John Napier is a senior lecturer in musicology at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. As well as publishing internationally, he has spent nearly two decades introducing students to the “life-changing wonders” of India’s many musics, as well as helping them better understand the joys of their own traditions.
John Napier has been studying the performances of the Jogis, an itinerant caste of storytelling musicians in Rajasthan, since 2000.
Their stories tell of kings who must renounce their kingdoms and their families to become mendicants, of an ascetic god who must leave his lair in the Himalayas to marry a princess, and of other people who must grapple with the demands of conflicting duties and desires. This book brings together a full text of one of their major stories with both ethnographic and musical analysis, and outlines the way in which these highly entertaining but increasingly marginalised performers weave story, humour, affect, self-identification and social criticism around a perennial choice: to remain in the everyday world or to renounce it to seek spiritual fulfilment.
John Napier is senior lecturer in Musicology in the School of Arts and Media at the University of New South Wales. His research also includes Indian classical music, other Indian folk traditions, and music amongst Asian migrant groups in Australia.
The book was launched by Prof. Yudhisthir Raj Isar, Professor of Cultural Policy Studies at the American University of Paris, Dr Jill Stubington, ethnomusicologist and Visiting Research Fellow at the University of New South Wales, and Dr Bem Le Hunte, novelist and lecturer at the Journalism and Media Research Centre, University of New South Wales. Drinks and nibbles, as well as a short musical performance by Sumathi Krishnan.
About the Book
In Rajasthan, India, a caste of musicians and mendicants, the Nath-Jogis, sing stories of kings who renounce their thrones to become wandering mendicants. They also sing of a god, Mahadeva, Shiva, who must abandon his world-renouncing life and marry, thus establishing the very caste that tells his story. This is the first detailed ethnomusicological study of the music of this caste, examining how the existential questions of the sung stories–of the conflict between loyalty to families or communities and the transcending desire to renounce the material world–are articulated in musical performances in which the caste’s own ethnography is inscribed.
Discussing the relationship between the performed repertoire and the caste’s identity, the contexts of performance and ways in which familiar stories are effectively retold, the book offers a transcription, translation and musical and ethnographic analysis of one performance, by Kishori Nath, and shows how the questions the performances project are not merely speculative acts of self-identification but also challenges to audiences to consider their own responses.