Indian Music and the West

Indian Music and the West

Indian Music and the West

Indian Music and the West


This book examines perceptions and representations of Indian music in the West over a period of two hundred years, ranging from orientalist studies of Indian history and culture in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, to the adoption of elements from Indian music in Western popular culture in the latter half of the twentieth century.


Three years have elapsed since the hardback edition of this book was pub- lished in 1997. Historical materials are continually coming to light which have a story of Indian music and the West is in a continual state of change and development.

There has been, for example, a remarkable upsurge in the popularity of South Asian popular music worldwide and particularly in Britain. A few years can seem like an eternity in the world of popular music and many of the observations made about the British South Asian music scene in Chapter 7 of Indian Music and the West already feel as much part of history as does the material of earlier chapters. In recent years British musicians such as Cornershop, Asian Dub Foundation, Bally Sagoo, and others have had unprecedented mainstream commercial success. Not only does their music synthesize a number of musical languages from the West and the Indian sub-continent, their influence on popular music in India is also significant. We are beginning to see, perhaps for the first time on any appreciable scale, a process of reexportation of South Asian Diaspora music to ther India sub-continent.

In Europe and the United States the institutionalization of Indian classical music has continued to expand. Several of the world's greatest Indian musicians are now resident in the West and teach an ever-increasing number of Western students. Slowly, but surely, Indian classical music is becoming an important facet of Western music education systems.

The process of writing a study such as this is necessarily one of selection from a vast amount of historical and musical data. The result can never be either comprehensive or definitive, and indeed is not intended to be. My observation in the final sentence of the hardback edition to the effect that many other histories of Indian music and the West remain to be written appears even more apposite in the light of recent musical developments, and the continuing, increasingly complex, historical re-evaluation of the West's musical and cultural encounter with India.

Gerry Farrell, London, 1999.

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