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Territoires musicaux mis en scène

Monique Desroches
Marie-Hélène Pichette
Claude Dauphin
et al.

II. Patrimoine et patrimonialisation

Kodava song as private resistance

John Napier


The Kodava form a substantial minority in the Kodagu (Coorg) district of South India. This paper examines a core musical repertoire of the Kodava, the dudikotapat, and how it relates to the Sanskritisation theory of cultural transmission. Conveying texts grounded in ancestor worship, accounts of localised deities and heroes, the relationship of the Kodava to adjacent regions, and the minutiae of life-cycle rituals, these songs are presented in a melodic style that the Kodava themselves regard as austere and limited. They are most frequently sung in circumstances that might lead one to conclude that both singers and listeners treat with scant regard the music that represents them and allows them to identify and situate themselves culturally: Dudikotapat songs are most frequently sung in the midst of processions and rituals featuring much louder simultaneous performances, against a background of dancing and fireworks, or while people chatter. Kodava regard these performances as essential, and derive greater pleasure from singing. Drawing together various threads of discussion, this paper shows that though there are more visible markers of Kodava identity in the form of dress, martial games and ritual, the dudikotapat form a crucial means of self-identification and of resistance to both Sanskritisation, and, through the seeming indifference of performers, the exoticising gaze of the broader community.

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Estratto del testo

This paper investigates a song genre, dudikotapat, as a site of resistance to external political and cultural forces that impinge upon the Kodava of South India. Since resistance is almost the inevitable opposing counterpart to cultural re-formation, it is usually closely linked to the formation, definition and assertion of identity and difference, as well as issues of race, gender, class, religion, sexuality, or mixture of these. In some instances the thrust of resistance may become textual rather than musical. For example, Hebdige’s seminal work on subcultures (1979) showed that musical styles, rather than textual content or contextual happenstance, may become indicators of resistance, but that the link between musical style and elective subcultures may be both selected and somewhat arbitrary.

Later hermeneutic studies advanced on Hebdige’s position, by attempting to demonstrate that aspects of musical style or even non-verbal content specifically encode resistance. These range fro...


John Napier is a senior lecturer in Musicology at the University of New South Wales. After a decade as a professional cello performer, he commenced studies in ethnomusicology, receiving a doctorate in 2001 for his study of accompaniment in North Indian vocal music. He is currently completing two research projects, one on Jogi musicians in Rajasthan, the other on the music of the Kodava of South India.

© Presses de l’Université de Montréal, 2011

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