Authoring the folk: the crafting of a rural popular music in South India

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This is a case study of gramiya songs in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Gramiya songs are village folksongs collected and reworked into commercially viable music and marketed on audio cassettes. The songs are cultural vehicles, and also political vehicles, which allow villagers throughout the region to imagine and celebrate a shared Tamil rural culture. I examine how gramiya singer-producer-scholar Pushpavanam Kuppuswamy transforms a field recording of a folksong into a marketable product, and I conclude that the production style of his recordings follows fixed patterns which are themselves subservient to calculated aesthetic aims. The authoring of the rural Tamil folk which Kuppuswamy enacts through his folklore project has tangible effects on the performative variability of the songs, as villagers begin to perceive his studio recordings as fixed, authoritative encodings.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)161-172
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Intercultural Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science


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