Music director and composer A. S. Ajith Kumar, who is also known for his presence in the discourse of caste, published his first book ‘Kelkatha Shabdangal: Pattu, Shareeram, Jathi (Unheard Voices: Song, Body, Caste) in Thiruvananthapuram on May 7, 2018. Actor Alencier unvieled and presented the book. The book is a collection of articles that were published earlier in online and print magazines like Pachchakkuthira, Mathrubhoomi and Utharakalam.
‘The book’s primary themes are music and sound. I have focused on some areas which were not given enough importance by the mainstream writings so far,’ author Ajith Kumar told TWJ.
He said that the book addressed problems associated with music studies. ‘I have tried to understand technology in a historical perspective and the relation between music and technology,’ There have not been many studies in the music field in Malayalam, he added.
Ajith Kumar works in independent music, especially in Dalit pop in connection with Western music. ‘Darboni,’ a feature film for which he did background score and composed songs is soon to be released. Ajith Kumar has worked in many short films like ‘White Van Stories‘ by Leena Manimekalai, ‘Pestering Journey‘ by K R Manoj and ‘Trans‘ by P Abhijit.
In Kelkatha Shabdangal, the topics of Song, Body and Caste are analyzed both separately and in relation to each other. For instance, how the body works in music is a major focus of the book. Ajith Kumar talks about the practices such as moving the body while singing and the control over the body in music.
‘I see the act of controlling the body coming from the tradition of classical music. There’s is the question of caste as well as gender, a fear of female bodies in action. It’s how music and body are related. Usually, we can see a deep relation between music and body in subaltern music. There’s no separation. In this high elite art, there is separation and control of the body,’ Ajith Kumar said.
The book proposes that moving one’s body while singing is not welcomed in the mainstream. He questions how the body can be controlled in music when dance is part of music.
In an article named ‘shareeravum shaareeravum’ (the body and the voice), the connection between voice and body is addressed. The author has challenged the mainstream discourse of music in it.
The title of the book, Kelkkaatha Sabdangal which means unheard sounds/voices is about how we give importance only to visuals and not the sound. While there are many studies on films, music is not taken up that way. It is not of interest in academic writings. Very few studies on music and sound exist in Malayalam, Ajith Kumar said. Sound technology is also ignored in cultural politics, he added.
The author has tried to move away from the usual topics of caste discrimination in arts and music and has focussed on the practice of music and structural caste. The book attempts to show the relationship between gender, technology and music.
The book has been published by ‘Other Books’ and is priced at 150 rupees.