Author Biography

Anna Stirr (PhD Columbia University, 2009) is an ethnomusicologist who specializes in the performing arts of the Himalayan region, particularly Nepali-language song and related music, dance, and drama. She is the author of Singing Across Divides: Music and Intimate Politics in Nepal (Oxford University Press, 2017). She is Associate Professor of Asian Studies at the University of Hawaii Manoa, and has previously taught at Oxford University and The New School, and has also held a postdoctoral fellowship at Leiden University. Her research interests include music, intimacy, politics, and religion, in relation to systems of social and ecological exchange.


This article examines the moral and material economy of “being a musician” (Neuman 1980) in Nepal’s popular folk music industry, which includes the broad genre of lok gīt (folk song) and the more specific subgenre of lok dohori (folk duet song). Through ethnographic attention to a debate about what it means to be an artist, and how musicians can both make a living and earn prestige and honor, I argue that rather than one system of value and exchange dominating social and economic interactions in this music industry today, instead, multiple regimes of value shape artists’ choices. I give examples of how musicians in this industry navigate these multiple regimes of value and prestige, and show how fluency in moving among them is increasingly important in making a living as a musician in Nepal’s popular folk music world today.


Many thanks to all the artists who provided their varying viewpoints in the Cats and Dogs debate, and agreed to be interviewed on what was a contentious topic at the time. Thanks also to the editors of this special issue, Andrew Alter and Noe Dinnerstein, for seeing this project through to fruition.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.