PHOTO • Pranshu Protim Bora

“Assam is all around us,” sings Santo Tanti in this video; the 25 year-old has composed the music and lyrics in the jhumur style. The song refers to the hills and mountains of Assam that he says are his home. Tanti lives in Dhekiajuli division of the Sycotta Tea estate in Jorhat district of Assam and works in a cycle repair shop; he regularly posts his music on social media.

Jhumur is a popular local musical style and Tanti mentions the beat of the drums and melody of the flute, in the song. These songs are sung in the Sadri language and performed by many Adivasi groups who migrated from central, south and eastern India – Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Telangana – to work in the tea plantations of Assam.

The Adivasi groups went on to intermingle with each other and local communities. Referred to as ‘Tea Tribes’, there are an estimated six million that live in Assam. While recognised as Scheduled Tribe in their state of origin, that status has been denied to them here. Some 12 lakh of them work in the state’s 1,000-odd tea gardens.

The dancers in this video are tea garden workers: Sunita Karmakar, Gita Karmakar, Rupali Tanti, Lakhi Karmakar, Nikita Tanti, Pratima Tanti and Aroti Nayak.

To watch Santo Tanti’s other videos and read about his life see Santo Tanti’s songs of sadness, work and hope , published on PARI in September, 2021.
Himanshu Chutia Saikia

Himanshu Chutia Saikia is an independent documentary filmmaker, music producer, photographer and student activist based in Jorhat, Assam. He is a 2021 PARI Fellow.

Other stories by Himanshu Chutia Saikia