Letter Song Analysis

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ABSTRACT: This paper is an exploration of the letter songs among the Mappilas of Kerala in the second half of the twentieth century. The letter songs are an indication of simultaneous deprivation and accumulation of power. On the one hand it displays a jealous guarding of boundaries, thus establishing the kernel of a capitalist economy, thus signaling a transformation from the earlier anti-capitalist ethic which characterized the community, and a newly acquired material prosperity. The locus of these contradiction is the figure of the wife. Mappila paattu, or the song culture of the Mappila Muslims, remains outside any of the classical/national fold. In vogue for centuries, this song culture has withstood the need for notation by its…show more content…
The question of author of the various letter songs are relevant not just for the problem of the real author it poses, but also that it credits the question of the conditions of the appearance of subject in the ordering of the discourse. To ask the conventional question, who is the author of a letter song? When Pulikkottil Hyder writes the song on Mariyakutty’s behalf, as long as Mariyakkutty is indeed a historical person, who gets credited for the song? More importantly, is it a scission of the agent –an agent of the style, another for the content? Though in this particular example even the ideological author function – that of the unity of style, the neutralization of contradictions, etc itself is in peril due to its tearing apart among historical…show more content…
Predominantly a discussion on the style of the Hindi film music, the essay also has sections on film music of regional films as well as, as a lead up to his focus, a discussion on popular music outside the realm of cinema. What distinguishes Manuel’s work is his concern for the “popular”. He expresses doubt as to whether a nation as heterogeneous as India can be satisfied with the relatively homogeneous output of the film music industry. In other words, he indicates a level of manipulation of public taste by the music industry. Therefore, when Manuel characterises the film music as one of the many popular music traditions in India –the “one-among-many” status he accords to film music is in itself a departure from the works we have seen above –he does it with a caveat: “Indian music is clearly popular creation to the extent that it incorporates folk elements, and the influence between folk and film music is certainly mutual” (1988:171). This caveat has to be read against his understanding of the cassette revolution in the late 1970s as “grassroots-based, decentralized, pluralistic, “democratic-participant” micro-medium” (1993:1). Manuel also notes the growing audience for Hindi film songs among foreigners, his examples being countries of South East Asia, Yugoslavia,

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