Maps of Sorrow

Migration and Music in the Construction of Pre-Colonial AfroAsia

Ari Sitas, Sumangala Damodaran

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The book takes readers through the polycentric world of the pre-colonial period in AfroAsia, which involved systems, processes and interactions that were interconnected through trade, slavery and migration. It was also punctuated by the movement of symbolic forms like music, crafting long-distance aesthetic acuities and constellations that reflected the interconnections but were also in deep interaction with local and regional contexts. Music and musicality are primary entry points into uncovering these connections. Combining original research from a multi-institutional project titled ‘Recentring AfroAsia: Musical and Human Migrations, 700–1500 AD’ with conceptual analysis, the book weaves the story first through a chapter describing the travels of a fictional character, Garai, who traverses various parts of the AfroAsian world in different periods, from Mapungubwe in southern Africa to the distant worlds of northern Africa, southern Spain and India, and back to southern Africa. In two chapters that follow, readers are taken through the historical and theoretical consequences of this research, and the methodological difficulties and breakthroughs that the research entails. A fourth chapter identifies and describes the different categories of music and associated communities of performers that appear to suggest historical connections around some of the routes of the Silk Road, the Indian Ocean trade routes, and various other smaller, water-based or land-based routes, and the circumstances that resulted in their development.

Ari Sitas

Ari Sitas, a South African writer and a sociologist, works at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. He has been a leading scholar among the development alternative sociological voices in southern Africa and, more broadly, in the global South.

Sumangala Damodaran

Teacher, singer, activist and writer Sumangala Damodaran is known for her work on the musical tradition of the Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA), an outfit of leftist theatre artistes formed in 1942 that had stalwarts such as Prithviraj Kapoor, Balraj Sahni, Khwaja Ahmad Abbas and Safdar Mir as its members. Sumangala has performed extensively from its documented repertoire. Currently engaged in an international collaborative project researching the relationship between music and migration involving scholars and musicians, and several universities in Asia and Africa, she has recently published The Radical Impulse (Tulika), which unravels the tradition of IPTA music and song. Excerpts from an interview.

Read her interview here.