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Text, Orality, and Performance in Newar Devotional Music

Widdess, Richard (2015) 'Text, Orality, and Performance in Newar Devotional Music.' In: Orsini, Francesca and Schofield, Katherine, (eds.), Tellings and Texts: Music, Literature and Performance in North India. Cambridge: Open Book Publishers.

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Abstract

Dāphā bhajan is a style of devotional song performance practised by Newar men in the towns of the Kathmandu Valley. Although it is now primarily the farming community who maintain it, it originated in the court culture of the Newar kings in the 17th and 18th centuries, and reflects the interests of aristocratic society at that time in devotional literature and music theory. Texts of dāphā songs include compositions attributed to the kings themselves, in old Newari and Maithili, and poetry by Indian authors including Vidyāpati, Nāmdev, Kabīr, Sūrdās and Jayadeva. Transmission to the farming community, among whom literacy and knowledge of the languages concerned were limited, has shifted the balance of attention away from the texts themselves towards the processes of musical performance. As in some other South Asian singing traditions, the generation of intensity through music overwhelms the text, which loses its centrality, its form and even its meaning. The manuscript songbook from which a group sings can no longer be regarded as the vehicle of a written tradition: it is but one element in an oral performance tradition.

Item Type: Book Chapters
Keywords: orality, text, performance, music, Newar, Kathmandu Valley
SOAS Departments & Centres: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Department of Music
Subjects: M Music and Books on Music > M Music
P Language and Literature > PK Indo-Iranian languages and literatures
ISBN: ISBN Paperback: 9781783741021 ISBN Hardback: 9781783741038 ISBN Digital (PDF): 9781783741045 ISBN Digital ebook (epub): 9781783741052 ISBN Digital ebook (mobi): 9781783741069
Copyright Statement: © Francesca Orsini and Katherine Butler Schofield. Copyright of individual chapters is maintained by the chapters’ authors. The text in this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license (CC BY 4.0).
DOI (Digital Object Identifier): 10.11647/OBP.0062
Depositing User: Richard Widdess
Date Deposited: 25 Oct 2015 10:19
URI: http://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/20978

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