Cassette Culture: Popular Music and Technology in North Indiaby Peter Manuel

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<ul><li><p>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</p><p>Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms &amp; Conditions of Use, available at .http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp</p><p> .JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.</p><p> .</p><p>American Oriental Society is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Journal ofthe American Oriental Society.</p><p>http://www.jstor.org </p><p>This content downloaded from 91.229.229.212 on Thu, 12 Jun 2014 20:39:52 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p>http://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=aoshttp://www.jstor.org/stable/604723?origin=JSTOR-pdfhttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsphttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp</p></li><li><p>Reviews of Books Reviews of Books </p><p>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- </p><p>plexity and nuance to our understandings of the transitions from Vedic to classical religiosity.5 </p><p>One small point on which this reader would like further </p><p>clarification, particularly because of its intriguing nature, con- cerns the relationship between the wilderness and the cities, </p><p>during the crucial era of intellectual ferment after the fifth cen- </p><p>tury B.C.E. In Olivelle's discussion of the social environment of the upanisadic period, he associates the rise of an ascetic ide- </p><p>ology with urban centers, even though the transmission of the </p><p>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- </p><p>ciety rush to Outward Bound adventures, or even champion the </p><p>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- </p><p>ence, where possible, would render this part of Olivelle's argu- ment even more convincing and fascinating. </p><p>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 </p><p>emergence of classical Hinduism, but also about the benefit of </p><p>using indigenous traditions of hermeneutics for understanding change in India. </p><p>RACHEL FELL MCDERMOTT </p><p>BARNARD COLLEGE </p><p>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. </p><p>6 I am grateful to my colleague, Charles Hallisey, who sug- gested this ingenious parallel. </p><p>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). </p><p>In the author's own words, "this volume is a study of the impact of cassette technology on popular music in North India" </p><p>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- </p><p>plexity and nuance to our understandings of the transitions from Vedic to classical religiosity.5 </p><p>One small point on which this reader would like further </p><p>clarification, particularly because of its intriguing nature, con- cerns the relationship between the wilderness and the cities, </p><p>during the crucial era of intellectual ferment after the fifth cen- </p><p>tury B.C.E. In Olivelle's discussion of the social environment of the upanisadic period, he associates the rise of an ascetic ide- </p><p>ology with urban centers, even though the transmission of the </p><p>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- </p><p>ciety rush to Outward Bound adventures, or even champion the </p><p>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- </p><p>ence, where possible, would render this part of Olivelle's argu- ment even more convincing and fascinating. </p><p>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 </p><p>emergence of classical Hinduism, but also about the benefit of </p><p>using indigenous traditions of hermeneutics for understanding change in India. </p><p>RACHEL FELL MCDERMOTT </p><p>BARNARD COLLEGE </p><p>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. </p><p>6 I am grateful to my colleague, Charles Hallisey, who sug- gested this ingenious parallel. </p><p>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). </p><p>In the author's own words, "this volume is a study of the impact of cassette technology on popular music in North India" </p><p>(p. xiii). We learn about the history and workings of the cassette </p><p>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 </p><p>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 </p><p>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- </p><p>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. </p><p>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 </p><p>(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 </p><p>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 </p><p>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 </p><p>every now and then, is more like the lettuce leaves serving to </p><p>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) </p><p>1 Obviously, no recourse to primary material can be expected </p><p>in such a context and publication, but even the sporadic second- </p><p>ary material quoted is highly selective and confined to a few works, which scholars who are not primarily North American </p><p>socio-anthropologists may not necessarily find to be very reli- able. Even this material seems not always to have been utilized </p><p>properly; thus one is startled to read that "in 1972, Milton Singer coined the terms 'Great Tradition' and 'Little Tradition'" (p. xiv). </p><p>(p. xiii). We learn about the history and workings of the cassette </p><p>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 </p><p>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 </p><p>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- </p><p>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. </p><p>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 </p><p>(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 </p><p>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 </p><p>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 </p><p>every now and then, is more like the lettuce leaves serving to </p><p>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) </p><p>1 Obviously, no recourse to primary material can be expected </p><p>in such a context and publication, but even the sporadic second- </p><p>ary material quoted is highly selective and confined to a few works, which scholars who are not primarily North American </p><p>socio-anthropologists may not necessarily find to be very reli- able. Even this material seems not always to have been utilized </p><p>properly; thus one is startled to read that "in 1972, Milton Singer coined the terms 'Great Tradition' and 'Little Tradition'" (p. xiv). </p><p>357 357 </p><p>This content downloaded from 91.229.229.212 on Thu, 12 Jun 2014 20:39:52 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions</p><p>http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp</p></li><li><p>Journal of the American Oriental Society 115.2 (1995) </p><p>and his harping (which too gradually disappears later on) on the undemocratic nature of the music produced and disseminated </p><p>by oligopolistic entities and the democratic, grass-roots nature of smaller and regionalized producing and marketing entities, one discovers that this work is quite enjoyable and has a lot of </p><p>very interesting information that it-rather surprisingly, given the author's obvious biases (which he himself makes no at- </p><p>tempts to hide, p. xv)-mostly presents in a manner that may be termed 'differentiating', and even critical of several of his own beliefs put forth in the preface (e.g., "undemocratic" musical culture is not always necessarily harmful, whereas "demo- cratic" musical culture is not always necessarily beneficial). </p><p>All in all, the book makes not only quite interesting, but also </p><p>enjoyable reading. We learn how cassettes are manufactured, recorded and distributed, how not only the legitimate, but also the huge pirating industry (often difficult to differentiate from the former) functions, how artistes are won and treated, etc. The individual genres of cassette recordings and their target groups too are analyzed, in some cases more or less superfi- cially, but in others quite thoroughly; the social impact of what is disseminated is also studied, but with too much generaliza- tion. This latter is indeed one of the weaknesses of this work, a weakness it shares with many modern works which study South Asia from a socio-anthropological point of view- </p><p>namely the tendency to generalize on a rather limited and lo- calized (both in space and in time) data base. Thus, though the </p><p>study is roughly confined to the Doab and immediately adjoin- ing regions, even here it being only the Braj area which is thor- </p><p>oughly studied (the Garhwali cassette market, too, comes in for some closer scrutiny), and though, given the dearth of really re- liable data, much of what is presented in the book is anecdotal or based on a scattering of interviews, i.e., highly personalized, the author more often than not generalizes his gleanings from this material to write not only about "North India" (which in it- self is bad enough), but abou...</p></li></ul>