‘We will bring change’: the Indian band shaking a cruel caste system

The Casteless Collective are repurposing the bawdy gaana style to confront class conflict – and call out everything from corruption to violence against women

When Isaivani starts singing the “beef song” with happy abandon it is nearly 10pm. The audience in the southern Indian city of Madurai seem to have lost track of time and erupt into cheers. Many wave blue flags, dance and whistle in high pitch to the fast tempo of percussion instruments. It is a warm night in October 2019, and very different to the India of today amid coronavirus.

This is a performance by the Casteless Collective, who are using music to shake up India’s notorious caste system of stratified social class. The band wear brightly coloured suits on stage, unusual attire for an Indian group. Isaivani, their sole female member, twirls as she sings high intensity, fast-paced gaana songs.

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