Shalini Ayyagari has been studying the Manganiyar musicians in northern India since 2003. (photo courtesy of Shalini Ayyagari)
While volunteering at hospitals in India as a Swarthmore College undergraduate, Shalini Ayyagari developed a passion for playing the tabla, the North Indian classical drums. She ultimately abandoned her pre-med studies to major in music and received a doctorate in ethnomusicology from the University of California, Berkeley. Now a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at Dartmouth through the Leslie Center for the Humanities, she is teaching one winter and one spring term class through joint appointments in the Department of Music and the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies program. She is also continuing to work on a book and a documentary about the Manganiyar musicians of Rajasthan, India, a community of musicians on the India-Pakistani border who were the subject of her dissertation. These folk musicians are Muslim but have a traditional patronage system with Hindu farming families in the region and, for more than three centuries, have performed for their patrons during Hindu holidays and life cycle ceremonies. In this podcast with Dartmouth Now, Ayyagari talks about the difficulties she encountered in gaining access to this male-dominated musical community, the Manganiyars’ recent ventures into cultural tourism in order to survive financially, and what she observed while filming more than 100 hours of patronage functions, interviews, and recording sessions.
Note: The song played in this podcast is “Raga Khamaichi,” performed on the kamaicha instrument by Sakar Khan Manganiyar of Hamira Village.