Kochi Biennale Foundation invites applications for Music and Democracy, a workshop led by Sumangala Damodaran. This programme will run online from Apr 15 to May 10, 2021.

The workshop is part of the educational programmes of the Kochi Biennale Foundation. The workshops offer meeting grounds for young artists and scholars to work with artists and thinkers from around the world. Previous faculty at the workshop programme include Sarnath Banerjee, Arjun Appadurai, Nancy Adajania, Orijit Sen, Sundar Sarukkai and others.




Music has been a significant mode of expression in movements for democracy all around the world. India, in particular, has most recently seen music and musicians raising crucial questions around various elements of our democracy. The workshop will cover a range of experiences and discuss a framework within which to understand music that responded to the various challenges of and for democracy from the late 19th century onwards. It will consist of a combination of conceptual tools, historical information, reportage and listening sessions from different parts of the world, but with a specific focus on the South.




The workshop will be conducted using online video conferencing tools. Participants are expected to attend all sessions, including sessions with guest speakers. They are also expected to prepare for the workshop meetings with the readings and other materials that will be provided. Meetings with faculty will be held on eight days: Apr 15, Apr 19, Apr 22, Apr 26, Apr 29, May 3, May 6, and May 10.




Sumangala Damodaran is Professor of Economics, Development Studies and Popular Music Studies at Ambedkar University, Delhi. Her archiving and documentation of the musical tradition of the Indian People’s Theatre Association from the 1940s and 1950s has resulted in a book titled The Radical Impulse: Music in the Tradition of the IPTA and an album titled Songs of Protest. She has also performed from the documented repertoire extensively in different parts of India and abroad, including at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale. Sumangala has also collaborated with poets and musicians from South Africa around a project titled ‘Insurrections’, which has resulted in four albums. She is currently engaged in researching the relationship between music and migration, particularly of women in slavery and servitude across centuries and across vast tracts of the globe that were linked through long-distance trade in commodities and symbolic goods. This work is being done in collaboration with several universities in Africa and Asia.




The workshop is open to everyone with an interest in the subject-matter. Participants should be willing to attend all sessions, as well as to engage with the required readings and listening material.

For the purpose of selection, applicants are to send in an essay (500 words) on the topic “What do you think is the place of musical culture in democracy?” Applicants with prior experience in musical performance (including in theatre or film) or research may please give details in the resume.

To apply, please send the following: 1) your application essay and 2) your resume by April 5, 2021 to [email protected] with the subject-line ‘Music and Democracy Workshop’. Please note that no fee is charged for the workshop.


This workshop is organised by the Kochi Biennale Foundation and supported by the HCL Foundation and Kiran Nadar Museum of Art.


Dates of the workshop: Apr 15, Apr 19, Apr 22, Apr 26, Apr 29, May 3, May 6, & May 10, 2021

Last date for application: Apr 5, 2021