Virinder Kalra “Sacred and Secular Musics”

Screen Shot 2015-10-11 at 14.39.58‘writing a book about music may seem anachronistic given the state of crises that announced itself in explicit acts of violence and multiple human violations’

This is a book not to be missed. Sacred and Secular Musics explains with detail and nuance the contexts of emergence and understanding – and criticism of misunderstandings – of musics from the Punjab. Kirtans, Qawwali, folk and film tunes are given analytical and biographical treatment here – based upon extensive interviews and well-tuned listening practice. Virinder Kalra’s return from a combative engagement with musicological terrain reunites what has been torn apart by scholarship and politics.

A sonorous demolition of colonial era music orientalism is articulated as a necessary and ongoing project. Here it is informed by historical and archival work used as parallel anti-colonial movement against the drone routines of latter day musicology and its patterned responses in hierarchical mode. That surely ever so well-meaning contemporary music scholars repeat the platitudes and privileges of East India Company judgements is not just an error of disciplinary isolation or demarcation – a book on music is never only about music – here at last is one up front about the isomorphism of soundtrack and power. Get this book not so much to read your way into a better music history or to decolonise your record/mp3 collection’s exotic moments, but to recognise those moments as part of a wider dis-orientation through rhythm and poetry – which could perhaps be claimed as the sonic register of a wider Global South resistance, and not to be merely commercialised and packaged into some rote-learning documentary format.

‘despite increasing hardening physical borders and political sabre rattling. Perhaps only music is able, in the absence of cross-border transnational, political or social movements and institutions, to provide an example of another possibility of a refusal to endorse and promote the outcomes of colonial modernity. Even though, this is only a minor chord in the hugely amplified soundscape that is invested in the continuation of the boundaries between religions. It is one that is worth straining for and making the effort to hear’

Screen Shot 2015-10-11 at 14.38.51

Big Fight, punchy new book to come… #India #Media #Film #SouthAsia (if I can get the final edits done this weekend).

Screen Shot 2015-06-17 at 22.47.58“TV is now increasingly entertainment. News is entertainment. You have to create some element of entertainment … people shouting at each other … or some kind of conflict. It is not always about information. I am not saying in the Big Fight you don’t try to inform but if the entertainment element was not there the programme would probably not have survived. You have to package it … First Punch, Second Punch … Otherwise who will see? There has to be some heat” (Sardesai interviewed in Mehta 2008:255)

(these pictures are not directly linked to the quote, which is about NDTV 24X7 news coverage as part of the new book < but there is indeed discussion of the film also>)

<Mary Kom was the winner of the 2008 World Boxing Championship>

Malign Velocities

malignBenjamin Noys’ Malign Velocities: Accelerationism and Capitalism (Zero 2014) is a really impressive little book not because it offers a scathing critique of the accelerationists – a panzer tank to squash a gnat anyone? – nor because it pierces the commonplace anxiety that everything is speeding up – in a stagnant phase of capital accumulation, that speed hype is particularly transparent. No, I like the book because Noys loves the word equivocation and uses it with dextrous abandon. First of all Marx on India, p9, equivocal it ‘appears’, on the results of British colonial plunder in India (the footnote to Aijaz Ahmad will be worth following up, since limiting Marx’s discussion of the subcontinent to only the first of a great many NYDT articles on India perpetrates a fraud). This pattern is established early – the accelerationists believe the worst will produce the good. Variations on the theme abound – and it cannot but leave us saying ‘yes, but’. BUT, the best parts of the book do not owe much at all to the avowed ‘enemy’ here – the discussion of Bataille and Godard – Bataille is ‘equivocal’ on 76 – is the shit. Literally, and the excremental analysis of capitalism accords well with, after all, Marx’s own assessment of economics – he wanted to be done with that shit. Then a chapter on Brecht and Benjamin – ‘equivocal’ on 90 – gives a deep and careful evaluation of the train brake metaphor, observing actual wrecks and actual saves where the brake interrupts disaster. That Benjamin can be offered as the theorist impatient with waiting, 92, is perhaps somewhat sad given his end, but there is much to learn about the more cuddly of the Frankfurt School theorists. A pity though that Adorno is described as ‘mordant’ (41) only to be (unintentionally) plagiarised later on where the two torn halves of a culture that cannot be put back together is lifted from Adorno’s critique of Benjamin without acknowledgement (98 – Adorno to Benjamin 18 March 1936). Equivocation indeed, but who can disagree with great bon mots such as ‘The “left” failing to go all the way to capitalism (and not all the way to the left…)’ that would exempt us from heading with Nick Land towards ‘neo-China’? Instead, this book will tarry with Lyotard, Sade, Stalin, Lovecraft, D&G, Gibson, Detroit Techno and Pynchon (with Adorno again too simply ‘pessimistic’ 45 – could we not be equivocal here too?). The lessons on the USSR and Trotsky are well-taken, the section on Lukács, HArdt/NeGri, Badiou impressive, the Benjamin heartfelt.  Noys’ will neither be rushing to the handbrake nor pushing the pedal to the floor – his opposition to privatization and outsourcing of services, for campaigns which offer a return to public control, to ‘protect benefits’, to ‘sustain social and collective forms of support’ and to ‘attack’ the way ‘work is supposed to account for our own self-reproduction’ and its ‘ideological and material role’ in the ‘validation of citizenship’ (99) all seem eminently reasonable and sound parts of a Marxist critique. It is not rocket science. My petty concerns about a citation for Adorno do not disqualify this as a near flawless book, except perhaps for the false publicity it gives the woolly thinking of accelerations, futurists and fascists beneath Noys’ elephant gun. Crush them in the egg I agree – I suppose there need be no equivocation there. This is a welcome call to join the struggle against the total commodification of our lives.