21 January 2021 04:11 AM

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RAJEEV KHANNA | 12 DECEMBER, 2020

‘Suno Kangana’ - Music Around the Farmers Protests

Punjab’s singers go viral


Every people’s movement is known to have its off shoots. The same is true with the present farmers’ agitation at the door steps of Delhi. It is reflected in the songs and the videos that are being dished out by mainstream Punjabi singers over the last few days. These songs are celebrating India’s plurality; Punjab’s constant striving for federal rights, its martial traditions and above all its youth.

Punjabi popular music has made long strides over the last few decades and has often drawn brickbats over the way some singers have promoted the culture of drugs, guns, wine and treating women as commodities. But the songs coming out from the Punjabi music industry in the last three weeks have been a class apart. They are reverberating at the protest sites all over the state as well as outside Delhi. Their online popularity can be gauged from the fact that their viewership is running into millions within days.

The most popular has been the ‘Pecha’ (wrangling) song by Kanwar Grewal and Harf Cheema that was released before the farmers started moving towards Delhi where the singers exhort the people, “Khich la jatta khich tayyari, Pecha pai gaya centre naal’ (Come on farmers get ready, we have another wrangling to sort out with the centre).

The song begins with the lines, “Naal tere Punjab Singha (read Punjab) bas naa di yaari Dilli di, Kaaliyan nitiyan karde laagoo O niyat mari Dilli di’ (Delhi is friend of Punjab only for namesake. It has always implemented dark policies with malafide intentions).

Over the years Punjabis have felt insulted and humiliated by the way its youth has been slighted, particularly for the menace of drugs. The song ‘Jawaani Zindabad’, also from Kanwar Grewal is celebrating the youth for the manner it has stood up on the issue of the controversial farm legislations passed by the Parliament recently.

The lines, “Dhakke Dilliye tu kare asi aaje nahi o mare, kala kala Gabru hisab karda” ( O Delhi! You continue to indulge in all sorts of wrong doings but we are not dead yet. Every youth is seeking an explanation).

The song is rife with lyrics saying that those who called the youth ‘Nashedi’ (addicts) are now saluting them. It talks of the youth being called ‘Wakhwadi’ (separatist) and ‘aatankwadi’ (terrorist) while the generation is upholding the interest of the masses.

The singers have given befitting replies to all the efforts being made to discredit the movement. Those involved in the effort are the powers that be, a large section of pliant or Godi media that is also referred to as mainstream media and of course elements from Bollywood and other spaces.

There are clips of young girls holding placards saying, “I am a daughter of a farmer and I speak Punjabi”. This is a stinging response to those slighting the farmers and raising doubts about their credentials just because they speak English.

The songs are particularly harsh on the pliant media. In the song ‘Kisan Anthem’ by Mankirat Aulakh that features Jass Bajwa, Afsana Khan, Fazilpuria and Dilpreet Dhillon, there is a line conveying the anger against the pliant media that says, “Vik gaya bhawein India da media, BBC te jatt chhaye hoye ne” (Even if Indian (read pliant) media is sold out, the farmers are dominating the space on BBC (read independent) media.

Another interesting aspect of these immensely popular songs is the manner in which the farmers’ unity across India is being celebrated and promoted. In the same ‘Kisan Anthem’ the singers underline, “UP, MP, Rajasthan, Haryana vir hai nikka, halle te kale Babe aaye si” (There are more brothers coming from Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Haryana. As of now you are contending only with Punjabis).

Punjabi singers have been expressing their gratitude towards the people from Haryana for standing shoulder to shoulder with them in the fight against the centre. In the song ‘Punjab Bolda’ by Ranjit Bawa, Sukh Brar and Lovely Noor, it has been stated, “Tu tan kari ni saade naal shareekan wali ni, Khada Haryana vir ban ke” (While you (centre) has tried to run us down, it is Haryana that is standing with us like a brother).

The same song is celebrating the martial traditions of the state and underlines how the peasantry has been sending its young sons to defend the country’s border. The singers have in a subtle manner pointed that instead of being grateful to such communities, the central government has been propagating a particular ideology and mindset.

There is a line saying, “Rab na kare Gora pher aagaya, Le leyo pher azaadi Yoga karke” (God forbid if the country faces a threat to its sovereignty, you will not be able to reclaim independence by doing Yoga).

The Punjabis have been very offended by the remarks made by Bollywood actress Kangna Ranaut regarding elderly Punjabi women who are participating in the ongoing movement and the agitating farmers in general. Although she got a befitting response from singer and Diljit Dosanjh through a series of tweets, another singer Harsimran has come out with a song, “Lai Sun Kangana’ (Listen to this Kangana).

The song mentions, “Dharti te onhan nu kisan kehnde aa, jehde teriyan ankhan wich aatankwadi kudeiye” (The world knows them as farmers who you address as terrorists).

“These singers of popular Punjabi have risen to the occasion and done what Bollywood should have done on previous occasions,” pointed an observer.

But poetess and actress Arsh Bindu has a different take. “It is a fact that popular music may not always be meaningful but these songs and singers have played a positive role in awakening the conscience of the people. There are certain positive things in the movement like men behaving with absolute respect towards the women fighting alongside them. It is good to see the men folk doing jobs like washing utensils and making rotis which no one would imagine them doing in their individual homes.”

She said that it is in this context that iconic poet Paash should be remembered when he said that there should not be individual heroism celebrated on such occasions. It has to be a people’s movement throughout.

Cover Photograph AQUILUR RAHMAN & MOHIT DOCK

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