The Tantric concept of sound (nāda) as universal life-force has seen worldwide diffusion over the last few decades but such a fame does not reflect academic interest in the impact of Tantra on music. Indeed, while a number of essays have been written to demonstrate the contribution of Tantrism to the evolution of Indian religions and culture, its contribution to music has been left largely unexplored.

The word Tantra refers to a pan-Asian religious phenomenon spread over numerous centuries and including a wide number of sects having different and even opposite philosophical and theological approaches which may be addressed from the perspective of the concept of the body. In fact, the divinization of the body or the understanding of the human body as the major Tantric metaphor of the cosmos and its processes is the most important uniting factor of such diversity. The tradition of Brahmanical temple Tantrism practiced in contemporary Kerala, with its own map of the body, interior practices and rituals including music, helps an understanding of the concepts and ideas embedded in Tantric ritual practices and musical forms. It adopts the human body as the model for temple architecture and also for musical forms and intends the ritual activity as a re-enactment of the process of enlightenment.

By adopting a multidimensional approach including ethnography, musical analysis and textual sources, this article studies how ritual music is structured and attributed meaning in the Brahmanical temple Tantric tradition of contemporary Kerala. It reconstructs a narration behind the contemporary ritual procedure associated with the pouring of water and other substances (abhiṣeka) on the icon of the deity and argues that the ideas embedded in compositional forms mirror and complement such narration.

Author Biography

Ethnomusicologist and musician, earned his Ph.D. in Ethnomusicology from Durham University. He has published the monographs “The Indian drum of the King-God and the pakhāvaj of Nathdwara”(2020, Routledge, SOAS Studies in Music Series), and in Italian language “Il pensare musicale Indiano” (2005 Besa) and, co-authored with Luisa Spagna, “La gioia e il potere. Musica e danza in India”(2009 Controluce). He has an article forthcoming in the Analytical Approaches to World Music Journal. He taught Ethnomusicology at the Conservatory of Music of Vicenza and Lecce. He has been awarded of the Senior Fellowship of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations for the year 2017/2018, affiliated with the International Centre for Kerala Studies - University of Kerala. Currently he is Tagore National Fellow affiliated with Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts, New Delhi, conducting research on ‘ritual drumming’ in Kerala.

Trained as pianist at the Conservatorio di Musica di Lecce and as pakhāvaj player under Swami Ram Kishore Das, his production as musician includes various Cds. Among his recent publications the solo project ‘Enchanting Circles’ (Alfa music 2011) and the three cds of Free-Dot, a project of improvised music that he runs with the flutist Antionio Cotardo, published by the London based label Slam Productions, and self produced under Sutra Arti Performative.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.



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