Tradition and Renewal: The Development of the Kanjira in South India

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This dissertation is a study of the development of a relatively new musical instrument in traditional South Indian classical music known as the kanjira, a diminutive single-headed frame drum with a single pair of jingles. Iconographic studies and published accounts detail much of the instrument's history, which involved transculturation and diffusion from North India to South India. Organological and ethnographic studies show that significant change has occurred as the tradition migrated. Musical and cultural analyses detail the intricacies of the musical performance practice and semiotic representations incorporating zoomorphic and other kinds of icons from nature and Hinduism. Contextual analyses further explain issues having to do with continuity and culture change as the kanjira tradition was renewed during its diffusion from North Indian folk and court music circles into South Indian Carnatic music. Within the traditional hierarchy of Carnatic music and with the onset of modernization, social pressures manifested that resulted in kanjira performers adapting to new internationalized contexts that brought about further change. Drawing on my fieldwork as well as historical and electronic sources, this dissertation documents the intersection of these modernizing cultural factors and the kanjira's complex development in the relatively conservative musical hierarchy of South Indian classical music, as well as its continuing musical evolution beyond the borders of India.

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