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'Happy Diwali!' Performance, Multicultural Soundscapes and Intervention in Aotearoa/New Zealand

Henry Johnson
Ethnomusicology Forum
Vol. 16, No. 1, Musical Performance in the Diaspora (Jun., 2007), pp. 71-94
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20184577
Page Count: 24
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'Happy Diwali!' Performance, Multicultural Soundscapes and Intervention in Aotearoa/New Zealand
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Abstract

One of the more recent annual cultural highlights in Auckland and Wellington, New Zealand, is the public celebration of Diwali, the Hindu 'Festival of Lights'. Since 2002, Diwali has been presented to a wider New Zealand public as a particularly visible performance event. The festival is showcased as a way of celebrating New Zealand's various South Asian communities, and has been placed into a spatial terrain that has performance at its core. Drawing on ethnographic field research at Diwali celebrations in New Zealand over the past few years, as well from interviews with key informants, this article addresses insiders' perceptions of the public Diwali festival in Wellington in terms of its significance in New Zealand's contemporary multicultural setting. The study draws on theoretical ideas from ethnomusicology and cultural studies, and shows how contemporary global processes and modes of cultural representation are played out in a public festival as a result of organizational intervention from outside the local South Asian community. It is argued that a study of this particular performance event, which provides an ethnomusicological case study in the dialectics of tradition and its transformation, creates a new spatiality that contributes to the analysis and understanding of diaspora in the New Zealand context, especially with regard to how identity is shaped and constructed through and as a result of performance.

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