ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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'Purified' Carnatic Music and Impure People

Contemporary Debates

Carnatic music preserves its classical identity not only through its musicality, but also by carefully creating and enforcing codes of conduct based on caste, gender, culture, aesthetics, and attire for both artistes and connoisseurs. This article attempts to bring to the fore some contemporary discussions on concepts of purity in Carnatic music and argues that these influence how "traditionalists" engage with those who argue for the democratisation of music. These debates throw light on the ideologically embedded musical concepts and criteria set by its guardians to represent the images of Carnatic music.

“Purity” and “divinity” are two concepts that appear every time when the question of democratisation, inclusion, and elaboration of Carnatic music comes up for discussions. The debate on the “Guesswho” graffiti in Fort Cochin on the eve of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale and the discussions in context of the recent Chennai Margazhi music season throw light on the reasons these concepts pop up every now and then. The debate has once again brought to the fore the ideological base of enthusiasts and connoisseurs of Carnatic music and their understanding of the notion of inclusiveness.

The terrain of classical music in South India is a complex space shaped by institutions of caste, religion, gender, and culture. The “purity” and “divinity” debate has to be seen in the context of interplay of these ideologies and their role in formulating the current structure of practice of music.

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