"Says Kabir": Unbounded Sounds

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Date
2014
Authors
McCall, Maressa B.
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Witzleben, J. Lawrence
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Abstract
Kabir, the weaver-poet, has continued to permeate many facets of Indian society since his life in the fifteenth century. The poetry attributed to him is a large body of work existing in oral, print, recording, and other forms that encompasses much more today than what Kabir said in his lifetime. Between the biting social criticisms and intimate devotional messages, the poetry bridges many ideological gaps, ensuring its longevity. Through fieldwork across India, I came to understand Kabir as a musical tradition, rooted in poetry, that continually renews its sonic character to speak to new generations while maintaining a heterogeneous variety of styles (folk, classical, semi-classical, and more). Predominantly studied previously as a text-based tradition, a focus on the range of musical styles and content that Kabir encompasses enables us to understand its popularity across religious, socioeconomic, and generational divisions and provides insights into Kabir's place in today's North Indian society.
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