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Williams, Richard David (2022) 'Salacious Songs: khemṭā dancers and lyricists between Rampur, Lucknow, and Calcutta.' International Journal of Islam in Asia, 3 (1/2). pp. 182-204.

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Songbooks were an especially popular product in the colonial-era book industry of northern India. From cheap chapbooks to multi-volume tomes, collections of lyrics covered a range of tastes and genres, appealing to different social settings and performance practices. This article excavates the worlds of music-making invoked by these books through the case study of khemṭā. The khemṭā dancing girl was a low-status performer, associated with the playboy culture of early-nineteenth century Calcutta. Khemṭā lyrics were considered especially salacious and sensual, and the common view today is that the genre was geared towards titillation rather than artistry. Following the exile of Wajid ʿAli Shah of Awadh (r. 1847–1856) to Calcutta, this genre began to be choreographed and performed in the royal court, and the former king began to collect – and compose his own – khemṭā lyrics. By the late nineteenth century, khemṭā dancers were performing at fairs across northern India, and their verses were being compiled and printed in different scripts and languages.

Item Type: Journal Article
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of Arts > Department of Music
ISSN: 25899988
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 22 Sep 2023 13:29

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