Tamil Folk Music as Dalit Liberation Theology

Tamil Folk Music as Dalit Liberation Theology

Zoe C. Sherinian
Distribution: World
Publication date: 01/06/2014
Format: Hardback 10 b&w illus., 25 music exx., 38 video, 9 audio
ISBN: 978-0-253-00233-4
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Zoe C. Sherinian shows how Christian Dalits (once known as untouchables or outcastes) in southern India have employed music to protest social oppression and as a vehicle of liberation. Her focus is on the life and theology of a charismatic composer and leader, Reverend J. Theophilus Appavoo, who drew on Tamil folk music to create a distinctive form of indigenized Christian music. Appavoo composed songs and liturgy infused with messages linking Christian theology with critiques of social inequality. Sherinian traces the history of Christian music in India and introduces us to a community of Tamil Dalit Christian villagers, seminary students, activists, and theologians who have been inspired by Appavoo’s music to work for social justice. Multimedia components available online include video and audio recordings of musical performances, religious services, and community rituals.

Author Bio

Zoe C. Sherinian is Associate Professor and Chair of Ethnomusicology at the University of Oklahoma. A percussionist and filmmaker, her ethnographic film on the changing status of Dalit drummers is titled This is a Music: Reclaiming an Untouchable Drum.


“[O]riginal and well written . . . . [S]hould be of interest to South Asianists, especially students and scholars of Dalit studies, [and other readers interested in] South Indian music, global Christianity, and ethnomusicology.”
 — Peter Manuel, CUNY Graduate Center

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Table of Contents

List of PURL Audio and Video files
Introduction: Singing The Lord’s Prayer and Dalit Liberation in Tamil Nadu
1. Musical Style and Indigenization in Tamil Christian Music
2. Sharing the Meal: A Dalit Family's Dialogue with the History of Tamil Christian Music, 1850-1994
3. Parattai’s Dalit Theology
4. Ethnography as Transformative Musical Dialogue
5. Reception and Transformation from the Seminary to the Village:
6. Performing Global Dalit Consciousness
Appendix 1: Music Transcriptions
Appendix 2: Song Lyrics By J. Theophilus Appavoo (Parattai)

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