Sound and Recitation of Khoja Ismaili Ginans: Tradition and Transformation

  • Author / Creator
    Gillani, Karim Nooruddin
  • For several centuries ginans have played an integral part of the Khoja Ismaili tradition. Community members learn, memorize, and sing ginans as part of their daily lives. Thus far, ginans have been studied mostly from textual and historical perspectives, however, it is through hearing, reciting and performing that one connects with spiritual and cultural origins. This is the first detailed ethnomusicological study that situates ginans within the wider context of Muslim piety in general and within the South Asian poetic and musical contexts in particular.

    The field research employs tools from both ethnomusicology and religious studies. The research is based extensively on dialogical approaches i.e. oral sources, participative observations, performances and interviews. Through musical structure and poetic meter the research shows the close cultural proximity of ginans with other known musical genres like Kafi, Wai, Bait and Dhal traditions of Sind, Punjab and Gujarat.

    This dissertation also explores the layers of meaning that devotees communicate through tunes of the ginans associated with particular rituals and specific ceremonies. This heightens the experience of individual and communal prayer. Personal encounters in the research show that ginans are not merely devotional literature. For many they are a way of life. Through the tunes and the sounds people are able to connect with the divine.

    This research also examines the musical journey of individuals and the community, simultaneously examining tradition, transmission and transformation. Challenges and opportunities arise as a result of migration, in this case into Canada. Traditional and innovative approaches of individuals are highlighted. Tensions between new and old become apparent in the re-creation, re-shaping and re-identification of one’s own meaning to the performance. This dissertation highlights that ginan is one of the most significant living musical heritages of Khoja Satpanth Ismaili Pirs and Sayyeds from South Asia.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2012
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.