Mountainous Sound Spaces: Listening to History and Music in the Uttarakhand Himalayas

Publisher: Cambridge University Press India

This book provides a perspective on cultural practice in the Himalayas that engages directly with the sonic world of musical production, thus emphasizing how the invisible world of sound is critical to shaping imagined histories, creating mythologized heroes and amplifying the stories of mountains and people.

Together, Garhwal and Kumaun comprise the present-day Indian state of Uttarakhand, a state with unique histories associated with Hindu mythology, immigrant communities from western India, Gorkha conquest, British colonialism and modern-day India.

The book situates the reader within the history and geography of Garhwal and provides general information on a selection of instruments and sound structures. The reader is introduced to Garhwal’s aristocratic and colonial past as well as to the region’s folklore. The music of bagpipes echoes a colonial past by blending British regimental histories with contemporary folk traditions. Drum and trumpet ensembles echo the martial traditions of Rajputs and Mughals and confirm migratory histories between the mountains and the plains. Flutes echo the supernatural world of sprites and gods and become a potent symbol of dangerous love.

The book also uses a variety of theoretical models to explore the ways in which music is described and explained in academic literature and mystic traditions. The nature of sound as well as its relationship to language is re-examined in the context of the Himalayas.

It provides the reader with a framework for understanding how music is created and how repertoire is organized. In addition, it moves the reader between the worlds of epic performance and contemporary practice giving a sense for disparate sites of musical production and performance.


– Contents –

List of figures
List of tables and musical examples

  1. Echoes of Colonialism: Bagpipes in the Himalayas
  2. Echoes of a Royal Heritage: Vestiges of Naubat
  3. Possession and Performance: Sounding Out the Epic Worlds of Heroes and Gods
  4. Worlds of Sound: Revisiting the Parameters of Oral Tradition
  5. Flutes, Sprites and Mountainous Geographies
  6. Drum Strokes, Syllables and Rhythmic Patterns
  7. The Significance of Tantric Sects for Drum Practice in the Central Himalayas
  8. Playing History: Sounding Out the Epic Worlds of Heroes and Gods
  9. The Legacy of Garhwali Cassettes: Remembering the Pre-Digital Age of Music Commodification

Epilogue: Listening to an Uttarakhandi Himalayan Space


Author/Editor Details

Andrew Alter, Senior Lecturer, Department of Media, Music, Communication & Cultural Studies, Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia