The heritage of British Bhangra: popular music heritage, cultural memory, and cultural identity.

Khabra, Gurdeep
The heritage of British Bhangra: popular music heritage, cultural memory, and cultural identity. PhD thesis, University of Liverpool.

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Authorised narratives of British popular music history have been deployed as representations of national identity by a range of institutions and individuals. The London 2012 Olympic Games opening ceremony, for example, presented a range of musical artists and songs that had been selected to represent aspects of British cultural identity to an international audience. The following year, a speech delivered by British Prime Minister David Cameron cited examples of British popular music in order to demonstrate British cultural successes in an international field. This thesis argues that authorised narratives such as these have failed to reflect the diversity of music cultures in the UK, drawing upon literature that highlights the concerns of ethnic minority groups who are frequently faced with exclusion from mainstream heritage narratives, and on a case study on British Bhangra music. British Bhangra is a musical genre closely associated with the BrAsian community, and in this thesis it is used to explore the relationship between popular music heritage and multiculturalism and address the following research questions: How have individuals involved with the British Bhangra music industry and audience groups responded to authorised narratives (Smith, 2006) of British popular music? How has British Bhangra been constructed as heritage – whether authorised, un-authorised or self-authorised – and where is this taking place and by whom? In order to address these questions, the thesis adopts two methodological approaches: qualitative research in the form of ethnographic fieldwork, and the analysis of particular musical works produced by British Bhangra artists and promoted as heritage – such as songs featuring in audience-constructed online charts attempting to define the ‘50 Best British Bhangra albums’. The ethnographic fieldwork was conducted in three areas in England: Bradford and Leeds in the North-East of England, Birmingham, and Tower Hamlets in East London, and enabled an exploration of British Bhangra heritage sites and practices in each location. Face-to-face and email interviews were also conducted with artists, music promoters and archivists involved with the British Bhangra music industry as well as with Bhangra audiences, and published interviews from print and online sources were consulted. This helped to examine British Bhangra heritage from the perspective of the artist, audience and music industry workers involved. At the same time specific British Bhangra songs were analysed in order to explore musical constructions of national identity and cultural memory and related concepts, such as ‘homeland’ or ‘authenticity’, both of which emerged as highly valued by British Bhangra audiences and artists. Attempts by artists and music journalists to construct a ‘canon’ of British Bhangra music frequently involve efforts to evaluate these musical works in terms of their perceived ability to express authenticity, or to evoke connections with a rural Punjab. The music is analysed in relation to such debates, and the way in which particular artists and songs have become enshrined within British Bhangra music heritage practices is explored.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: Date: 2014-09 (completed)
Subjects: ?? M1 ??
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 27 Aug 2015 09:26
Last Modified: 17 Dec 2022 01:16
DOI: 10.17638/02015320