The caste system is a long-standing structure of discrimination in India. The philosophy of it was first introduced in Manusmriti, a Hindu text that is considered sacred, existing since the second century BCE.
Since then to the present day, Dalits have arguably been the most tortured section of people. They have been called and treated as the ‘untouchables’ for years, and the poor treatment is still very much prevalent even now in modern India.
Not being able to live through the unjustified horrific violent behaviour anymore, beginning from murders and rapes, to social discrimination, they are fighting their way to the forefront and demanding their basic fundamental rights through different forms of artistic expressions.
The Culture Of Protest Music
Those who listen to music, find solace. But those who sing, find power.
Turning music into a peaceful way of protesting has been a way of breaking barriers for long in India. Protest music has proved that cultural activism is a weapon of the wise.
Naturally, it didn’t take long for the Dalit movement to take this route of protesting as well, as they finally got fed up with starting last in the race. Dalit music has since been getting popular for being lyrically and visually impactful.
The most popular subgenres of Dalit music have been Bhim Rap (Bhim for Bhim Rao Ambedkar), Dalit Pop, Chamar Pop, Dalit Rock to start with. Most of the songs of these genres are dedicated to Ambedkar and so, are also called Ambedkarite music by many.
Reasons Behind Ambedkar Being The Subject Of Most Dalit Music
The role and significance of Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar has been indispensable in the Dalit movement. For everyone uninitiated, here’s a run-through why.
Dr. Ambedkar has been the face and spokesperson of advocacy for the Dalits. His journey started with writing pieces for periodicals where he was blatant about his intention and carved public opinion about the movement he was trying to champion.
He voiced his concern for the protection and safeguard of the Dalit community from the get-go. Also known as Baba Saheb, he was a socialist from his heart.
He had an extensive role to play in demanding political representation of the backward castes and establishing the reservation system in India. So it’s no wonder that the man who had so much to give to the community, is a hero to the people.
Read More: Dissent Arises After Texts From Two Dalit Authors Dropped From DU’s English Honors Syllabus
The Faces Of Contemporary Dalit Music
There has been a consistent rise of anti-caste Dalit artists in India who believe in protest through music. The rise has been more frequent in recent times, with people resorting to this form of expression from all over the country.
Ginni Mahi, a 22-year-old student of HMV college in Jalandhar, has been making waves in the circuit with her songs, which are essentially odes to Baba Saheb. The chart-topper songs mostly honor Baba Saheb by calling him a tiger and a warrior.
Her breakout songs were Fan Baba Sahib Di and Danger Chamar. She used the word ‘chamar’ that is used to insult their caste as a term of glorifying and uplifting them. Her music was so impactful for her community that she is said to have begun a new genre called the ‘Chamar Pop’.
She was in fact also dubbed as a Young Voice in Equality and Freedom in Global Media Forum (GMF 2018) in Germany for her work.
Sumeet Samos, an English, Hindi and Odia rapper hailing from Orissa believes in the Ambedkar-Phule ideology. With lyrics like, “I am the Eklavya of these times, my archery is hip-hop, the words erupting in my mind are turning into arrows”, he aims to disrupt the social balance that exists relying on the crushing weight of injustice on the Dalits.
His stand-out song ‘Jaati’ is a celebration of the forgotten roles of the oppressed people in making civilization successful in the country India today is.
Dhibra village’s Sargam Mahila is not only just battling casteism but patriarchy as well, with their all-women team who are trained in drums despite facing objection. Trained by Sudha Varghese, the person who runs the NGO Nari Gunjan, it’s a 10 member gang.
But topping them in number, the 12 member band called The Casteless Collective is India’s largest political music band. In an attempt to educate the younger generation about the contributions of Dr. Ambedkar, their first track was called ‘Jai Bheem Anthem’. Their music is a mixture of rap, rock and gaana, a form of Tamil folk.
The hip-pop track is written and performed by rapper, lyricist and singer Arivarasu Kalainesan, also known as Arivu, who also has an extensive anti-caste music career independently.
The Casteless Collective is the product of Pa Ranjith’s organisation, Neelam Cultural Centre’s collaboration with Tenma’s label Madras Records. Pa Ranjith’s aim to give a platform for the marginalised has seen fruit with this collaboration.
Maharashtra’s Dhamma Wings is India’s first Dalit Buddhist rock band. The musical band propagates the message of Buddhism about social equality and justice. Kabeer Shakya, the founder of the band strongly believes in the religion that Ambedkar used to follow as well. The rock band is spreading its message far and wide with its unconventional approach.
There are dozens of other artists who are on the same bandwagon spreading anti-caste discourses through their musical pursuits and are making their own fate.
Someday, we hope that these artists achieve what they dream of, what their hero Dr. Ambedkar had dreamt of – a casteless India, where the people are treated equally, treated with respect and given their rightful fundamental rights.
Image Credits: Google Images
Find the Blogger: Nandini Mazumder
The post is tagged under: Dalit, dalit lives matter, caste, casteism, Ambedkar, Bhim, Bhim Rao Ambedkar, Bhim rap, Dalit pop, Chamar pop, Dalit rock, Dhamma Wings, The Casteless Collective, Arivu, Ginni Mahi, Sumeet Samos, Sargam Mahila, Young Voice in Equality and Freedom, Global Media Forum, GMF 2018, Germany, India, country, Jaati, rock, Buddhism, Pa Ranjith, Maharashtra, Tamil, South India, Neelam Cultural Centre, collaboration, Tenma, label, Madras Records, Sudha Varghese, NGO, Nari Gunjan, Fan Baba Sahib Di, Danger Chamar, Hindi, Orissa, English, rap, Baba Saheb