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Everyday Creativity

Singing Goddesses in the Himalayan Foothills (Big Issues in Music)

Kirin Narayan, Philip V. Bohlman (Foreword by)


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Other Editions of This Title:
Paperback (11/22/2016)


Kirin Narayan’s imagination was captured the very first time that, as a girl visiting the Himalayas, she heard Kangra women join their voices together in song. Returning as an anthropologist, she became fascinated by how they spoke of singing as a form of enrichment, bringing feelings of accomplishment, companionship, happiness, and even good health—all benefits of the “everyday creativity” she explores in this book. Part ethnography, part musical discovery, part poetry, part memoir, and part unforgettable portraits of creative individuals, this unique work brings this remote region in North India alive in sight and sound while celebrating the incredible powers of music in our lives.
With rare and captivating eloquence, Narayan portrays Kangra songs about difficulties on the lives of goddesses and female saints as a path to well-being. Like the intricate geometries of mandalu patterns drawn in courtyards or the subtle balance of flavors in a meal, well-crafted songs offer a variety of deeply meaningful benefits: as a way of making something of value, as a means of establishing a community of shared pleasure and skill, as a path through hardships and limitations, and as an arena of renewed possibility. Everyday Creativity makes big the small world of Kangra song and opens up new ways of thinking about what creativity is to us and why we are so compelled to engage it.

Praise For Everyday Creativity: Singing Goddesses in the Himalayan Foothills (Big Issues in Music)

"Even as Narayan focuses on the musical choices of individual singers, she does not lose sight of the cultural context in which this creativity occurs. She briefly provides background on where and when these songs are sung and what role they fill in community life. She also places the songs within a larger tradition of sung stories about deities and devotees within Indian religions that cross oral and written bodies of work. Narayan’s writing, however, continuously forefronts the personal pleasure that the women derive from curating and singing these songs. So, as Narayan examines oral literature—a common topic in anthropology and ethnomusicology—she constantly re minds the reader that its significance derives from the people who sing it. Focusing on everyday creativity allows her to examine the use of the texts rather than the texts themselves. . . . Everyday Creativity demonstrates how it is possible to write a monograph that is scholarly but not stuffy, beautifully written but thought provoking, and challenging in its humility of subject."
— Notes

"The great value of this book is that with sensitivity discloses the reality of women’s lives in Indian villages and the stages of a woman life – from her wedding, motherhood, widowhood, to the old age – with all their difficulties, aims, desires and realistic possibilities."

University of Chicago Press, 9780226407425, 256pp.

Publication Date: November 22, 2016

About the Author

Philip V. Bohlman is the Mary Werkman Distinguished Service Professor of the Humanities and of Music at the University of Chicago and coeditor of the Chicago Studies in Ethnomusicology series published by the University of Chicago Press.