Postdoctoral Fellow Sara Shroff on Sacred Sonic Constellations in Abida Parveen and Falguni Pathak’s Music

Sound creates worlds in strikingly layered, different and definite ways. Sounds, in various iterations, disturb, inflict, challenge, heal, torment, arouse, invite and archive, at times all at once. Building on theories in Sound Studies by critics such as Josh Kun and Jennifer Stoever, I want to attend to sacred sounds emanating from South Asian traditions to think about how sound racialises, genders, and sexualises. By centering Abida Parveen and Falguni Pathak, two iconic South Asian musicians, I want to open up a conversation about sound, sexuality, desire, and the divine feminine. Parveen and Pathak are recognised across South Asia and its diasporas with different degrees of potency: pop music, cultural memory, nostalgic nodes of being, cathartic release, Islamic spirituality, Hindu dance, divine submission, and as soundtracks for the quotidian. Their visual and aural aesthetic representations challenge how we come to construct, hear and resist sexuality and the sacred in South Asia. To me, they offer us a way to undo the (ontological) dualities of mind and body, spirit and desire.

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