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SAP Seminar Series -- Talent, Technique, Transformation: Musical Training and the Possibilities of the Self in Liberalizing India by Anaar Desai-Stephens



Monday, April 4 at 12:15 p.m., G-08 Uris Hall.

The South Asia Program (SAP) Seminar Series speaker on April 4th, 2016, Anaar Desai-Stephens, will discuss the aspirational striving that permeates contemporary India centers on a fundamental question: How much can a person transform? More specifically, how much, and in what ways, must one transform in order to transcend the habitus of class and caste given to them at birth? This paper offers a musically grounded examination of this question through sites of popular music pedagogy and practice. Drawing on her research on the television show Indian Idol and fieldwork in Mumbai music schools, she examines discourses of musical talent and technique alongside practices of vocal improvement undertaken by aspiring singers. She situates these discourses and practices within a broader aspirational economy that promotes individual self-betterment and transformation in line with larger neoliberal and meritocratic ideologies emerging in India today. Beyond simply yielding insight into conceptions of musical potential, She argues that talent, technique, and vocal change illuminate tensions regarding the possibilities and limits of self-transformation in liberalizing India.