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Speakers

Adjunct Professor, Ethnomusicology, Herb Alpert School of Music, UCLA
Journalist
Interlocutor

Date & Time

Monday Mon, 22 Jan 2024

Location

Bangalore International Centre
7, 4th Main Road, Domlur II Stage
Bangalore, Karnataka 560071 India

72 minutes | English, Kannada, Marathi with English subtitles

This film explores the sacred music, dance and rituals of devidasis and devidasas, women and men dedicated to the goddess renuka/Yellamma. It ventures over boundaries of geography, society, and gender in the sacred music of specialist musicians – women, men, and transgenders – whose lives are dedicated to a fertility goddess of the Deccan plateau in Southern India.

Worshipped especially by Dalits in the border regions of Southern Maharashtra, Northern Karnataka, and adjacent areas, this beneficent and healing goddess is best known through media representations of the tradition, which tend to focus on controversial practices, and to exclude the unique musical forms essential to the worship of the goddess.

“Fictive documentary” techniques used include the autobiographical voice of the goddess, who reflects on elements of her own varied histories and some of the practices of her followers, and the voice of her son, Parasuram. Virtuosic performances by women and men practitioners (jogtas and jogappas, including transgenders) are featured in ensembles with the chaundke, a one-stringed variable-tension ‘plucked drum’ believed to have first been fashioned by Parasuram from a demon’s skull.

These musical ritualists are necessary for calendrical festivals such as rites during Rande Purnima (“widows’ full moon when the goddess and her devidasis are temporarily widowed, processions in the “baby-dropping ritual”, and for Oracle rituals and mendicancy rounds. Police threats to confiscate musical instruments, and protest songs sung within the tradition against the dedication of children, attest to contemporary conflicts surrounding the goddess and her music, the endangerment of her chaundke, and the human rights issues at stake.

A conversation with the filmmaker will follow the screening.

Speakers

Amy Catlin-Jairazbhoy

Adjunct Professor, Ethnomusicology, Herb Alpert School of Music, UCLA

Amy Catlin-Jairazbhoy’s research, writing, teaching, curatorial activities, and multi-media publications often have an applied focus, aimed at community development of minority traditions, especially in diasporic settings. She served as curator and presented the first concert and lecture tour outside India with a group of African-Indian Sidi performers from Gujarat, in September 2002, traveling with them in England and Wales. Her recent publications include Sidi Sufis: African Indian Mystics of Gujarat (Apsara Media 2002: 79-minute CD), the volume co-edited with Indian Ocean historian Edward Alpers, Sidis and Scholars: Essays on African Indians (New Delhi: Rainbow Publications, 2003), the DVD The Sidi Malunga Project (2004), the DVD From Africa to India: Sidi Music in the Indian Ocean Diaspora (with Nazir Ali Jairazbhoy) (2003)and Music for a Goddess (with Nazir Ali Jairazbhoy) (2008), an interactive DVD of 175 minutes, including Bonus Tracks, on professional musicians dedicated to the Goddess Renuka-Yellamma in southern Maharashtra and northern Karnataka.

Vikhar Ahmed Sayeed

Journalist

Vikhar Ahmed Sayeed is an award-winning journalist with Frontline newsmagazine and is based in Bengaluru.