Mumbai, 27 April
If you’ve had your fill of rehashed promises and repetitive accusations this election season, turn to Indian Ocean. More precisely, to ‘Gar Ho Sake’, a new song from the rock band which speaks about the need for a progressive politics, and for which it has collaborated with classical music exponent Shubha Mudgal.
The track is part of Indian Ocean’s seventh album titled Tandanu, and was released online on 26 April, becoming the first of the seven tracks to be released over seven weeks. Speaking of the decision to launch the album with Gar Ho Sake, band member, vocalist and bass guitarist Rahul Ram says the choice was conscious.
“Given the ongoing election, we felt the song would be very relevant, especially at a time when politicians are trying to divide people along religious lines in order to get votes in their favour,” he quips.
Rahul first encountered the song ~ ‘a classic Leftie anthem from the 1970s’ ~ when he was working with the Narmada Bachao Andolan. Although, by his own admission, he did not have any ‘political background’, he really liked the song because it was a ‘nice rocking number’. When the band decided to formally collaborate with Shubha Mudgal, they tried out a Kabir composition, but it did not work out. Then, band member Amit Kilam suggested they try out Gar Ho Sake.
“Shubhaji knew the song immediately; but she refused to demonstrate how she sings it,” says Rahul. Although the lines of the song have been retained, Indian Ocean’s rendition has infused a certain vigour in it, and the song is now likely to reach out to a far wider audience, as happened with the song Ma Rewa, which was part of the band’s first album, Kandisa.
‘Gar Ho Sake’, whose author no one seems to know, is scathing in its rejection of politics over religion. The lines ‘nafrat phaila rahe hain jo mazhab ke naam par/ satta ke bhookhe logon se mazhab bachaiye (those spreading hatred in the name of religion/ we must save religion from the clutches of these power mongers) seem to refer, almost intrinsically to the BJP, long accused of engineering divisions along religious lines, championing a now hard-now soft Hindutva.
As a band, however, Indian Ocean refuses to call the song anti-BJP. “I personally don’t agree with the BJP’s politics. But within the band, we have differing opinions, although none of us are communal. Besides, we do not endorse any party, because once you do so, you must agree with everything they say or do, and we are not comfortable with shutting up,” says Rahul.
But isn’t there a need to underscore the connection between politics and music, especially when the secular fabric of the country is under threat?
Rahul responds to this by saying the very act of singing the song is a political act, and people must make their own interpretations. Shubha Mudgal, on her part, says she chose to collaborate on this song because “I think now is the time that we need to remind ourselves that you can’t let the country be taken over by the kind of strange politics that has been played out”.
“I’m delighted that we’ve collaborated on a song that has been sung by various activists protesting against the country being torn into many fractions,” she says, her voice goading you to fight shoulder to shoulder for another kind of politics: Gar
ho sake toh ab koi shamma jalaiye/ is daur-e-siyasat ka andhera mitaiye…