South Asia Institute Alternatives Series
Fri, April 15, 2011 • 1:30 PM - 5:00 PM • Robert A. Welch Hall (WEL 2.256)
Zoe Sherinian, Associate Professor of ethnomusicology at the University of Oklahoma
Film screening with filmmaker Zoe Sherinian in attendance
This is a Music: Reclaiming an Untouchable Drum
This ethnomusicological documentary is about the psychological and economic transformation of a group of untouchable (outcaste) parai frame drummers from a village in Tamil Nadu, South India. Through the lens of rarely filmed folk performances we see these drummers negotiating discrimination within the Hindu caste system, which constructs them as polluted because they play for funerals. As they professionalize, reconstructing their performance as “music” and their identity as “worldly,” they are able to participate in the Chennai Sangamam folk festival where their reception by urbanites further transforms their self-understanding. The question then becomes, can they sustain these changes back in the village? Woven throughout the film are dynamic and rare examples of village folk performances as well as interviews of the drummers and local activists who tell the story of the process of working for the economic and social liberation of the outcastes or Dalits of India through engaging the folk arts.
Zoe Sherinian is an Associate Professor of ethnomusicology at the University of Oklahoma. Her research focus has been Christian indigenization and the production of liberation theology in India through Tamil folk music with secondary emphases in gender studies and world percussion. Her publications include articles in the journals Ethnomusicology (Summer 2007), Worlds of Music (2005) and Women and Music (2005). She also has articles in the anthologies Popular Christianity in India: Riting Between the Lines, edited by Selva J. Raj and Corinne Dempsey and Performing Pasts: Reinventing the Arts in South India, edited by Indira Viswanathan Peterson and Davesh Soneji. Sherinian is currently finishing a book entitled Songs of Dalit Transformation: Tamil Folk Music as Liberation Theology, which argues that Dalits (former untouchables) have been able to use Tamil folk music to create an indigenized Christian liberation theology that can respond in liturgical performance to their needs for transformative social change. She is a percussionist and is beginning a new fieldwork and film project supported by a Fulbright Senior Research Fellowship on the parai drum of the Dalits of Tamil Nadu, India. She holds an MA and PhD in ethnomusicology from Wesleyan University and a BA in sociology/anthropology and percussion performance from Oberlin College.