WORK by MALTI RAO
Malti is both a performer and producer of her own music practice of Tathagata Buddha songs. These artforms draw upon a unique blend of devotional song traditions and neo-Buddhist political philosophy.
The conversion of Dalits into the folds of Buddhism on 14 October 1956 under the guidance of the jurist and social reformer, B. R. Ambedkar, can be seen as the historical origin of Tathagata Buddha songs. As scholar Dr. Kalyani summarises: ‘In Uttar Pradesh the popular genres of music are Ragini, Birha, Parody music, Alha music…deeply entrenched…with Dalit lives.The practice of Tathagata Buddha songs is particularly popular among converted Buddhists…chanted as part of Katha Pathan, a public cultural performance about the life and philosophy of Buddha. They are not the traditional protest songs, but are largely devotional.responds against caste oppression and the contribution of Babasaheb [B.R. Ambedkar]…widely circulated on YouTube channels and other social media too.’
Malti’s performances reflect the forceful influence of the Dalit-Bahujan movement. When Malti was asked to write her biography, she strung it together with prose and lyrics from her songs. She remembers having received a state award in 2008 from the bahujan chief minister at the time of Uttar Pradesh, Kumari Mayawati, as one of the proudest moments of her singing life.