5:30 A.M.,damp and intoxicated in the pungent, salty, heavy Karachi air.Shalwār-clad Sufiya was draped in a matching black tee shirt foraged from Ilfaz’s neatly fitted almirah. She looked up from her news paper. Peering over her half-frame reading glasses, she caressed the blue rim of her steaming cup of chai with parched lips.

    “What, no butter-toast, no omelette, for me, my dear?” Ali queried cheerily from beneath his sleep-swollen eyelids.

    The edges of Sufiya’s firm smile rose imperceptibly—her expression inscrutable, reserved—the enigmatic Sufiya, glimpsed through the weather worn teak shutters in Multan. Then as...

  17. CHAPTER 10 A Silver Box
    (pp. 250-258)

    Ahmed Khan sat in his jade velveteen teak-framed wing chair, facing away from the hearth and its uncleared char and ash. Strands of thin, oily gray hair strayed across his brow, and the raja’s right hand gripped the seat to quell his trembling. Ajmal and Huma, who’d arrived that morning, planted themselves on the worn matching couch, and with each movement puffed dust into the frowsty chamber. Huma was urging Ahmed Khan to drink a crisp glass of ruhafzah, glimmering like fresh-sliced watermelon.

    “Kevra! I can’t bear the taste.”

    Huma looked puzzled. It was a signature ingredient in Avadhi cuisine....

  18. APPENDIX A Dhīmā and Mātam
    (pp. 259-264)
  19. APPENDIX B Summary of Commemorative Themes on Particular Days of Muharram in South Asia
    (pp. 265-268)
  20. APPENDIX C Cast of Characters by Chapter; Key Figures in the Karbala Story
    (pp. 269-274)
  21. Notes
    (pp. 275-306)
  22. Glossary
    (pp. 307-326)
  23. References
    (pp. 327-336)
  24. Index
    (pp. 337-378)
  25. Back Matter
    (pp. 379-380)