What is Dhamaal?

Feb. 6, 2023

The story of Dhamaal performance traditions reveals the rich and complex mixing of cultures in a world shaped by human movement and history

About Dhamaal:

  • Dhamaal is a mix of Sufi and African (mostly East African) musical and dance
  • It refers particularly to the spiritual practices of the Siddis of Gujarat.
  • Usually, Dhamaal songs and dances are performed to celebrate the anniversary of the birth and death of spiritual leaders.
  • They are performed in two ways
    • Dance Dhamaal: It is performed in both sitting and dance positions and the focus is more on the sounds of the instruments.
    • Baithaaki Dhamaal: is performed in the sitting position and the focus is more on the lyrics and less on the musical instruments.
  • The spiritual songs that are sung during the Dhamaals are known as zikrs.

Key facts about Siddis

  • The term Siddi refers to Afro-Indians— Africans who mixed with Indians through marriage and relationships.
  • They crossed the Indian Ocean and arrived in India during the 12th, 13th and 14th century
  • They were transported by Islamic invaders and Portuguese colonisers as enslaved people, palace guards, army chiefs, harem keepers, spiritual leaders, Sufi singers, dancers and treasurers.
  • In the present day, the majority of them are found in the west and southwest of India, in Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Telangana states.