TAZKIYAH

for Solo Voice

Composer: Nakul Krishnamurthy

"The real power of the West is not located in its economic muscle and technological might. Rather, it resides in its power to define. The West defines what is, for example, freedom, progress and civil behaviour; law, tradition and community; reason, mathematics and science; what is real and what it means to be human. The non-Western civilizations have simply to accept these definitions or be defined out of existence. As a worldview, the West is the dominant outlook of the planet. Eurocentrism is not simply out there - in the West. It is also in here - in the non-West."

-Ziauddin Sardar, from Development and the Locations of Eurocentrism

Carnatic music has traditionally been subsumed in a curious, two-fold hierarchy. On one hand, it is from out there - the West, that assumes a position of authority, trivialization and indifference and at best, one of sympathetic exoticization. The "discovery" of Carnatic music not only succeeded in cementing Europe as the centre of world history and culture, but also carved its definition as a primitive form of expression that however needed to be noticed precisely because of this primitive difference.

On the other hand, the non-West - the in there - has largely relied on notions of purity and authenticity to guard this so called, prized primitive difference and create a hierarchy within the system itself, privileging the traditional and "authentic" while continuously discouraging new emergences in the Carnatic. The purist tradition in Carnatic music, consequentially, has created forms of discrimination and a West-informed dichotomy that identifies tradition and modernity as two irreconcilable sides pitted against one another.

Primarily targeted to the European listener, this composition is an attempt to subvert, negotiate and bring to the forefront the notion of privilege. Takziyah literally refers to 'purification' - the patterns of growth it promotes are similar to those we find in ecosystems. It is comparable to a tree, for instance; branches of a single tree grow and send forth leaves and fruits in conformity with nature of the tree itself. By incorporating the Islamic notion of takziyah into a traditionally Hindu tradition, this composition bridges several boundaries: tradition vs. modernity, Islam vs. Hinduism, West vs. non-West. It seeks to define non-Western existence in non-Western terms; it is no longer the brown man's privilege to present his music to the white man. It is the white man's privilege to be able to listen.

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