This autobiographical, sociological, and musicological essay, written for a symposium on xenophilia, concerns how the love of a foreign culture can lead to a better understanding and renewed love of one’s own. The author, a Japanese musicologist, studied Hindustani music with North Indian masters, both Hindu and Muslim, and concluded that it is the shared concept of a “sound-god” that brings them together on stage in peaceful celebration with audiences from religious communities often at odds. The author’s training in ethnomusicology began in India in 1992, immediately after the violent demolition of the Babri Masjid mosque in Ayodhya by militant Hindus, but even at that time she found no trace of such belligerence in the Hindustani musical world. Years later, while conducting research on the Shinto music rituals of her own culture, she discovered a little-known imperial and aristocratic cult of Myō’onten, a Japanese form of the Hindu goddess of music, Saraswati, who is presently an object of devotion for both Hindu and Muslim musicians in North India. This essay, based on nearly three decades of research in India and Japan, offers some answers to a question raised repeatedly in the Common Knowledge symposium on xenophilia: What is the source of the xenophilic impulse and the power that sustains it?

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