Cover for WOLF: The Black Cow's Footprint: Time, Space and Music in the Lives of the Kotas of South India. Click for larger image

The Black Cow's Footprint

Time, Space and Music in the Lives of the Kotas of South India
Awards and Recognition:

Winner of the 2005 Edward Cameron Dimock, Jr. Prize in the Humanities of the American Institute of Indian Studies.

The unique worldview and music of a remote community

A black cow leads the members of a South Indian hill tribe, the Kotas, to the Nilgiri Hills and, with its hoof, indicates where to found each village. This footprint acts as a moral center of gravity, an important place for music-making, dancing, and other rituals. Places such as this, and moments in time, serve as physical and moral “anchors” for the Kota community. In this book, Richard K. Wolf explores how the Kotas “anchor” their musical and other activities around places and significant moments in time and, in the process, constitute themselves as individuals and as a group. This volume also includes a CD of Richard Wolf’s Kota field recordings.


"A highly original and important publication that will be of interest to students and scholars of ethnomusicology, anthropology, and South Asia."--Journal of Asian Studies

"This book represents a significant contribution to the field of ethnomusicology. In bringing equal rigor to both the anthropology and the musicology, Wolf contributes importantly to the theory of the subject."--Ethnomusicology

"The Black Cow's Footprint is a much-needed and extremely valuable addition to the limited ethnomusicological literature on Indian tribal peoples. The comprehensive glossary and detailed index add to the monograph's value for ethnomusicologists, anthropologists, and others who will be drawn to Wolf's careful ethnography and multifaceted analysis."--Journal of Folklore Research

"The wealth of data here is remarkable. . . . A signal contribution to South Asian ethnomusicology, as well as to the field of Indian tribal studies specifically."--World of Music

"[Wolf] presents us with one of the most detailed accounts of musical performance in any small Indian community; and is able to site it functionally within the social contexts of daily life and ritual activities."-- Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

“The best example of ethnomusicological thought in a very long time. Wolf builds a uniquely inflected model of spacetime that is both a representation of and an agent for the highly integrated totality of the Kota worldview. . . . A remarkable work whose intensity is unrelenting, and whose intelligence richly rewards the closest possible reading. It will establish Richard K. Wolf as one of the prime intellects within ethnomusicology.”--James Kippen, author of The Tabla of Lucknow: A Cultural Analysis of a Musical Tradition

Supported by the Clark and Cooke Funds, Harvard University


Richard K. Wolf is Professor of Music and South Asian Studies at Harvard University and editor of Theorizing the Local: Music, Practice, and Experience in South Asia and Beyond.

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