Eben Graves, Mellon Teaching Fellow and Lecturer in Music, has published article, ‘Kīrtan’s Downfall’: The Sādhaka Kīrtanīyā, Cultural Nationalism and Gender in Early Twentieth-century Bengal.
Journal of Hindu Studies, Autumn 2017
Link to website: https://doi.org/10.1093/jhs/hix017
Abstract: This article studies the relationship between the discourse of Bengali cultural nationalism and the devotional song genre of padāvalī kīrtan in the early twentieth century. Prominent in the work of padāvalī kīrtan enthusiasts amongst the Bengali elite—the bhadralok—was the promotion of the image of a religiously devout and musically skilled musician, referred to as the sādhaka kīrtanīyā. The advancement of the sādhaka kīrtanīyā as a cultural template was based on non-cosmopolitan, male performers of the genre who began to perform and teach in Kolkata at the turn of the twentieth century. The focus on the musical skill and devotional attributes of these musicians was part of a process of classicisation that worked to distance Bengali kīrtan from a group of female, courtesan singers who performed in a popular devotional musical style known as ḍhap kīrtan. Female performers of padāvalī kīrtan from elite families did emerge later in the twentieth century, as they adopted the discursive and performative markers of the male sādhaka kīrtanīyā as a means of legitimising public female performance. A distinguishing characteristic of the musical style of the sādhaka kīrtanīyā was the use of large meters (tāls) that were performed at slow tempos, a musical style brought to Kolkata with rural, male musicians at the turn of the twentieth century. This style came to stand in distinction to the smaller meters and text-based singing style of the female, courtesan ḍhap kīrtan singers during this period.