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The Casteless Collective - A Independent Music Band From Chennai

This band of youngsters from North Chennai is adding flair and style to the funeral music form of Gana

The Casteless Collective - A Independent Music Band From Chennai

The Casteless Collective (TCC) has emerged as the most talked about independent music band in Chennai. Not only has it impressed with its no-holds-barred music but also set out on an artistic-political path that is unchartered. Its music is rooted in the sounds of Chennai’s Dalit community, especially those who live in North Chennai. Singing the musical form Gana that has its origins in funeral music, accompanied by percussions that are socially associated with the rhythms of the graveyard, they have posed numerous aesthetic, social and political questions to the art world. (The band members are Tenma, leader and music producer, singers Muthu, Bala Chandar, Isaivani, Arivu and Chellamuthu, Dharani (dholak), Sarath (satti), Gautham (katta molam), Nandan (parai and tavil), Manu (drums) and Sahir (guitar).) 

They’re singing about beef curry, sewage cleaners and reservations in a bid to “make a casteless generation”.


“Your forefathers kept mine oppressed
Isn’t that why we are given our quota?
Don’t be so proud because you get all you want
Unlike our ancestors, we won’t remain calm!”

When The Casteless Collective, a band from Chennai, sings these lines as part of their “Quota Song”, the audience goes wild. “‘No one has ever sung about me on any stage.’ That was their feeling,” Arivu, one of the songwriters of the ensemble tells Us about how the listeners react to their music. “This is the first time they are listening to their own story in a big musical concert.”

At the very core of the band's disruptive nature are their songs that talk about the inequalities in our society, especially those that arise out of a rigid caste system, which continues to enslave people even today.

The songs emerge out of their defiance of the Brahmanical playbook that has existed for centuries, dictating several stigmatised notions: that if you belong to the ‘lower caste’, if you are an ‘untouchable’, then you don’t get to have a voice. The ensemble includes funeral musicians who learned to play their instruments in a graveyard, Gaana singers who sing about systematic oppression, and rappers who talk about inequalities.

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