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Music of Pakistan, India

Music of Pakistan, India


By Nazir Ali Jairazbhoy

This 60-minute 'Sounds-and-Stills' show of Pakistani folk music is based on Nazir Jairazbhoy's three-week fieldtrip to Pakistan in 1975, sponsored by The Smithsonian Institution in collaboration with Lok Virsa (National Institute of Folk Heritage, Pakistan), and the resulting weeklong visit of Pakistani musicians to perform at the Festival of American Folklife in Washington D.C. in 1976. The fieldtrip extended from high in the Hindu Kush mountains to the southern areas of Sindh, with recordings from all four provinces - NWFP (Peshawar), Punjab, Baluchistan, and Sindh - as well as Kafiristan (Birir Valley). All recordings were made in Pakistan in Sufi shrines, villages, and other contexts, or in Washington, D.C. Mystic songs, joyful instrumental renditions, wedding laments, and jubilant dance music convey a beautiful and variegated soundscape, especially appropriate to release at this time to counter the media images of Pakistan prevailing today.

DVD / 2007 / 60 minutes

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By Amy Catlin-Jairazbhoy and Nazir Ali Jairazbhoy

This narrated DVD explores the sacred music, dance and rituals of devidasis and devidasas, women and men dedicated to the goddess Renuka/Yellamma. Worshipped by millions of devotees in the border regions of southern Maharashtra, northern Karnataka, and adjacent areas of India, this fertility goddess is best known through media representations and social activism protesting practices linked to sexuality and prostitution. Her musical and social traditions have parallels in the devadasi (women dedicated to male deities) system in Tamilnadu before its reform and classicization in the early twentieth century.

The DVD attempts to balance the typically negative representations of the tradition, which tend to focus on controversial practices and to exclude the unique musical forms essential to the worship of the goddess Renuka/Yellamma. "Fictive documentary" techniques employed include the autobiographical voice of the Goddess, who reflects on elements of her own varied histories and some of the practices of her followers, and the voice of her son Parasuram. Virtuosic performances by women and men practitioners (jogtas and jogappas, including transgenders) are featured in ensembles including the chaundke, a one-stringed variable-tension 'plucked drum' believed to have first been fashioned by Parasuram from a demon's skull. These musical ritualists are necessary for calendrical festivals shown in the video such as pilgrimage during Rande Purnima ("Widows' Full Moon"), when the goddess and her devidasis are temporarily widowed, processions in the "Baby-Dropping Ritual", and for biweekly mendicancy rounds and oracle rituals. Police threats to confiscate musical instruments, and protest songs sung within the tradition against the dedication of children, attest to contemporary conflicts surrounding the goddess and her music, the endangerment of her chaundke, and the human rights issues at stake.

DVD / 2007

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By Niharika Seth

The Patuas, or "Chitrakers," are a nomadic people who live in the small village of Noya, Midnapore, in India. Though originally Muslim, they now consider themselves neither Muslim or Hindu. Instead, they are more clearly defined by their art. They practice a form of painting called "pat" - richly colored storyboards on scrolls that reflect the ancient myths of their Indian culture. This art form is transmitted from generation to generation - the subjects and styles of the paintings simply changing over the years, encompassing what is culturally appealing at the time. Myths are now being replaced by news stories and social subjects, such as domestic abuse and environmental issues. While keeping religious and folk myths alive, the pats have taken on a new purpose: to raise social awareness.

They perform the musical narratives that accompany the pats for small neighborhood audiences or city folk. These performances and their sales of paintings to tourists allows them to earn a meager living and carry on their work. Gone To Pat shows in detail the Patuas praciticing their art: mixing the paint colors, drawing outlines of the images, and filling the images with "vibrant, bold colors" that are made from only natural materials. As beautiful and colorful as the art it depicts, this film transports the viewer to a picturesque, idyllic region of India, which has an almost mythological quality in itself. Of interest to Asian Studies, the Anthropology of Art, Cultural Change, Anthropology of Religion, Psychology.

