Originally published on 12 June 2017.
The Grindmill Songs Project was started in 1996 by the late Hema Raikar and Guy Poitevin, who founded the Centre for Cooperative Research in Social Sciences in Pune. They enlisted the animators of an informal group named “Collective of the Poor of the Mountain” (Garīb Dhongarī Sangatnā, or GDS). The GDS focused on the empowerment of women belonging to “downtrodden rural communities”. According to their website, they “understood the self-expressive power of singing at the grindmill before sunrise as a collective feminine act of speech“.
The grindmill is a simple device women use to grind grain into flour. The Grindmill Songs Project attempts to collate, transcribe, translate and classify the songs women sing when using the grindmill, and is a lovely resource of songs that many would never have been lucky enough to encounter.
The Grindmill Songs Project is now part of PARI (People’s Archive of Rural India, started by P. Sainath). It’s recorded 3,302 women from 1,107 villages in Maharashtra singing ‘ovis’, or grindmill songs, and the website has over 10,000 songs recorded at the present time. The songs touch upon issues like caste, political movements, mythology and religion, and it’s just a really precious and unique resource.
Check out the full resource on PARI’s website here.