South Asia

Organized Panel Session

2 - Live Concerts, Transnational Routes: Tracing the Radio Voice of the Playback Singer

Friday, July 6
12:10 PM - 1:40 PM
Location: Marigold, New Building

Hindi film songs as aural commodities have enjoyed wide circulation across diverse geographical locations and media surfaces. While the dominance of a few playback singers in the film music industry has ensured their aural stardom, the gramophone and the radio played a key role in the circulation of the playback voice.


This paper examines the role of the playback voice on the radio in the construction of geographical imaginations across the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, and North Africa. The techno-material voices of playback singers became objects of desire that resulted in singers traveling to sing for live shows. These circuits provided the ground for new affective alliances with listeners across transnational locations. The sound waves of Radio Ceylon extended beyond the boundaries of the Indian sub-continent and played a key role in effecting these sonic journeys.


Little is written on artists like Talat Mahmood who traveled to East Africa and the Middle East in 1958 to perform at live concerts. By the 1960s, Mahmood’s distinct voice, best suited for ghazals, had been sidelined by the industry but continued to be heard over Radio Ceylon and later All India Radio. Emboldened by the success of Mahmood’s shows, the tour agents enlisted singers like Mohammed Rafi and Hemanta Kumar to travel to East Asia and the West Indies. The paper will address these stage as sites that enabled new modes of cultural citizenship to emerge; where diasporic audiences from Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India could come together to hear their favorite singers.

Shikha Jhingan

Jawaharlal Nehru University, India

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2 - Live Concerts, Transnational Routes: Tracing the Radio Voice of the Playback Singer



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