Dhamaal: The incredible story of how East African culture shaped the music of a state in India

Source: The post is based on the article “Dhamaal: The incredible story of how East African culture shaped the music of a state in India” published in Down To Earth on 7th February 2023.

What is the News?

The story of Dhamaal performance traditions by Siddis reveals the rich and complex mixing of cultures in a world shaped by human movement and history.

What is Dhamaal?

Dhamaal is a mix of Sufi and African (mostly East African) musical and dance traditions. 

It refers particularly to the spiritual practices of the Siddis of Gujarat.

Usually, Dhamaal songs and dances are performed by Siddis to celebrate the anniversary of the birth and death of spiritual leaders. 

They are performed in two ways — Dance Dhamaal and Baithaaki Dhamaal. The Baithaaki Dhamaal is performed in the sitting position and the Dance Dhamaal is performed in both sitting and dance positions.

The spiritual songs that are sung during the Dhamaals are known as zikrs.

Who are Siddis?

The term Siddi refers to Afro-Indians — Africans who mixed with Indians through marriage and relationships. 

They crossed the Indian Ocean and arrived in India during the 1200s, 1300s and 1400s. 

They were transported by Islamic invaders and Portuguese colonisers as enslaved people, palace guards, army chiefs, harem keepers, spiritual leaders, Sufi singers, dancers and treasurers.

The Siddis are followers of Islam. Today, the majority of Siddis are found in the west and southwest of India, in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Telangana states. 

As they settled in India, they preserved and practised their African ancestral socio-cultural traditions — and also adopted local Indian traditions.

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