  • Heard Museum Film Festival, Arizona, 2005
  • 10th RAI International Festival of Ethnographic Film, London, 2005

    DVD (Color) / 2005 / 30 minutes

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    By Pierre-Yves Perez & Cedric Dupire

    Musafir is the name given to a group of folk musicians from different castes and religions in Rajasthan, India. Hameed Khan, a tabla player who divides his time between Paris and Jaipur, is constantly searching for the best musicians who he then takes under his wing and teaches them the Musafir repertoire. Each cast of musicians has its own repertoire, instruments and particular style. Hammed's role is to harmonize and unite them all. The collaboration not only produces new music - unlike the traditional music most of the musicians play in their communities - it produces new friendships - breaking through the social conflicts that plague India.

    Musafir means "nomad." This name represents the philosophy of the group: the discovery of others through a journey in which music is the common language. The documentary features the journey of the musical group through three main stages - their training session in Jaipur, the story of each musician's life, and finally, the group's tour of Europe.

  • International Asian Film Festival, Vesoul, 2005
  • Beeld voor Beeld Film Festival, Amsterdam, 2006
  • Festival etonnants Voyageurs St. Malo, France, 2006
  • Parnu International Documentary and Anthropology Film Festival, 2006
  • International Ethnographic Film Festival, Sardinia, 2006
  • Sole e Luna, Mediterranean and Islamic International Documentary Film Festival, Palermo, 2006

  • Fatumbi Award - Best First Film, 25th Ethnographic Film Festival, Musee de l'Homme, Paris, 2006

    DVD (Color) / 2004 / 84 minutes

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    The music of India conjures up exotic images of a culture we can barely understand. This live-action program identifies and demonstrates various instruments and presents them in concert.

    Learning Objectives
    1) To teach the student about the music of India.
    2) To educate the student about the main instruments used in Indian music.
    3) To illustrate the ways to play the different instruments.

    DVD / 2004 / 22 minutes

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    By Shweta Kishore and Yask Desai

    Of Bards and Beggars documents in detail, a musical ritual called Pabuji Jaagran, an all night epic recitation by Indian Rajasthani folk musicians. This story centers around a folk deity called Pabujib, a protector of livestock. The Pabuji legend is widely popular in Western Rajasthan among a shepherd community from the Rebari (Raika) caste. An oral tradition passed from generation to generation by word of mouth, the entire Pabuji epic would take 36 hours to recite. In the theatrical version, a performer known as the Bhopa performs a duet with his wife, the Bhopi. The oral recital consists of multiple stanzas which are also illustrated on a giant painting behind the performers. Along with singing the stanzas, the Bhopa plays a stringed instrument, the Ravanhatha. The performance starts at dusk and lasts for twelve hours. At dawn, the Bhopi and the Bhopa sing the final prayer.

    The film not only captures the first documentation on DVD of an authentic, unstaged Pabujib jaagran in its natural setting, it also seeks to examine the issues of commodification of folk culture and the resulting loss of meaning for the traditional followers of Pabuji. A poor community no longer held in great esteem, the Pabuji musicians now perform in the new milieu of India's hospitality and tourism industry. Signaling their rapidly-vanishing folk culture, they must play to an audience largely ignorant of the meaning or origins of the entertainment.

    This is the first documentation on video of an authentic, unstaged, Pabujib jaagran in it's natural setting.

  • Association for Asian Studies Annual Conference, San Diego, California, 2004
  • UCLA Vitas Film and Folklore Festival, 2004
  • Society for Visual Anthropology/American Anthropological Association Conference, San Francisco, 2004

    DVD (Color) / 2003 / 30 minutes

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    Since India's ancient times, music has been considered a potent vehicle for attaining nirvana, spiritual salvation. This intriguing program provides an overview of the history of Indian classical music, from its divine origins to the present day, showcasing popular stringed, wind, and percussion instruments such as the sitar, sarangi, veena, tambora, and sarod; the flute, shehnai, and harmonium; and the mridang, tabla, and bayan. The Indian approach to teaching music is also discussed.

    DVD / 1998 / 30 minutes

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    By John Baily

    Bradford is a mill town in the north of England with a population of around 60,000 Muslims from South Asia. Muslim values are strongly maintained. This film studies Asian music within the community and contrasts music education in the schools with the very different kind of music enculturation in the family. Gulam Musa is from Gujerat (India), from a Muslim sub-caste whose members are traditionally barbers and musicians. He specializes in singing qawwali, a genre of Muslim devotional music found in India and Pakistan. He runs his own qawwali group and takes part in Asian music workshops in the Bradford schools. This film is more ethnomusicological than AMIR, examining in greater detail the music itself and what people have to say about it. The film is of special interest to music educators involved with the multi-cultural school curriculum.

