A decade-long project showcases the vocal beauty of Delhi's pheriwallas, who are fighting a losing battle against the forces of globalization.
A day in Delhi is anything but routine. With a growing population of 17 million people, the Indian capital has recently emerged as an ever-shifting global hub. Yet one thing has remained constant for generations: the echoing chants of the city's pheriwhallas, or street vendors.
The recording project offers an interesting look at how sound fluctuates in urban space. The vendors' chants are affected by the density and design of the neighborhoods they're hawking in. A tight residential area, for example, is likely to create greater competition among pheriwallasselling there. Like music blaring in a small room, the chants ring off the walls of neighborhood buildings more intensely.
"A hawker in a densely populated area remains mostly stationery," Kaleka says. "They blast out their tunes, a restless competition of shouts overriding the cacophony of a deafening street." In the suburbs, on the other hand, the pheriwalla chants fade much quicker.
Kaleka's recording project aims to give Delhi's pheriwallas a new narrative. By eliminating visuals and magnifying their vocals, what's on display is how this community injects music into the neighborhoods of Delhi. Even more important, the project preserves the sounds of a community on the brink of extinction.
Since the turn of the millennium, few cities have undergone economic changes as turbulent as Delhi's. Once a nondescript hub in the north of India, Delhi has become a legitimate megacity wielding global influence. In his latest book, Capital: The Eruption of Delhi, award-winning author Rana Dasgupta credits India's economic liberalization with stirring the city's recent renaissance. Still, liberalization created tremendous stress on laborers operating on the peripheries of society. As Dasgupta explains in his book, the city's old social order, with its penchant for safeguarding the socioeconomic rights of poor working class residents, has dissolved.