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SOAS South Asia Institute

"Dāphā: Sacred Singing in a South Asian City" and "The Songs of Khayal"

The Songs of Khayal
Richard Widdess (SOAS) and Nicolas Magriel

Date: 18 June 2014Time: 5:30 PM

Finishes: 18 June 2014Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College BuildingsRoom: Khalili Lecture Theatre

Type of Event: Book Launch

Dapha: Sacred Singing in a South Asian City
Music, Performance and Meaning in Bhaktapur, Nepal 

Richard Widdess

Dāphā, or dāphā bhajan, is a genre of Hindu-Buddhist devotional singing, performed by male, non-professional musicians of the farmer and other castes belonging to the Newar ethnic group, in the towns and villages of the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. The songs, their texts, and their characteristic responsorial performance-style represent an extension of pan-South Asian traditions of rāga- and tāla-based devotional song, but at the same time embody distinctive characteristics of Newar culture. This culture is of unique importance as an urban South Asian society in which many traditional models survive into the modern age.

The book describes the music and musical practices of dāphā, accounts for their historical origins and later transformations, investigates links with other South Asian traditions, and describes a cultural world in which music is an integral part of everyday social and religious life. The book focuses particularly on the musical system and structures of dāphā, but aims to integrate their analysis with that of the cultural and historical context of the music, in order to address the question of what music means in a traditional South Asian society.

The Songs of Khayal

Nicolas Magriel with Lalita du Perron

Khayāl is the pre-eminent genre of Hindustani vocal music. It is a dynamic  ever-changing art form which, in its present form, accompanied by tablā, began to crystallise in the early nineteenth cenury.
In this substantial contribution to the literature on khayāl, the authors have collected, transcribed, translated and analysed 492 songs (bandißes) of Khayål. The songs are all culled from commercial recordings of the twentieth century, beginning with the first ever recording of khayāl, Gauhar Jan's rendition of rāg Sur Malhār, recorded in 1902. The transcriptions utilise a modified form of Indian sargam notation, achieving an unprecedented degree of detail and accuracy with regard to rhythmic values and tonal nuance.

Chapter One defines khayāl and situates this work in the context of the history of khayāl, looking at the birth of the recording industry in India and  the history of khayāl on records. It also presents hereditary and teaching lineages of the artists whose recordings have been transcribed. Chapter Two explains the notation system after surveying the great variety of notation systems which have proliferated since the mid-nineteenth century. Chapters  three and four examine khayāl songs from poetic, thematic and linguistic  perspectives. Chapter Five looks at the rhythmic structures of khayāl songs while Chapter Six explores the melodic nuances of khayāl as embodied in the songs. Chapter Seven is a melodic, structural and poetic examination of a single khayål bandi as performed by five different artists.  The discussion and analysis is housed in Book One. Book Two presents the songs. The enclosed DVD contains almost 2000 sound files including the sthāyi and antarā sections of each song, extracted from the original recordings.


Richard Widdess

Nicolas Magriel has been involved with North Indian music since 1970 as a sārangi player and as a student of Hindustani vocal music. He has a PhD in ethnomusicology from SOAS, University of London. His articles have appeared in several journals in the UK, USA and India. Since 2009 he has been working on the Growing into Music project, researching and filming the musical enculturation of children in families of Hindustani and Rajasthani musicians. Several of his films can be seen at www.growingintomusic.co.uk. He is also a psychotherapist.

Organiser: SOAS South Asia Institute and SOAS Music Department

Contact email: ssai@soas.ac.uk

Contact Tel: +44 (0)20 7898 4390