Documentary Film Screening on Wed. *Jan. 17* at 6:45 pm! "Sakthi Vibrations" (Zoe Sherinian)

New Documentary Film Screening on January 17, 2018, 6:45 p.m., by esteemed ethnomusicologist Zoe Sherinian (University of Oklahoma)


Where: The Lerner Center (Music Building), 201 S. 34th St. (near Walnut)Room 102 (ground floor)



The Sakthi Folk Cultural Centre, led by two radical Catholic nuns in Dindigul, Tamil Nadu uses Tamil folk arts to develop self-esteem and economic skills in young Dalit female dropouts. This documentary film seeks to reveal and analyze Sakthi’s model for Dalit women’s development that integrates folk arts performance with social analysis, micro-economic sustainability, leadership and community development. Sakthi reclaims the devalued parai frame drum (associated with pollution and untouchability) to re-humanize and empower these young women through a pedagogical approach of physically embodying confidence in performance and renewed cultural identity in a complex campaign against gender, class and caste subjugation. The film editing experimentally weaves together interviews, performance, and development activities such as tailoring and basket making along with footage shot by the students themselves as they actively define their process of growth and contribute to this participatory documentary. This film engages applied ethnomusicology though participatory filmmaking, filmmaking as fieldwork methodology, and the intersectionality of caste, class and gender. The women narrate the film looking directly into the camera to confront the audience with the reality of their oppressed, yet transforming lives. Paralleling the representation of community in their circle dance formations and syncretic rituals, we tell their collective story of transformation from their first day struggling to clap in time, to their first performance for their parents, and their final public festival and academic graduation. Finally, the film demonstrates the agency and strategies of Dalit women as they create social justice for themselves through personal, community, and economic development. 

Sakthi Vibrations Trailer

Zoe Sherinian is Associate Professor of Ethnomusicology at the University of Oklahoma in Norman. She has studied and performed Indian music since the 1980s. Her first documentary This Is A Music: Reclaiming An Unotuchable Drum (2011) had its World Premiere at the deadCENTER film festival in OKC and is being distributed by Alexander Street Press. She produced and directed this film as a Senior Research Fulbright scholar studying the changing status of untouchable parai frame drummers in the village ritual context and their transformation through engagement with the Dalit liberation Arts movement. Her second film, Sakthi Vibrations, will be released in 2018. It documents how two radical Catholic nuns at the Sakthi Folk Cultural Centre use the Tamil folk arts to develop self-esteem and economic skills in young Dalit women. This film also engages activist ethnomusicology and integrates participatory video produced by the young women. Sherinian’s scholarship on Christian theology in Tamil Nadu, includes the book, Tamil Folk Music as Dalit Liberation Theology (Indiana University Press 2014). Sherinian is also a mrdangamist, a jazz drummer, and parai performer/instructor.