Tracking the elections
Independent musicians have released a bunch of politically charged songs ahead of May 23. We rate the best five
It was all the way back in 1964 that Bob Dylan released his seminal track, It Ain't Me Babe. The song begins with the lines, "Go away from my window/ Leave at your own chosen speed/ I'm not the one you want, babe/ I'm not the one you need," before it segues into a chorus where Dylan sings, "It ain't me, babe/ No, no, no, it ain't me, babe/ It ain't me you're looking for".
Now, people thought at first that this is a song where a man is telling a clingy partner that things aren't going to work out. He's telling her to buzz off, they thought. But it soon became increasingly clear that Dylan might have ascribed a different meaning to the words. You see, till that point, the hippie generation that the singer had been catering to had put him on a pedestal where they felt that he would tirelessly champion their pacifist ideals. Dylan, though, admittedly grew fed up of this pressure. And some thus feel that this track was his way of telling his demanding fans, "Give me a break. It's you I'm asking to buzz off. It ain't me, babe. I'm not the political hero you're looking for."
The point is that music and politics have had a long-standing relationship where the former has been employed to spread the latter's message. In fact, if you recall, the Aam Aadmi Party even paid royalty for Billy Joel's We Didn't Start the Fire to use it as part of their campaign in the 2014 elections. Even the BJP has jumped on the bandwagon this year and followed the zeitgeist to release a propaganda rap track, since the genre is the flavour of the season. We will reserve our judgment about the song's aesthetic qualities because sometimes, when you have nothing nice to say, it's best to say nothing at all. Instead, we bring you five other politically charged tracks that independent Indian artistes have released this election season, and rate these on a scale of six. Read on to find out how each one does.
1 Left with no choice
Rahul Ram has been writing socially relevant songs long before the others on this list. The Indian Ocean bassist has also composed the soundtrack for politically controversial movies like Black Friday. Now, as part of the comedy group Aisi Taisi Democracy, Ram sings a satirical brand of blues that picks holes in the Indian democratic system, but which isn't "leftist" in nature. "The left has unfortunately become irrelevant. Their global concerns have now been replaced by local issues. So, class and gender are the new directions we are moving forward in, though I'd have to say that it's become all about BJP vs non-BJP over the past five years," Ram says.
2 A Peace offering
Although both the albums he's released so far have been laced with politically conscious lyrics, singer-songwriter Deepak Peace doesn't see himself as a protest musician. Like Dylan, he feels that the tag puts too much responsibility on a performer. "I write about things that affect me. That's the only way to put it," he tells us, meaning it's up to the listeners to confer what they want from the musician's recent album, 1947 Se AK-47 Tak. The title track, we feel, talks about how, despite gaining freedom from the British, our country still isn't truly independent.
3 A direct attack
There is no ambiguity about who MC Ghalib, a rapper who chooses to remain anonymous, considers the adversary in his new track. The title — Chowkidar Chor Hai — says it all. But even though the lyrics are like bullets aimed at the heart of a target, the delivery needs work since the vocals are too reminiscent of Gully Boy's Apna Time Aayega.
4 All in one take
The video for Kya Pata Tha, rapper Abxom's track released a week ago, is set in a room where the story of Indian democracy plays out in one take. There's bribery and corruption. There's a politician misleading people. One scene is dedicated to communal discord, and if all that makes it seem like an indictment of the ruling dispensation, Abxom says that that inference would be wrong. He tells us, "I don't talk about any particular party or political agenda as such."
5 Changing the story
Raghav Meattle's track, One-sided Stories — about the proliferation of fake news in recent years — is a study in contrast. The music is akin to a tune you would listen to while walking hand-in-hand with the object of your affection in a park filled with spring flowers strewn on the ground. The lyrics, though, are like a rumble of thunder that spoils your perfect day out.
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