This talk will examine the reorganization of singing voices and vocal aesthetics in the music of Tamil cinema, contrasting the ideals for male and female voices from the 1960s and 1970s with new ideals that have emerged since the 1990s in the wake of India’s economic and cultural liberalization. Based on ethnographic research among playback singers, music directors, and sound engineers in the Tamil film industry, the talk will show how two now salient aesthetics of vocal sound, “husky” and “raw,” index different, and distinctly gendered, orientations to Tamil ethnolinguistic belonging and claims to global cosmopolitanism in the post-Liberalization context. In doing so, the talk will explore the structures of voicing that are afforded by particular ways of cultivating the sonic/material voice.
Amanda Weidman, Associate Professor of Anthropology at Bryn Mawr College, is a cultural anthropologist with interests in music, sound, media, performance, linguistic anthropology, semiotics, and technological mediation. Within South Asia her research focuses on Tamil-speaking South India. Her publications include Singing the Classical, Voicing the Modern: The Postcolonial Politics of Music in South India. She is currently at work on a second book project on playback singing in Indian cinema, a system where singers’ voices are first recorded in the studio and then “played back” on the set to be matched with actors’ bodies and visual images in song sequences.
Sponsored by the UCSB Music History and Theory Forum and Ethnomusicology Forum, Department of Film and Media Studies, Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Music, and IHC South Asian Religions and Cultures Research Focus Group