A Long, Strange Trip
Paresh Kumar
MAPS OF SORROW: MIGRATION AND MUSIC IN THE CONSTRUCTION OF PRECOLONIAL AFROASIA by By Sumangala Damodaran and Ari Sitas Tulika Books, 2023, 200 pp., INR 825.00
July 2024, volume 48, No 7

In 2016, a group of research scholars in South Africa, Tanzania, Ethiopia, India and China worked together on reimagining the influence of Africa on Asia and vice versa. They chose to look at the Eastern coast of Africa and the Western coast of India for maritime influence. For land-bound overtures they tried to piece together cattle and trade routes from Africa to China sustained by gold, slaves, spices, ceramics and textile. The epoch of study was one immediately preceding the rise of European sea-might. The project was titled ‘Recentering Afro Asia (RAA): Musical and Human Migrations—700–1500 AD’.

The geographically dispersed researchers had mere shards to begin their work with. And though the book doesn’t explicitly mention it, the advent of the pandemic in 2019 must have made the research suffer further. In 2021 the AW Mellon Foundation money dried up and the project was a wrap.

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