Project (EN)

(Page en français)

I tell you, woman!
Sāṅgatē bāī tulā

Women open their heart to the grindmill…

Jitendra & Hema

Jitendra Maid & Hema Rairkar

This project carries forward the work by Guy Poitevin and Hema Rairkar, who collected, analysed and classified songs of peasant women in Maharashtra since 1987. Work consists of completing translations, finalising texts/annotations and indexing sound recordings exposing this unique cultural heritage to the public.

Singing at the grindmill before sunrise used to be a distinct time, the one of a collective feminine act of speech. Self-expression did not stand as an utterance for one’s own sake, private benefit or solitary satisfaction. It was aimed at establishing an interpersonal relation, a binding between subjects.

The dynamics of communication which appeared yesterday in the bouncing of arguments and topics during singing at the grindmill can be traced ahead in contemporary situations. The motivations of women to express their vision of life, and the underlying patterns of communication, appear the same in different times and contexts, some of which may be codified by customs (festivals, wedding…) and others utterly casual: interaction with visitors, village leaders, social workers etc. A recurrent motto is to “come together and speak out,” whether this occurs in confidential exchange or family rituals as was the case mainly yesterday, or in present day democratic conducts or social-cultural intervention such as street drama.

As per today, 110,000 song texts and more than 120 hours of sound recordings have been stored in a relational database. Texts are linked with semantic contents, melodic classification and information on performers and locations. Follow the link for more details.

Modern communication technology offers an extended access to this unique cultural heritage. Recently (2015), databases have been upgraded to formats eligible for long-term preservation (read details on All data are accessible via the on-line database. Most sound recordings have also been deposited for long-term preservation at the AAIS Archives and Research Center for Ethnomusicology (ARCE) in New Delhi.

The target of this project is threefold:

  • Scholars (linguists, anthropologists, sociologists, musicologists…) reusing the entire source material for various analytical tasks facilitated by public access and the availability of persistent identifiers
  • A worldwide audience, by way of translations in European languages
  • Returning productions to the communities of performers thanks to transcriptions of their songs in vernacular form (rural Marathi)

Its focus on women’s empowerment in downtrodden rural communities is examplary of grassroot socio-cultural action and development.


Rajani Khaladkar and Asha Ogale

From 1993 to 1998, the collection and analysis of grindmill songs had been supported by UNESCO, the Netherlands Ministry for Development Cooperation and the Charles Léopold Mayer Foundation for the Progress of Humankind.
In its 22 Sept. 2009 meeting, the Managing Committee of the Centre for Cooperative Research in Social Sciences (CCRSS) had renewed its decision to extend the project till the completion of editorial/translation work. Despite the disruption of this project in 2013 at the initiative of Kanad Joag and associates, the team resumed its activity in early 2015 working with donated equipment, and in 2016 with the financial and logistic support of People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI).

(Link to the team)

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