The Dalit Drum
With and produced by Paul Field – Christian Aid
We are the shadows of the world
we are lost, a broken people
we are the shadows of the world
we cry for hope
we sing for freedom
we are the shadows of the world.
The dalits were formerly known as ‘the untouchables’ – victims of a caste system that considers them as ‘outcastes’. They have chosen to call themselves the ‘dalits’ from the Sanskrit meaning crushed, oppressed or broken. The drum or ‘Thappu’ has become a symbol of liberation for them. This album tells of their struggle for justice and dignity and their journey towards human rights.
Garth Hewitt and Paul Field travelled to India in March 2001 and visited Christian Aid partners Activists for Social Alternatives (ASA) in Tiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu and Prajwala, in Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh. They also visited the Dalit Resource Centre at Tamil Nadu Thdological Seminary in Madurai and met with the Board of Social Ministry of the Church of South India (CSI), the Director of CDS’s Synod department of Dalit and Adivasi concerns and the General Secretary of CSA in Chennai.
This trip was an eye opener in so many ways, giving Garth and Paul an insight into the history of dalit suffering, introducing them to some of those who have been oppressed and victimised as well as giving them an appreciation of dalit culture.
They would like to express special thanks to Paul Divakar, Convenor of the National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights (NCDHR), who first gave Garth a dalit drum and asked him to do this album. Thanks also to Annie Namala and all who looked after them from Prajwala and Mr Devaraj and all who looked after them at ASA. Particular thanks go to the drummers, artists and musicians who gave them such wonderful performances and whose drumming can be heard on the album on almost all of the songs.
Garth and Paul visited or heard musicians from the villages of Acculamnaikampatti, Kottapaluvanchi, Karvadi, Thathakavundapatti in the Tiruchirapalli area of Tamil Nadu and also Peddathayyur, Nellaipalli, TTKandigar villages in the area of Chittoor, Andhra Pradesh.
Garth’s notes on the songs:
Shadows of the World
The song at the beginning of shadows of the world is sung by two dalit women in their own language, Tagalu, in the village of Peddathayyur. Some of the words translate as ‘Proclaim Dalit Human rights and march forward – 250 million people – we are another name for humanity, we are the shadows of the world.’
vocal – Abi Hewitt
Dance Away the Tears
Written in Tiruchirapalli. This reflects the first reaction to the incredible passion, strength and dignity of the dalit drumming.
He’s Holding On
Thangevelu’s story – an old man from Peddathayyur village whose life and struggle was an inspiration.
Written in Madurai. This song is about a shocking incident of abuse in the village of Kottapaluvanchi in Tamil Nadu.
Raise the Flag
This song is about the same indecent. Chittiraiammal, a dalit woman, was attacked and stopped from raising the national flag by an upper caste person.
vocal – Rubita Ajanthakumar
I am the Drum
Written in Chennai. This song expresses something of the significance of the ‘Thappu’ or ‘Dappu’ drum and the people’s close identification with it. This song also features the Urumi drum.
The story of Thangamani and Chinnakannu from the village of Acculamnaikampatti, Tamil Nadu.
Cast Out Caste
Inspired by a poster at the Prajwala Centre in Chittoor saying ‘let us cast out caste’
Written in Tiruchirapalli and inspired by a child from Acculamnaikampatti village.
vocal – Cliff Richard, who was born in India
These words are mainly translations of songs that were sung to us in the Prajwala Centre at Chittoor by P Suresh and his friends along with some words of dalit leader Dr Ambedkar, architect of the Indian constitution. Garth Hewitt and Paul Field would like to thank the writers of these lyrics.
One of Us
A song seeing the Christmas story as a sign of hope for the dalit community, asserting the value of every human being.