Manganiyar Musicians: Reinventing Cultural and Economic Value in Postcolonial India
Spandita Das
MUSICAL RESILIENCE: PERFORMING PATRONAGE IN THE INDIAN THAR DESERT by By Shalini R. Ayyagari Wesleyan University Press, Middletown, Connecticut, 2022, 256 pp., INR 2250.00/$26.95
July 2024, volume 48, No 7

A much-loved music throughout the country and beyond, the Manganiyar tradition of western Rajasthan has invited scholarly attention from many notable folklorists and ethnomusicologists. Shalini Ayyagari’s contribution to this field, in this book as well as in much of her earlier publications, largely focuses on various aspects of the Manganiyar community and their performance on the cusp of transformation from a localized, feudal economy-based tradition to one with a pan-Indian or, better still, global audience in a technology-dominated and neoliberal context. Musical Resilience details how the Manganiyars have been adapting to the altered circumstances of patronage caused by the official abolition in 1956 of the jagirdari system through which lands were assigned to nobles in exchange for military services in the Mughal period and which required musicians to sing the praises of jagirdars in the Thar desert. While doing so, Ayyagari challenges, on one hand, those scholars who construct the image of India as what she sees as a ‘timeless, monolithic, and archaic village’ (p. 46), by attempting to prove the existence of a solid patronage system in the Thar desert even today, and on the other, those who claim that patronage has completely disappeared.

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