Asian Ethnology 82-2 | article Bhojpuri Village Song and the World Sampling Indian Literature and the Global Field

Ian Woolford

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Bhojpuri folksongs Hindi literature Anglo-Indian literature ethnography migration indentureship orality

This article examines Bhojpuri folksongs that have migrated from north Indian villages to overseas locales, or that have migrated from oral tradition to literary fiction in Hindi and English. The literary examples are drawn from Hindi novels by Ramdarash Mishra, Rahi Masoom Raza, and Phanishwarnath Renu as well as from the novel Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh. Each author makes use of song from north India, or originating from India, as with Ghosh, who also includes material from the Caribbean island of Trinidad and the Indian Ocean Island of Mauritius. I draw on fieldwork in each location to present a literary tour of this global musical scene. In doing so, I argue for space in literary analysis for consideration of individual performances, for experiences of individual performers and listeners, and for the ethnographic encounters that led to various songs finding their way into literary fiction. The literary examples from Hindi and Anglo-Indian fiction are limited to songs I have personally documented in the field, allowing an analysis of the overlapping areas of fiction, history, and ethnography.