Notes of protest

Updated: Jan 11, 2020, 11:12 IST | Shunashir Sen | Mumbai

With the anti-CAA stir raging on, here, in no ranking order, are five of the best Indian indie protest songs

A screengrab of The Warli Revolt video.
A screengrab of The Warli Revolt video.

Swadesi, The Warli revolt

The Warli revolt by local hip-hop act Swadesi isn’t a protest song. It’s a rallying cry for outright war. The lyrics in the tribal dialect hold a dagger to the state government’s throat, threatening to slice it open if more trees are felled in Aarey Colony for the Metro Car shed. That issue is on the backburner now. But the track continues to fire the revolutionary passion.

Park Circus, Krantikari

Every word in rap act Park Circus’s Krantikari is meant as a bullet that pierces the heart of the powers that be. The track is fresh off the oven as a direct result of the anti-CAA stir. And with all the simmering tension, the musicians from Kolkata are clearly boiling in anger.

Ska Vengers, Modi, a message to you 

In 1967, Jamaican ska singer Dandy Livingstone released a seminal track called Rudy, a message to you. In 2014, on the eve of the elections that took us down a rocky political path, Delhi-based act Ska Vengers released a cover where the word ‘Rudy’ is changed to rhyme with the name of the country’s PM. It’s a track that pulls no punches. One line goes, “You stop your murdering now/ When Amit Shah was your killer/ And SIT was your friend/ You should have wound up in jail.” Clearly, the song doesn’t waste time with metaphors.  

The Riot Peddlars, Chai pani

This track takes a direct dig at a specific governmental wing – corrupt policemen. The title of The Riot Peddlars’s Chai pani ke liye paisa do is a thinly veiled reference to the not-so-subtle line that cops use while asking for a bribe. The lyrics are even more direct, with verses that have lines like, “We don't know what to do/ That's why we come to harass you,” and, “Raping people here and there/ Collecting hafta everywhere.” This is Indian punk rock at its finest. 

 Ankur Tewari, Mohabbat zindabad

Protest songs are usually hard-hitting pieces of music that are meant to rouse the listener. But Ankur Tewari’s Mohabbat zindabad is a sway-your-head-and-sing-along number instead. It is even interspersed with a cheerful ‘woo-hoo’ that’s reminiscent of Dire Straits’s Walk of Life. It’s again the lyrics, though, that hang the authorities out to dry. Sample the line, “Sab jala hain, poonchh te ho hain narazgi kya.” Sounds like the sort of question that anti-CAA protestors are asking of the ruling dispensation right now.

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