Across centuries, social movements the world over have been known to use music as a form of protest. From civil rights to sexual revolutions, environmentalism to feminist movements, music has been an agent of social change.

In the wake of one of the most politically polarised periods recently, even as the popular culture or the mainstream Indian artists remain hypocritically apolitical, there are various artists coming up to fill that space.

Let’s look at the culture of protest in the recent years.

Sumeet Samos

 

Carrying the revolutionary tradition of hip-hop music, the former Jawaharlal Nehru University student started rapping about caste discrimination, oppression and subversion of the Dalit community. As he said in an interview with News18, it’s important to use art to narrate the stories of everyday oppression of people, especially the downtrodden. He also talks about how love is a crime according to the caste system.

The country is still just as oppressive towards Dalits as it was in the past, only now it is veiled.

According to him, it’s only in the last few years that the community has mobilized themselves and protested on a large level.

Ginni Mahi

 

At the age of 17, Gurkanwal Bharti went viral online with her folk-pop music. She is a favourite at religious and cultural congregations. Through Punjabi music, she is the voice of assertion of the ‘lower’ castes, challenging caste system. She was the voice behind ‘Danger Chamar’ which gained popularity online, spreading the message of Dr B. R. Ambedkar, to weaken the lines of caste divide. Her popular songs include Danger Chamar, Haq, Fan Baba Sahib Di, a line of which says Main thi Babasaheb di, jine likheya si samvidhaan (I am the daughter of  Babasaheb Ambedkar, who wrote the Constitution)

Kekho Thianmkho

 

Also known as K4 Kekho, this rapper from Lower Chinhan in Tirap district, Arunachal Pradesh, is trying to address the issue of racism through music.

Racism is an issue that people from the frontier regions very often encounter, in the mainland India.  Fed up with the uncomfortable stares and nasty comments, Kekho’s music video ‘I am Indian’ is a satirical commentary to reclaim his identity. The rap is in Hindi with a deliberate heavy Arunachali accent in order to reach out to a larger audience.

Here is a segment from the track,

“I am a true Indian,

but I sing, ‘one day we’ll be champion’;

I am the one against the population of crores and millions

I am an Indian.”

Sofia Ashraf

 

The peppy rap by this Chennai based artist, ‘Kodaikanal Won’t’ that went viral in 2015,  brought into sharp focus the mercury contamination of Kodaikanal’s forests and waters which affected the workers of Unilever’s thermometer plant. The same team has come forward this time with a new video, ‘Kodaikanal Still Won’t’. This time the issue is Unilever’s blatant disregard for their workers and the environment. Apart from the issue of discrimination by the multinational company, the team also aims to present the issue of degraded environmental standards.