    DVD (Color With Study Guide) / 1986 / 49 minutes

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    By John Baily

    Between 1973 and 1977 John Baily carried out extensive ethnomusicological fieldwork on the urban music of Afghanistan, particularly in the western city of Heart. In 1985, he traveled to Peshawar to film Afghan refugees who were musicians and again met his old friend Amir Mohammad, from Heart.

    The film portrays aspects of Amir's life as a refugee - his living conditions in Peshawar and his longing to return to Heart. It is also about Amir's life as a professional musician and his relationships with other musicians in Peshawar. Musical performances include resistance songs at a Pakistani wedding.

  • "It is a poignant production. The plight of refugees comes through and should leave no-one indifferent." - Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, UN Co-ordinator Operation Salam

  • Prix Special de Jury, Bilan Ethnographique, Musee de l'Homme, 1986

  • Award of Excellence, Society for Visual Anthropology, 1989

    DVD (Color) / 1985 / 52 minutes

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    Amy Catlin-Jairazbhoy & Nazir Ali Jairazbhoy

    A: Ancestors, Abba (Father), Amma (Mother)
    B: Birth, Babyhood, Boyhood
    C: College, Culture Shock
    D: Daddyhood, Disaster, Desertion, Divorce, Desolation, Discovery
    E: England, Ethnomusicology, Evolution
    F: Fieldwork, Folklore, Film, Fiction: Continuing, and To Be Continued!


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    By Nazir Ali Jairazbhoy

    A one-hour video narrated by Nazir Jairazbhoy and Amy Catlin. The authors return in 1984 to the original sites of Arnold Bake's 1938 South Indian fieldwork in order to solicit responses to his photographs and audio recordings of numerous performance traditions in an examination of continuity and change. The video incorporates Bake's 16mm films and audio recordings. It also shows the background of this Dutch scholar, the methodologies used in both fieldtrips, and concludes with an examination of the impact of classification, modernization, institutionalization, and festivalization of performance.


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    Narrated by UCLA ethnomusicologists Amy and Nazir Jairazbhoy.

    Sidis descend from Africans who sailed across the Indian Ocean to the west coast of India over many centuries. This documentary project explores the expressions of their Indian and African cultural heritage.

  • The video begins in the Sidi Fort at Janjira Island, built during the heyday of Sidi powers in the Mughal period.
  • It then surveys the music and dances of African-Indian men, women, and children in Karnataka, Hyderabad, Bombay, and Gujarat.
  • Exciting footage of ritual events shows the stages of music during ecstatic trance, exorcism, and celebratory rites, when both male and female Sidi Sufi saints are invoked through euphoric rhythms, voices, and communal dances.
  • Musical instruments such as footed drums, coconut rattles, armpit-held drums, and braced musical bows show the retention of African musical practices.
  • In excerpts from a conference for Sidis and scholars, Sidis present their own views on their history, contemporary issues, and future prospects.
  • The film concludes with exciting concert footage from the first international Sidi tour of England and Wales in 2002.

    DVD / 74 minutes

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    This 42-minute documentary chronicles a one-week malunga training camp held at Desert Coursers Nature Resort in Zainabad, Gujarat in February 2003. Prior research by the Jairazbhoys had revealed that fewer than ten Sidis (African Indians) could still play the instrument, all of them elderly.

    The purpose of the camp was to bring together some of these elders to teach the basic techniques of malunga construction and performance to 16 Sidi youths, selected from different parts of Gujarat.

    Scenes include:
  • assembling 16 malunga bows especially made for the camp
  • group instruction in playing techniques along with singing and dancing
  • worship at a Sufi shrine in natural context
  • spontaneous comic disco dancing
  • brief excerpts from the final costumed Sidi performance
  • interviews with the students
  • concludes with a return to Gujarat one year later to evaluate the impact of the camp on the participants

    DVD / 42 minutes

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