Tillana Music


Tillana is one of the more enigmatic Indo-Caribbean genres, differing quite markedly from its South Indian namesake. ‘Tillana’ is the common South Indian cognate term for ‘tarana’. The Indo-Caribbean use of the term ‘tillana’ instead of the more familiar Hindustani ‘tarana’ is not in itself markedly anomalous. The word ‘tarana’ is occasionally used by tan-singers, and, likewise, the term ‘tillana’ is recognized in North India. Even classical treatises like the seventeenth-century Tohfat-ul-Hind identify the terms as equivalent.

More conspicuous is the distinction that the Indo-Caribbean Tillana employs a lexical Hindi text, in which typical Tarana syllables (‘dim- tanana’, etc.) if appearing at all, occur only briefly. My initial assumption on encountering his variant was that it represented yet another Indo- Caribbean diosyncracy- or, less charitably, a ‘corruption’- of an otherwise standardized and well-documented Hindustani tradition.

However, Tillanas with Hindi texts in fact turn out to constitute an established North Indian tradition, albeit an obscure one, represented in the appearance of a handful of such songs in turn-of-the-century anthologies like the Anand Sagar.