Ways of Voice
Vocal Striving and Moral Contestation in North India and Beyond
An exploration of vocal change and ethical dynamism
Ways of Voice explores techniques of voice production in North India, from Bollywood to raga music to ghazal to devotional hymns and Sufi song. The voices in play here are not merely given, but achieved. Singers consciously train themselves to cultivate characteristic vocal gaits, sonorities, and poetic attunements; they adopt postures of the vocal apparatus; they build habits of listening, temporality, and social relations. The action in Ways of Voice revolves around several dozen North Indian popular, devotional, classical, and folk singers engaged in projects of vocal striving. Like most singers, they are strategically working on changing, refining, and making their own voices. The book thus highlights the ways in which singers not only "have" voice, but actively acquire, cultivate and contest particular vocal dispositions for particular kinds of listeners. In framing a "Hindustani vocal ecumene" that encompasses a diverse range of classical, popular, and spiritual-devotional musical styles and practices, it offers an expansive look at ways of voice that extend far beyond commonsense boundaries of genre and place. A rich archive of audio and video examples are provided on the online companion site.
"Magisterial in scope and content, Ways of Voice explores North Indian vocal performance from a seemingly endless variety, yet completely coherent and integrated set of perspectives. Voice here is embodied and enabled through the individual but invariably socially connected, politically positioned, and morally contested. Ways of Voice encompasses a universe of being and becoming that illuminates its immediate subject and very much beyond. This is an astonishingly original work; a study of homo ludensas manifest through voice in all the myriad ways that make us human."~Daniel M. Neuman, Professor emeritus, Mohindar Brar Sambhi Chair of Indian Music emeritus, UCLA
"Ways of Voice offers an expansive look at "vocal cultures" that is deeply ethnographic, yet stylistically comparative. With an emphasis on the fundamental relationality of vocal practice and vocal being, this book offers an important model for future scholars and it offers readers rich insight into vocal practices across a range of styles."
"The topic of voice expands to new terrain in Rahaim's book! This text is meticulously researched and prepared—a model for scholarly research and an important contribution to several fields and areas of study."
"Rahaim's brilliant book offers bold, original perspectives on the North Indian vocal ecumene. In this unprecedented work that listens attentively across genres and sonic registers, we encounter a range of ontologies of voice, and fresh ways of thinking about the ethical and affective resonances of vocal selfhood."~Davesh Soneji, Associate professor of south Asian studies, University of Pennsylvania