Cultural Engagement, Intercultural Musical Exchange and Dialogue in “Songs of the Saints: Tamil Traditions and New Creativities”

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In this article, I explore the "Songs of the Saints: Tamil Traditions and New Creativities " collaborative music project that took place in 2016 between London-based Carnatic, or South Indian classical, musicians, two composers specialising in Indian and European music, and music students at Goldsmiths, University of London. The collaboration used the Tamil devotional song repertoire as a point of musical departure. As a song tradition widely sung in worship and in classical concerts yet little known outside the Tamil Hindu community, the project was intended to shed light on a rich cultural practice in London, to exchange musical knowledge and to create socio- musical connections between the university and a local music scene. Another aim of the project was to work with local community-based professional musicians who wished to reach out to audiences beyond the diasporic scene. In this article, I look at the process of collaborative musical performance in two examples from the project by examining the creative decision-making that took place, including selecting repertoire, processes of improvisation, rehearsal and translation, and processes of "dia- logical editing" and "dialogism-in-action." The project reveals some of the nuances and tensions inherent in intercultural music collaboration and dialogue, a sphere that is often simplistically depicted as harmonious and egalitarian. As a result of working across musical borders, the project generated musical, social and cultural knowledge, particularly when different forms of implicit knowledge and embodied practices came into tension with others and when traditional musical roles, authorities and conventions were challenged. This article critically analyses this intercultural music collaboration and dialogical collaborative project in order to understand the value of such short-term ventures in higher education settings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)135-154
Number of pages20
JournalWorld of Music
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018
Externally publishedYes

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