Thursday, April 30, 2009

Book Review: Folk Songs From Uttar Pradesh

Laxmi Ganesh Tewari. Folk Songs From Uttar Pradesh. New Delhi: D.K. Printworld (P) Ltd, 2006. x + 333 pp. Glossary, bibliography. ISBN 81-246-0354-5. $27.50, hardbound.

Anyone interested in researching the folk music of the world will be particularly surprised with this new book from professor, ethnomusicologist, and author, Dr. Laxmi Ganesh Tewari. However, the focus of the book is exclusively Uttar Pradesh, and would be most beneficial to researchers in this geographic region between Northern India and neighboring Nepal. The book opens with a 15-page introduction, which provides a good foundation of the historical and cultural significance of the music, as well as the author's interest in the subject. There are 5 chapters devoted to each group of songs, including: Bhajan (prayer/religious), Ceremonial, Seasonal, Jhonjhi-Tesu Festival (see link for more info), and Miscellaneous. A total of 261 folk songs are included in English, Hindi, and Romanized Hindi languages. This is a perfect book for lyrical or poetic study of the songs, as only lyrics are provided without musical notation, analysis or commentary. Essentially, the songs speak for themselves without the need for added notes or unnecessary commentary. A helpful key for transliteration is included, with a glossary and short bibliography that attests for the region's scant amount of literature on the subject. The only drawbacks: lack of index, no song titles, and absence of accompanying CD. To be fair, the songs are numbered, and may or may not have had titles. Also, Dr. Tewari produced/recorded a CD titled Indian Folk Music from Uttar Pradesh (Lyrichord LYRCD-7452) in 2006, from field research from 1972-1999. This is a highly recommended companion for listening to some of the songs in the book, and it is one of the very few commercial recordings of music from Uttar Pradesh. For a more advanced study of the songs from a musicological perspective (notation, poetic meters, etc.), the researchers should look elsewhere. Overall, Dr. Tewari presents a thorough exploration of the folk songs from Uttar Pradesh with a relatively inexpensive work, as most ethnomusicological books on specific locations tend to be very pricey - over $100. However, it will be difficult for many to find any significant research on the music of Uttar Pradesh, without consulting Dr. Tewari's 30+ years of experience in ethnomusicological studies. This is a great book for the casual music traveler and researcher of Central/South Asian studies.

Dr. Tewari is a Professor of Music at Sonoma State University, California. ~ Matthew Forss

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