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About the Project
Throughout the late 20th century, some of India's most marginalized communities in the desert region of Western Rajasthan created and carried on a variety of musical and oral traditions such as ballads, oral epics, and storytelling by hereditary musician castes. However, despite being treasured by researchers and the local population, these traditions are disappearing. In order to preserve the auditory and oral heritage, the Archives and Research Center for Ethnomusicology (ARCE) at the American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS) has worked with MEAP to focus on digitizing a collection of audio cassettes dating from 1980 to 2003.
The collection consists of approximately 1,200 sound recordings and audio cassettes that represent the work of Komal Kothari, a pioneer scholar who put the practices of Western Rajasthan communities on the world music map. Kothari worked for roughly 25 years in researching and recording this local culture. The recordings not only capture an array of unique performances and musical practices, but also the social connections that were made by performing. This collection digitized by the ARCE allows for researchers to better understand these concepts and for current performers in the region to continue in preserving their musical heritage practiced by past generations.
Kothari’s materials are in the form of audio tapes, making the preservation work essential. Audio cassettes are notoriously falling out of fashion and recordings are deteriorating from destructive chemical processes and/or improper storage solutions. The ARCE’s project with MEAP aims to effectively preserve these materials through a digitized archive accessible to the local communities/practitioners as well as to users around the world. Users interested in ethnomusicology, cultural studies, anthropology, and the history of local Rajasthan customs will benefit from exploring these materials.
Dr. Shubha Chaudhuri