Arts and Culture
This panel investigates how music and other cultural broadcasts helped to reformulate or renew three imagined communities in mainland Southeast Asia. Radio was the first widely accessible form of broadcasting technology that could reach listeners across the diverse landscapes of the region. This relatively inexpensive technology enhanced the impact of print media by reaching illiterate people, those in remote places and passive listeners who happened to be in earshot of other people’s radio receivers. The medium also offered sound-based performing artists an opportunity to engage an unprecedented number of listeners. As access to the technology proliferated into the late-twentieth century, distinct forms of performing arts were codified by broadcasters and their listeners as sonic emblems of social formations including religions, ethnicities and nationalities. In an investigation of the cultural, political and spiritual impact of this technology and its champions in Southeast Asia, this panel brings together case studies of cultural heritage on the radio in post-independence Singapore, interwar Vietnam and late-twentieth-century Myanmar and Thailand. Using music and other performing arts as case studies, these papers illustrate how musicians, composers and broadcasters collaborated in the production of radio programmes that were intended to be representative of the region’s populations and supportive of the political and religious powers of the time. The papers also highlight the ongoing importance of this “old” media technology and the media content broadcast via that technology into the twenty-first century. The panel will be of particular interest to scholars in ethnomusicology, Southeast Asian studies, anthropology, history, and media and cultural studies.