Upcoming Events

Echoes from the Bengal Tiger: Archival Excavations of Musical Life in Early South Asian America

Thursday, March 2, 2024 – 5pm – 6:30pm, J264 – The Joseph Regenstein Library

Join us for a talk by Dr. Samuel B. Cushman, Adjunct Faculty, Department of Music, SUNY Onondaga Community College.

Based on Cushman’s recent dissertation, From Calcutta to the Bengal Tiger: Indian Musicians, American Orientalism, and Cosmopolitan Modernism Pre-1947 (UC Santa Cruz, 2023), this talk centers possibilities for archival research as historical ethnomusicological method in the digital age. Beginning with Sarat Lahiri (c. 1897-1941), a Bengali musician and Midtown Manhattan restaurateur whose name surfaces peripherally in the literature on American composer Henry Cowell (1897-1965), Cushman excavates a fragmentary archival record, long buried and mostly forgotten, and reconstructs a network of Lahiri’s collaborators and contemporaries. This research illuminates the global migrations and working lives of musicians from colonial India who settled in New York City in the decades preceding Indian independence in 1947. Cushman reflects on processes of historical inscription and narrative construction, differentiating between lost, silenced, or erased histories and histories that were never considered consequential enough to inscribe in the first place. Lahiri’s Bengal Tiger and other immigrant-owned restaurants of the era emerge as spaces of cultural encounter—sonic borderlands capable of facilitating the types of resonant quotidian exchanges that shape musical lives yet rarely make it into history books.

Dr. Cushman will be introduced by Pramantha Tagore, PhD candidate in Ethnomusicology, Music Department, University of Chicago.

Refreshments will be served.

SAMUEL B. CUSHMAN is a musician, scholar, and educator based in upstate New York. His research focuses on the globalization of Hindustani (North Indian) art music, Hindustani rhythm and drumming, and the intersections of South Asian and American popular music cultures. As the recipient of a Fulbright-Nehru grant, Samuel lived in New Delhi for most of 2022 and conducted research on rhythmic accompaniment for kathak dance. He plays drums and percussion instruments of many shapes and sizes, including the tabla and pakhawaj, two North Indian drums. Samuel holds a Ph.D. in Music from the University of California, Santa Cruz (2023) and is currently teaching at SUNY Onondaga Community College.

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