Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Transforming Dalit Identity: Ancient Drum Beat, New Song

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posted on 2021-11-04, 21:54 authored by Dalton, Fiona Margaret Page

Folk music is one medium used by the Dalits of India in response to the oppression they face under the country's caste system. This thesis describes research conducted on the effects of music composed by a radical Dalit Christian pastor in South India nicknamed ' Parattai.' The main aims were to investigate how Parattai's religiously affiliated Dalit folk music transformed people, and whether or not its popularity and use had been maintained since Parattai's death in 2005. The primary data was collated from twenty six semi-structured interviews which took place in Tamil Nadu state between December 2006 and April 2007. The secondary data comprises literature on caste and inequality, and grassroots responses involving religion and music. This research found that Parattai' s music was effective because it declared a proud Dalit identity. Parattai embraced and reclaimed the musical and dance styles, vernacular languages, food, and religious ideologies of Dalits so as to transform Dalits from the inside out. Parattai's music continues to empower people with the appreciation of their own strengths. However, further promotion of his folk music style would ensure enduring transformation and activism towards the equality of all Dalits.


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Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Development Studies

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Development Studies

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences


Hipwell, William; Weiss, Rick