Item Details

Polyvocality and forgotten proverbs (and persons): Ravi Shankar, George Harrison and Shambhu Das

Issue: Vol 8 No. 1 (2013)

Journal: Popular Music History

Subject Areas: Popular Music

DOI: 10.1558/pomh.v8i1.68


In 1993, Sara Cohen issued a challenge to popular music scholars, asserting that the ethnography of local amateur bands could be as theoretically fruitful as studying celebrities. This article suggests a third angle and related challenge, problematizing the inclusion of testimonies by musicians who play an important role in the collaborative constellation around celebrities, but are placed decidedly in the margins of dominant narratives of popular music history. George Harrison’s sitar studies led to his creating a new hybridic musico-spiritual sound that was heard on Beatles’ albums, infusing the sixties’ psychedelic soundscape with ‘raga-rock’. According to my interviews with Shambhu Das, Ravi Shankar’s disciple appointed initially to assist Harrison with sitar fingerings, Das played a much more significant role than previous historical accounts have admitted. This raises important questions about the theoretical approach and methodological application of a polyvocal texture where contradictions and ambiguities are revealed that challenge heretofore unquestioned narratives.

Author: Jeffrey W. Cupchik

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