(USA, 2019) Music, Ethnographic / 58 min / English / Rated: G
Dir: Chris Ballengee
Sweet Tassa: Music of the Indian Caribbean Diaspora details the history, repertoire, and socio-political significance of tassa drumming in Trinidad & Tobago. Brought by indentured laborers from India who first arrived in 1845, tassa drumming has become an important marker of Indian Trinidadian cultural identity in Trinidad and Tobago. The film explores musical and socio-political elements of tassa, focusing on the life and family of noted drummer Lenny Kumar. As the story unfolds, tassa emerges as a metaphor for Indian Caribbean culture, rooted in India while also thoroughly Caribbean.
Christopher L. Ballengee is an ethnomusicologist and Associate Professor of Music at Anne Arundel Community College (Maryland, USA). Dr. Ballengee’s research on tassa drumming is based on fieldwork in Trinidad and the Trinidadian community in Florida since 2007. He was most recently the inaugural Diego Carpitella Visual Ethnomusicology fellow at the Giorgio Cini Foundation (Venice, Italy) which supported the production of the feature-length documentary film Sweet Tassa: Music of the Indian Caribbean Diaspora (2019). His current work includes co-editing a collection of essays on Indian-Caribbean visual and performing arts and developing a comparative project researching dhol-tasha drumming and related genres throughout the Indian indenture diaspora.