Some have been surprised to learn that this musical form is all about lyrical dexterity, about elevating vernacular speech into rhyming, rapid-fire verse. Against all expectations, it feels natural for these characters to talk this way, despite their period costumes. Mr Miranda pulls this off by supplying them with perfectly chiselled lyrics that are dramatic, erudite and cool all at once. They pulse with internal rhymes and reveal ever more detail each time you listen to them. A perfectionist, he worked at these songs for six years and was still tinkering after the show opened on Broadway.
The cast recording, released digitally in September, is the first to top the charts as both a Broadway cast album and a rap album. It has also won millions of fans who may never reach Broadway, but who can at least find each other on social media. Rolling Stone , the San Francisco magazine, recently named it one of the best albums of the year. Yet there is something about this moment that has made this show feel especially relevant. This is an optimistic message. It also presents a more inclusive, more multicultural vision of what America always was and what it should be.
As Americans struggle to compose the next few bars, some are finding inspiration in the notes coming from Broadway. BACK when his eyes were sharp and his handlebar moustache impressive, Brajraj Mahapatra would go big-game-hunting in the damp, dense forests of Orissa now Odisha in eastern India.
As King of Tigiria in Cuttack district, 45 square miles of this hill country belonged to him. Rifle on his shoulder, servants creeping behind, he would bring down tigers and leopards—13 of the former, 28 of the latter—and use their pelts to decorate the walls of his palace.
The residence was not large. Nonetheless it had fine carpets, marble columns, an ornate throne of gilt and velvet and well-ventilated rooms in which to write down, for various magazines, his famous stories of the hunt. He also killed one elephant.
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The local villagers had begged him to do so because it was trampling their crops; though it was a special perquisite of kings of his line, from earliest times and also under the Raj, that they should always travel by elephant and be heralded with black flags and bugles. Consequentially, he liked tuskers. In the 21st century the villagers still came to pay their respects, though not to the palace. That had long been turned into a high school for shrill dark-plaited girls. For his last 28 years the house of Brajraj, still most royal, was a small hut of mud on a hillock with an asbestos roof that thundered and leaked under the monsoon rains.
He lived there alone. His furniture was a wooden cot under a torn tarpaulin, a few plastic chairs, a battery-powered fan and rails, thick with cobwebs, on which to hang his clothes. As for those, they were no longer the best embroidered sherwanis , gem-heavy necklaces, cummerbunds, scabbards and jewelled turbans in which he would attend a durbar or, with a lordly expression, pose with one two-tone shoe on a gilt stool for the photographer.
He now wore a humble kurta and lungi over his bony hips. He had been plump in the old days. Now he pecked at what his subjects served him: tea and a couple of biscuits in the morning, a little dal and rice for lunch, a roti at night. His eyes were so clouded with cataracts that he felt, rather than saw, what was placed before him.
He was probably the last surviving king of British India, and certainly the last ruler of the 26 princely states of Orissa that co-operated from the beginning with the British Raj, traded freely with the East India Company and grew fat on the taxes they were allowed to keep. For some years this arrangement kept him in playboy style. He bought fast, flash motors: 25 cars and Jeeps filled his garages, polished and tuned by some of his 30 staff. In , at 22, he became king. He and his best friend, the King of Puri, would often be driven through the green paddy-fields along the coast to Kolkata, where they would hold court in the lounge of the Great Eastern Hotel in an aura of majesty, Black Label and State Express cigarettes.
Rumour had it that he drank too deep, and that was why he found himself in the hut at last, with Queen Rasmanjari from whom he had long separated living a kilometre away, and his six children even farther off. But political upheaval had played a larger part. At first, with the birth of independent India in , little changed; he agreed to merge his principality into the new nation and, while his diwan or minister waited outside, signed the instrument of accession in Cuttack town hall.
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The palace had already been sold 15 years earlier. It fetched only 75, rupees; though he was glad to sell it to a school, for he had founded several, and his education-minded forebears had written manuals of dance and warfare. In he returned there to build his hut. People tried to entice him into politics; he refused. Kings, he said, with a rare gleam of condescension, should not beg for votes and bow to people. If he left the hut now it was in a rickshaw, not a motor, pulled jolting by one man over the mud tracks from one village to another.
He did not complain. Only the trappings had changed. He awaited it with patience, his gaunt hands knotted round his walking stick as, in former times, they had clasped the still-warm barrel of his trusty hunting-rifle. He was content with both the future and the past. German libraries stock old copies, and they can be bought and sold. But from January 1st no permission will be needed to reprint it. Those living outside Germany may not immediately grasp the significance of the moment.
But that is not the point. For Germans, the expiry of the copyright has caused hand-wringing and controversy. Rather, it is what Hitler means for Germany today. It was first published in two volumes in and Much of it is dull or incomprehensible today. It is not clear how many Germans read the tome. But after , when Hitler seized power, it became a bestseller.
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From some municipalities gave it to newlyweds after their vows, and by the end of the second world war about 13m copies were in print. So the Americans transferred the rights to the government of Bavaria. It banned printing of the book. The idea was to suppress anything that might tempt the Germans to fall back under his spell.
But as the cold war unfolded, West Germany was needed as an ally. For lack of alternatives, ministries, courtrooms and schools employed former Nazis again. In the late s and s Germans avoided discussing Hitler. Many men were returning from captivity. Many women had been raped. People had been displaced, orphaned or widowed. Germans had been both perpetrators and victims, and had no words for their state of mind.
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Many were traumatised and could not bear to talk about their experiences. Many still denied the full scale of the Holocaust.
A new phase began in the s, after the Israelis captured, tried and executed Adolf Eichmann, a leading Nazi. This made more details of the Holocaust public. Starting in , 22 former SS men were prosecuted in Frankfurt for their crimes in Auschwitz. The Germans were glued to these cases: 20, people went to the Frankfurt courtroom during the sessions. Sons and daughters accused their parents and professors of complicity and rebelled at home and on campus.
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Their elders retreated into sanitised tales of what they had done or lived through. This mired the Germans in an ongoing moral and psychological crisis, they thought. Official Germany found two responses.
In effect, it never reckoned with the past. But West Germany accepted its guilt and atoned publicly. The young sought identity either sub-nationally as Swabians or Bavarians, say or supra-nationally, as good Europeans. But starting in the s a pent-up fascination with Hitler began to re-emerge.
After reunification in —the formal end of the post-war era—the German public became ravenous for more research. Der Spiegel , a weekly news magazine, featured Hitler on its cover 16 times during the s.
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Germans queued around the block to see it. Any footage of the small man with the toothbrush moustache draws an audience. In that way, Hitler has become like sex and violence: bait to sell copies or to grab attention. But this fascination also suggests a new distance. Most of the audience, after all, now have no personal recollection of Hitler. This explains another genre: satire. Disoriented at first, he so amuses everybody he meets, including his Turkish dry-cleaner, that he is launched on a meteoric career as a comedian. One by one, post-war taboos connected to Hitler are vanishing.
Flag-waving is one. A breakthrough occurred in , when Germany hosted the football World Cup. For the first time since the war the black-red-and-gold came out everywhere, draping balconies, prams, cars and bikinis. But so did the flags of the visiting countries, and Germany turned into one big street party.