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Poske, Christian Friedrich (2020) Continuity and Change: A Restudy of Arnold Adriaan Bake’s Research on the Devotional and Folk Music and Dance of Bengal 1925-1956. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis is a restudy of the research that the Dutch musicologist and indologist Arnold Adriaan Bake (1899-1963) conducted on the folk and devotional music and dance of the Bengal region between 1925 and 1956. My thesis pursues two central aims. On the one hand, I study Bake’s research and fieldwork methodology, by investigating his interactions with Bengali academics, artists, and recording participants and informants. I argue that Bengali scholars often significantly shaped Bake’s views on communities and their performing arts through idealised portrayals, and that he established personal connections to the Indian Civil Service and to missionary organisations to facilitate his fieldwork and recordings. On the other hand, I study the regional performance traditions rāybẽśe, jārigān, Bengali kīrtan, and Bāul music and dance, as they developed from the early 20th century until the present in West Bengal and Bangladesh, and the development of Santali music and dance in Jharkhand and West Bengal. I argue that Bengali scholars reframed the representation of regional folk music and dance in Bengali society between the 1900s-40s, through academic discourses with nationalist overtones, and that their efforts changed performance styles and contexts up until the present day. Furthermore, I argue that missionaries restricted the practice of traditional Santali music and dance among converts, and remodelled their songs into church hymns, to support proselytisation processes. For my research critique, I evaluated Bake’s sound recordings, silent films, and field notes held at the British Library Sound Archive, his correspondence at the British Library, the Berlin Phonogram Archive, Leiden University Library, at the Rabindra Bhavan Archive at Visva-Bharati University in Santiniketan, and other published and unpublished resources. I circulated Bake’s recordings among performers and academics in West Bengal, Jharkhand, and Bangladesh, for support in the evaluation of the recordings, which provided insights into the relevance of the recordings to them. The recirculation resulted in the repatriation of copies to a museum and to an archive in West Bengal in 2018. For the study of stylistic continuity and change, I analysed Bake’s recordings, and compared these with my field recordings from 2017 and contemporary online resources. During my fieldwork, I conducted ethnographic observations, to study the current living circumstances of performers, and the wider socio-cultural context of genres.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Richard Widdess
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Mar 2021 11:00
Funders: Arts and Humanities Research Council

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