cfp (extended): Western Popular Music and the Making of Indian Modernity

Special Issue of South Asian History and Culture: Western Popular Music and the Making of Indian Modernity 

Description of Topic 

From the colonial period onwards a variety of Western musical forms and practices have traveled to the sub-continent interacting with domestic sound cultures and contributing to making of Indian modernity. While other influences from the west – in science and technology, political governance, and market mechanisms – have received considerable academic attention, the impact of western popular music in the Indian context is a relatively ignored area of inquiry. This special issue of South Asian History and Culture is based on the premise that our understanding of Indian modernity is enhanced by a deeper exploration of the ways in which western music – beginning with colonial army bands to MTV and beyond – has contributed to the formation of modern sensibilities in India. The issue focuses exclusively on the western pop music (as opposed to western influences on indigenous music-making) that reached Indian audiences as well as local production of English-language pop and seeks to ask a set of questions surrounding these musical encounters to refine and develop our understanding of how popular cultural flows are constitutive of local modernities. What was/is the nature of the audience for western music in India? Was the reception of this music tied to elite-formation? Can one speak of a sub-culture around western pop? Was there any clearly formed state policy regarding What part did this music play in creating an urban youth culture in postcolonial India? Was the Indian recording industry able to nourish homegrown western pop artists? What the was the role of Indian radio and television in creating an enclave of western pop that was distinct from vernacular popular culture?  

We are looking for essays that span a wide range of musical forms (band music, jazz, pop, rock etc.) and historical contexts. Both single-authored and co-authored submissions are welcome as are non-traditional forms like biographical essays and interviews with significant figures.  

Possible topics include but are not restricted to: 

  • Colonial India and western popular music 
  • English language music programming on All India Radio  
  • Cable television and western pop 
  • Jazz music in India 
  • The 60s and 70s rock scene 
  • Indi-Pop 
  • Pop cultures: college festivals, the night club scene, advertising jingles 
  • Profiles of Indian-origin global pop stars: Cliff Richard, Engelbert Humperdinck, Freddie Mercury, Biddu, Tony Brent and others 
  • Domestic western pop artists and their significance: Usha Uthup, Pam Crain, Louis Banks  
  • The use of western music in Bollywood  
  • Pop/Rock journalism and criticism in India   
  • Western pop stars and Indian spiritualism 
  • Radio Ceylon and its effects on Indian popular culture 

Submission and Inquiries 

Please submit an abstract of approximately 500 words, not inclusive of references, to the special issue editor Biswarup Sen ( by April 30, 2022

Based on the relevance and strength of the proposed work, the special issue editor will choose a selection of the submitted abstracts and invite their authors to submit full drafts of their articles for peer review. Because all articles undergo a full anonymous peer review process, an invitation from the editor to submit does not guarantee acceptance in the issue. Notifications regarding abstract selection will be sent out by May 31, 2022. For those authors invited to submit, full articles will be due December 31, 2022. Full Manuscripts should be approximately 8000 words in length including references. Manuscripts should be prepared using the Chicago Manual of Style Endnotes and Bibliography.  

All submissions will go through the usual process of blind peer-review. The editors will select papers for the special issue based on their academic merit, quality, and overall coverage of the theme.  

Abstract (500 words) submission to the guest editor: April 30, 2022. 

Full paper submission: December 31, 2022.  

Special Issue Editor: 

Biswarup Sen (he/him) is Associate Professor in the School of Journalism and Communication, University of Oregon. He is the author of Digital Politics and Culture in Contemporary India: The Making of an Info-Nation(Routledge, 2016) and Of the People: Essays on Indian Popular Culture (DC Publishers, 2006). He is also co-editor of Channeling Cultures: Television Studies from India (Oxford University Press, 2012).