Locating music in capitalism: a view from exile Tibet

Anna Morcom

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Since the late 1990s, a thriving scene of pop music has developed among the numerically very small and globally highly dispersed Tibetan exile community. This clearly connects it with globalisation and the spread of what is termed the neoliberal phase of capitalism to India and Nepal where most Tibetan exiles live, and the related spread of digital recording technology and facilities – commodities produced by often large, multinational corporations. Yet this micro industry is not profitable, and even though it is pop music and monetised, it is not ‘commercial’, and in fact is seen and structured more as ‘community work’. Exile Tibetan pop music thus cannot be located outside of capitalism, yet at the same time it is not in and of itself capitalist. In this paper, the author explores new ways in which we can locate music in capitalism, looking beyond the ideas of commercialism or commoditisation and takeover or resistance that have dominated theoretical approaches since Adorno and have fixed popular music especially with a still-enduring ‘capitalist’ image. The author draws in particular on the historian Fernand Braudel's model of capitalism as an ‘anti-market’ that lies ‘on top’ of other social and economic layers. Thus capitalism exerts global hegemony, yet there remain uneven spaces such as exile Tibetan pop music, which are in and of themselves not capitalist, existing within it and because of it.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)274-295
Number of pages22
JournalPopular Music
Issue number2
Early online date30 Apr 2015
Publication statusPublished - May 2015

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