ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

A+| A| A-

What Is the Caste of Music?

Irula tribeswoman Nanjiyamma winning a National Film Award has once again laid bare our elitist, casteist conceptions of art.

When Nanjiyamma was called upon to receive the award for the Best Female Playback Singer at the 68th National Film Awards, she walked over to the stage gracefully amidst huge rounds of applause. A smiling Nanjiyamma, a tribal herdswoman from the Irula community in Attappady, Kerala receiving this prestigious award from Droupadi Murmu, the first ever Indian President from a tribal community, indeed was a historical moment.

In July 2022 when the award was announced, there were debates about the quality of music that is deemed worthy of this award. A musician from Kerala argued that Nanjiyamma being conferred with this award would be an insult to those devoted musicians who have been pursuing music “seriously” and spending decades worshipping their art. What was conveniently forgotten by many people who buoyed this argument was that this award is for the best playback singer and not for music or for being a vocalist as rightly pointed out by B Diwakar, the veteran cinematographer and academician who served on many juries for the National Film Awards. Nanjiyamma’s song Kalakkatha Sendanameram from the Malayalam movie Ayyappanum Koshiyum (2020) elevated the film and attracted the attention of the viewers to the screen. Is this not the most important function of the audio track in a film? The song was “trending” on the internet even before the release of the movie and it was used as a promotional tool successfully. Still, why did arguments persist against this historical win?

Dear Reader,

To continue reading, become a subscriber.

Explore our attractive subscription offers.

Click here


To gain instant access to this article (download).

Pay INR 50.00

(Readers in India)

Pay $ 6.00

(Readers outside India)

Updated On : 28th Nov, 2022
Back to Top