Sharod Shomman: Music for a Cause
The age old tradition of playing the instrument has been a male dominated preserve. But in 2010, a group of women from Machlandapur in North 24 Parganas, West Bengal stepped up to break the glass ceiling and gave the dhak a new life by picking up the male bastion lead by one of the leading dhakis of West Bengal, Shri Gokul Chandra Das. Uma Das and her group of five women called the MotilalDhaki.com Lady Dhaki Team performed at the famous Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles in 2009 as the first Dhaki in history, as part of the Ravi Shankar Centre Ensemble. Shri Gokul Chandra Das brings to light the dark fables of caste-ism and authority that are used to shun the dhakis away as they aren’t treated at par with other music practitioners (the latter usually come from elite backgrounds). He further says that artists have one caste, and i.e., art, further debunking all other divisions of the society. He debunked another societal categorization of the dhak being a male pursuit. He was inspired from his journey to a US Puja pandal which led him to embark on a journey of an all-woman dhaki troupe; with the light of change and hope starting from his own home.
Since the dhakis usually hail from the outskirts of Bengal, are predominantly farmers, masons, who play the percussion instrument to earn surplus money. The lineage based art is passed on from one generation to the next; but now more than ever uncertainty has also passed on due to Covid-19. Hence, Shri Gokul Chandra Das and his team of the MotilalDhaki.com Lady Dhaki Team, and are facing the brunt of the pandemic both economically as well as culturally.
Centre for Social Research along with Kaahon and Bhairavi Sabhaa organised a two-day virtual fundraising event with the help of Ketto for the women dhakis of Bengal. The event was a beautiful success and we further explored the rise of women storming a hitherto male preserve.