Sheher and care
What makes us care about Mumbai so much despite all its shortcomings? Listen to a fresh new track to find out
The video for Mumbay — a new independent track — starts with the camera depicting vignettes of the city that flash across the screen at the speed of a flip book. A minimal drum beat is all that there is to the music initially. But it gets layered in 10 seconds with an ominous saxophone tune, akin to one in a scene from a film noir thriller where the director is building musical suspense before a pivotal moment. And that moment arrives in the form of a rap section cutting through the instruments with such hard-hitting lyrics that this megapolis would be left with a black eye if it were a person, albeit someone who knows that he deserves it.
For, Mumbai-based socially conscious rapper Aklesh Suttar aka MC Mawali — who's written and sung the words for the song that UK-based multi-percussionist Sarathy Korwar has composed — tells us that he first went around collecting mental images of the city as his inspiration. "I built a photo album in my mind with these pictures, which I then converted into lyrics for the song," he says about rhymes such as, "Dekhe dhamake jaise Diwali/ Kuch mare hai sahe ke/ Kuch lare hai kehke/ Kuch rehte hai behke/ Kabhi naa jaage/ Kuch dete hai dhoka/ Barne aage."
It is thus a track that pulls no punches in portraying a warts-and-all picture about life in Mumbai. But the curious part is that at no point is there a note of complaint in Suttar's voice. He tells us that he didn't apply any judgment while writing the song. "I just tell it as it is," he says, which is why we said earlier that Mumbai would deserve that black eye if it were a human being.
But, there is something else that needs to be taken into account. This everyday fight that Mumbaikars feel they are waging against the city is born out of a place of love, at least where Korwar and Suttar come from. The seeds of the track were planted when the composer made the singer listen to a rough cut he had of the music, which Korwar had intended to be a sort of love letter to the city.
That's why the song metamorphoses after a point to reach a part where Suttar says that it doesn't matter to him whether you call it "Mumbai" or "Bombay". It's still an amazing place to be in. So, Mumbay isn't a mushy love letter, but one where a mature adult is telling their long-term partner that they still love them despite all their shortcomings. Or to put it another way, the photo album in Suttar's head wasn't edited for Instagram. Instead, it's more like a printed album that depicts a grainy reality.
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A walk through Mohammed Ali Road's Khau Galli