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Case Studies

India-Malay Case Study

The India-Malay Case Study is dedicated to exploring the musical connections between India and the Malay world between c.1800–1950.  Dr Jim Sykes’ research has focused on Tamils in the context of migration to the Straits Settlements and Malay world generally, and particularly Singapore, in the period 1830–1957.  He has been investigating the transitions of Tamil musics that accompanied the movement of indentured plantation and coolie labourers, and his work elucidates questions of sound and social relations in the Singaporean context, the relations between music and social/ethical life, and the nature of oceans, islands and non-state spaces as sites for the analysis of music and musical life.

Dr David Lunn is focusing in particular on the interactions between European theatrical music making and amateur dramatics, Parsi Theatre, and Malay forms such as Bangsawan, in the soundscapes of the major port cities of the Bay of Bengal – Calcutta, Madras, Penang and Singapore – around the turn of the 20th century.  In the relative absence of vernacular chronicles and sources, his work mines the English-language newspaper archive for evidence of the diverse albeit limited cultural cosmopolitanism of these urban melting pots.  He is also investigating the Colonial regulation of performers and performances – and particularly the movement of these – in an attempt to supplement our understanding of the opportunities and limits of movement through the spaces of the British Empire.

Additionally, Dr Katherine Butler Schofield is researching the migrations of North Indian musical genres to the Malay peninsula in the early 19th century, and their appropriation into or impact on local musical cultures.  The subaltern nature of most of the agents of such transition – sepoys, convicts, nautch girls and faqirs – results in a general elision of their agency from the archive.  Nevertheless, traces remain – once again in the English language archive of the colonialists – which throw some light on the transmission of Hindustani music to the Malay world.

Finally, this Case Study is particularly concerned with developing methodologies for analysing complex and diverse inter-regional musical fields such as the Eastern Indian Ocean, and particularly in the era before recorded sound or in contexts absent systematic musical notation or records.  This area concern is shared across the Case Studies, and is more fully explored in the section on Connected Histories of Indian Ocean Musics


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