To the lamenters

Mary Storm umadevi at SFO.COM
Mon Mar 16 01:06:57 UTC 1998

Robert J. Zydenbos wrote:
> Jan Brzezinski wrote:
> > Good news! Madonna has come over! Her latest record is full of
> > things like Om shunty shunty shunty. And something which sounds
> > like Hindi, though I do not consider myself qualified to judge.
> Good gracious! We missed out entirely on that here. The Indian
> papers I have seen claim that she has become a Kabbalist, and they
> were rather satirical about that.
> > I hear that Alanis Morrissette is also backpacking through India
> > looking for succour.
> (Please let me know, anyone, whether and when she reaches Mysore. My
> daughter wants to meet her.)
> > Perhaps the pendulum is swinging and we can expect the
> > Beatles-Maharshi phenomenon to repeat itself.
> Perhaps this is something for an anthropological study: the
> Beatles, the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Quintessence,... what they
> did and what prompted them to be like they were.
> RZ

 I understand Yanni is quite a hero in some quarters because he gave a
large part of the proceeds of his Taj concert to preservation efforts. I
don't know if this really happened, but that is the gossip.
While the idea of Yanni, the Spice Girls or Madonna performing at an
important Indian cultural site seems to be a bit of an appalling
aesthetic misfit, the nexus of Indian temples and entertainment has been
present in the past.

Besides the historic precedents of music and dance offerings associated
with puja, there are numerous modern Indian productions of dance and
music performances. There have been regular classical dance festivals
held at Khajuraho and at Konarak for quite a while.

If the concern is the crass materialism that that "Material Girl" and
her ilk represent, commercialism has also been a part of traditional
temple compounds, there have always been vendors selling puja materials,
bangles, saris, and now post cards, calendar prints, plastic toys , etc
within the area of the temple walls.

The pendulum does swing both ways: calendar prints originated with
Indian artists, such as Raja Ravi Varma or Bamapada Bandopadhaya, who
were curious about Western oil painting effects and Western oleographic
printing techniques (the Kalighat school and other Indian pilgrimage
painting  styles were also, of course, part of the process). The style
eventually swung back to a more Indianized aesthetic, but still retained
certain Western elements of shading and perspective. Calendar prints
continued to follow certain Western fashions in hair styles, make-up,

 Then in the 1960's and '70's ISKCON devotees started producing calendar
prints in a more overtly Westernized style employing oils once again and
using 18th classical and 19th c. romantic elements as conceits for new
interpretations of Radha and Krsna idylls. Now Indian artists are
producing new interpretations of those ISKCON paintings.

Western  fascination with Indian aesthetic interpretation and Western
pastiches of Indian art are nothing new. Many of these seemingly
frivolous forays into Orientalism were to become influential points in
19th c. Western romanticism.  Shubert's opera Sakuntala was a German
interpretation of Jones' translation of the play by Kalidasa. The
Brighton Pavilion designed by John Nash in 1815-18, was an Englishman's
fantasy of Mughal architecture, but it was part of a an early 19th c.
English interest with all things in the Indian arts. Emerson's poem
"Brahma," reflected a contemporary American interest in Indian religious
Maybe all this is a good thing, as Madonna sings: Om shunty, shunty!

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