From Dhol-Tasha to Tassa: Tradition and Transformation in Indian Trinidadian Tassa Drumming

Keywords: South Asia, Caribbean, indentureship, diaspora, traditional music


The North Indian dhol-tasha drumming tradition was spread globally by the British indentureship system, which began in the 1830s and sent millions of men, women, and children to work in agricultural and industrial colonies around the world. While distinct dhol-tasha variants emerged in many places where indentured laborers settled, the most vibrant of these is tassa drumming in the southern Caribbean country of Trinidad and Tobago. While maintaining obvious and measurable links with its Indian forebears, tassa has undergone significant transformations in instrument construction, repertoire and performance practice. The essay concludes by arguing that such innovations suggest tassa is not a mere example of cultural survival, but a dynamic art form grounded in a distinct Indian aesthetic yet also thoroughly Caribbean in its diasporic creativity.


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