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  • Cassette Culture: Popular Music and Technology in North India by Peter ManuelReview by: Rahul Peter DasJournal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 115, No. 2 (Apr. - Jun., 1995), pp. 357-359Published by: American Oriental SocietyStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/604723 .Accessed: 12/06/2014 20:39

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  • Reviews of Books Reviews of Books

    line of continuity from the sacrificial religion, without resis- tance. Renunciation became the organizing principle of the dharma literature, Olivelle argues, only gradually, and in the face of clear opposition. Olivelle's work, thus, helps add com-

    plexity and nuance to our understandings of the transitions from Vedic to classical religiosity.5

    One small point on which this reader would like further

    clarification, particularly because of its intriguing nature, con- cerns the relationship between the wilderness and the cities,

    during the crucial era of intellectual ferment after the fifth cen-

    tury B.C.E. In Olivelle's discussion of the social environment of the upanisadic period, he associates the rise of an ascetic ide-

    ology with urban centers, even though the transmission of the

    upanisadic collections themselves may not have been carried out in cities at all, but in the wilderness (n. 90, p. 61). Was this urban brahmanical enthusiasm for the life of a forest monk similar to the zest with which many city dwellers in our own so-

    ciety rush to Outward Bound adventures, or even champion the

    preservation of wilderness areas they will probably never see?6 Were the ascetic ideals actually taught in wilderness settings, or were the urban brahmins of Olivelle's reconstruction merely idealizing? More attention to the chains of geographical influ-

    ence, where possible, would render this part of Olivelle's argu- ment even more convincing and fascinating.

    The Asrama System is a brilliant book, one that will change the way scholars of Hinduism think and teach, not only about the dsramas and their development within the context of the

    emergence of classical Hinduism, but also about the benefit of

    using indigenous traditions of hermeneutics for understanding change in India.

    RACHEL FELL MCDERMOTT

    BARNARD COLLEGE

    5 For additional discussion of the Heesterman-Dumont di- vide, and Olivelle's comments thereon, see Olivelle's Samnyasa Upanisads, 19-29 and 68-71.

    6 I am grateful to my colleague, Charles Hallisey, who sug- gested this ingenious parallel.

    Cassette Culture: Popular Music and Technology in North In- dia. By PETER MANUEL. Chicago Studies in Ethnomusicology. Chicago: UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS, 1993. Pp. xix + 302. $52 (cloth); $22 (paper).

    In the author's own words, "this volume is a study of the impact of cassette technology on popular music in North India"

    line of continuity from the sacrificial religion, without resis- tance. Renunciation became the organizing principle of the dharma literature, Olivelle argues, only gradually, and in the face of clear opposition. Olivelle's work, thus, helps add com-

    plexity and nuance to our understandings of the transitions from Vedic to classical religiosity.5

    One small point on which this reader would like further

    clarification, particularly because of its intriguing nature, con- cerns the relationship between the wilderness and the cities,

    during the crucial era of intellectual ferment after the fifth cen-

    tury B.C.E. In Olivelle's discussion of the social environment of the upanisadic period, he associates the rise of an ascetic ide-

    ology with urban centers, even though the transmission of the

    upanisadic collections themselves may not have been carried out in cities at all, but in the wilderness (n. 90, p. 61). Was this urban brahmanical enthusiasm for the life of a forest monk similar to the zest with which many city dwellers in our own so-

    ciety rush to Outward Bound adventures, or even champion the

    preservation of wilderness areas they will probably never see?6 Were the ascetic ideals actually taught in wilderness settings, or were the urban brahmins of Olivelle's reconstruction merely idealizing? More attention to the chains of geographical influ-

    ence, where possible, would render this part of Olivelle's argu- ment even more convincing and fascinating.

    The Asrama System is a brilliant book, one that will change the way scholars of Hinduism think and teach, not only about the dsramas and their development within the context of the

    emergence of classical Hinduism, but also about the benefit of

    using indigenous traditions of hermeneutics for understanding change in India.

    RACHEL FELL MCDERMOTT

    BARNARD COLLEGE

    5 For additional discussion of the Heesterman-Dumont di- vide, and Olivelle's comments thereon, see Olivelle's Samnyasa Upanisads, 19-29 and 68-71.

    6 I am grateful to my colleague, Charles Hallisey, who sug- gested this ingenious parallel.

    Cassette Culture: Popular Music and Technology in North In- dia. By PETER MANUEL. Chicago Studies in Ethnomusicology. Chicago: UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS, 1993. Pp. xix + 302. $52 (cloth); $22 (paper).

    In the author's own words, "this volume is a study of the impact of cassette technology on popular music in North India"

    (p. xiii). We learn about the history and workings of the cassette

    industry in this region, as well as about what it is that these cas- settes disseminate. Though one of the most popular products of the cassette industry, namely Hindi film songs, is duly noted and

    discussed, the main focus of the work is not on Hindi film mu- sic, as such, but, rather, on what is mostly, but not only, by na- ture music. As it is, the advent of the audio cassette, a relatively inexpensive medium for reproducing and disseminating aural information, has made it possible for aural material formerly hard or impossible to obtain to be relatively easily obtainable, even by poorer segments of the population. Moreover, it is now

    possible to cater to the needs of relatively small groups and still turn a profit, and this has, according to the author, not only rev- olutionized listening habits in South Asia, but is also having widespread impact in the social and political spheres. Any vis- itor to South Asia is sooner or later confronted with the ubi-

    quitous cassette (so impossible to overlook in the many shops in which it displays itself in its often rather garish garb) and/or its contents (more often than not in the form of loud and mer- ciless acoustic onslaught), but few have probably spared more than a passing thought on the place it occupies in modern South Asian society. This book sets out to examine just that.

    Its style is what I would call 'journalistic', and the readership it seems primarily aimed at seems not to be expected to have much knowledge of South Asia. This precludes any in-depth analysis (historical or cultural) of both the "great tradition" and the "little traditions" in which much of the material discussed

    (especially "devotional" and "folk" music) is rooted; not only would the readership probably soon have lost interest, but, judging from the few sporadic forays the author makes in this

    direction, this would moreover also have been to the detriment of the work as a whole.1 He does however try his hand at the

    theorizing and generalizing that seems so popular in much of North American socio-anthropological literature. Most of this, in the opening part of the book, is however a bore. But once one has realized that much in this preliminary part, by nature of in- tense theorizing and discussion of various theories, as well as the quotations from and references to "authorities" strewn in

    every now and then, is more like the lettuce leaves serving to

    garnish a dish and can safely be put aside without any adverse effects, and once one has become used to the author's leftist rhetoric (which gradually disappears in the course of this book)

    1 Obviously, no recourse to primary material can be expected

    in such a context and publication, but even the sporadic second-

    ary material quoted is highly selective and confined to a few works, which scholars who are not primarily North American

    socio-anthropologists may not necessarily find to be very reli- able. Even this material seems not always to have been utilized

    properly; thus one is startled to read that "in 1972, Milton Singer coined the terms 'Great Tradition' and 'Little Tradition'" (p. xiv).

    (p. xiii). We learn about the history and workings of the cassette

    industry in this region, as well as about what it is that these cas- settes disseminate. Though one of the most popular products o