Monthly Archives: March 2006

Preserving Culture: Why Tweaking Is The Better Way…

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Here is an opportunity to meet “Cultural” Simpleton (whether you like it or not)… Again, I’m not a purist… May be that’s because I have never had an opportunity to be a purist…I mean, my dad left India in the early 60’s and went right to the Jungles of Africa (No, he was not an explorer, he was a Food Technologist working for UN’s FAO branch and they pretty much dictated where you were going to end-up)… But in the 70’s, he decided to come back to Tamil Nadu, get married and then continue his adventure in Africa… He was from an orthodox family and so his sister chose her friend’s daughter as an ideal bride for him, but the level of orthodoxy between the two was very different… He had mellowed, but she had a hard time mellowing … So the two kids (a Girl and a Boy) they produced ended up being very moderate… Being an Indian housewife in the jungles of Africa is really a hard life (But her parents have to be blamed for that)… There were only about 150 South Asian families in our town, and 149 were either Patels or Shahs (OK… I might have exaggerated the numbers a bit, so lets lower it to 120), but the community was very united…We often exchanged dossa for samasosas and even banged dandiyas during Garba Nights

Again, I have never been able to get straight answer as to whether she was really bored in Africa, but she really must have been because she started a project using her kids as the guinea pigs… It started when my sister was 7 and I was about 5, the project had to do with home schooling the kids in language and arts… So everyday after school, both of us had to come home and deal with this… Again, my sister had a harder time because she had to deal with classical dancing, where as all I had to do was to fiddle the violin and sometimes play with my vocal cords…

But here is my problem with such projects, certain things have to be thought in groups because there is sort of bonding element in it… And music, dance and language definitely fall into this category… I mean, she was busy teaching us Classical Tamil… Now, when I was about 10 (the age at which your parents become your enemy), I had no use for either Classical or Spoken Tamil because none of my friends spoke Tamil… And the things they were talking about (Birdman and He-Man cartoons), I had no clue about because I was busy learning Classical Music & Language…

This brings up the question how do you preserve Culture? IMHO, by tweaking it according to the taste of the contemporary society…And the purist either fail to see it or in most cases refuse to see it… Culture is something that’s hard to define because it keeps changing…

It’s also hard to define any culture as pure because throughout human history one or more cultures have come in contact and exchanged or even inspired the other… But Purist never seem to accept this argument…

The best example of tweaking is Fusion Music in South India… The South Indian version of Fusion happens to be mixing Carnatic with contemporary Western music… This form entered Pop-culture around late 80’s and early 90’s… Once again, the purist went berserk when this started happening … But the people who were creating Fusion were all well trained carnatic musicians… They felt Carnatic Music was slowly losing its appeal in pop culture, so they had to find a way to keep it in…And a decade later, even many purists started openly admitting that Fusion wasn’t bad idea because kids actually started talking about Ragam, Talam and Pallavi in pop culture…

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