The Marketplace of Devotional Song: Cultural Economies of Exchange in Bengali Padavali-Kirtan

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Publication Date: 
February, 2017

“The Marketplace of Devotional Song: Cultural Economies of Exchange in Bengali Padavali-Kirtan,” in Ethnomusicology Vol. 61 No. 1 (Winter 2017): 52-86

In the past two decades, professional performers of a genre of Hindu devotional song known as padāvalī-kīrtan have begun to introduce a variety of promotional techniques to further their careers. Advertising, media production, and transformations of musical style are but some examples of this trend. These recent changes have spurred journalists, kīrtan scholars, and kīrtan instructors in urban Kolkata to suggest that professional kīrtan musicians are guilty of transforming the musical style of this genre in order to attract new audiences, while further subverting the genre’s association with themes of social prosperity. In this article, I study the social and musical values that surround this debate, as I argue that these negative critiques overlook the ways that money, music, and religious belief are intertwined in the lives of present-day musicians. Theories of musical commodification, neoliberal entrepreneurship, and the influence of capitalism on musical style are considered as I focus on a specific musical style of padāvalī-kīrtan that uses large meters and slow tempos in performance.

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