Historically, poetry, song and literature have often been used as a means to propagate new ideas, social reform and to protest against injustice and oppression. They have triggered revolutions, helped overthrow many a despot and been instrumental in bringing about much needed change. Many of these poets, writers, thinkers and revolutionaries have gone on to become heroes, for their contribution to the social, political and cultural evolution of our civilization.
Some of the great protest songs that come to mind, include, the gospel based We Shall Overcome, Bob Dylan’s Masters of War and Times They are a Changing, Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On and Edwin Starr’s War. Some were born out of the oppression, persecution and injustice suffered by the people under the ruling classes, while others have been triggered by specific events or ideas such as, Hurricane by Bob Dylan, Fortunate Son by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Free Nelson Mandela by The Specials, Killing in the Name by Rage Against the Machine, or Alright by Kendrick Lamar, to name a few.
In an ideal world, where lawmakers, administrators and industry, the people in power, are responsible, clean, transparent and non-corrupt and everything is open to public scrutiny, there is nothing to expose, everything is out in the open. In an ideal world you don’t need the likes of Julian Assange, or W Mark Felt, Woodword and Bernstein, or Serpico, or Sherron Watkins and Cynthia Cooper, Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden, etc.
But the real world is a far cry from the ideal. Most Governments, private and public institutions are often recklessly irresponsible, thrive on corruption, indulge in heinous criminal deeds and are necessarily opaque, because they have a lot to hide.
It is in this scenario that people like Assange or any of the others mentioned above become relevant. Through his efforts, Julian Assange, Founder of Wikileaks, the organization he founded to expose war crimes, corruption and human rights abuses and aided by former intelligence analyst, Chelsea (Bradley) Manning, published several secret documents that incriminated those in power.
With the result he has since been persecuted by those who feel threatened by what he had exposed. Isn’t what they did justified, when you consider the greater good. Don’t citizens have a right to know what is happening? Don’t governments themselves use the reason of greater good to justify many of their actions when it is convenient? You could say that technically the means used by Assange may have been illegal, but as a journalist wasn’t it his duty to expose the wrong doings?
No man or woman is infallible. So Julian Assange has his shortcomings but his journalistic endeavours cannot be called criminal. He believed in protecting freedom of speech, and the right to free expression and set about doing what he had to do.
Facing US extradition proceedings, he surrendered to the British police in 2010 but broke bail and sought asylum in the Embassy of Ecuador, where he remained for seven years, before he was jailed last month when Ecuador withdrew his asylum.
So why has no one thought of writing a song protesting the treatment meted out to Julian Assange. There have been movies and documentaries made about him but alas, no one has thought to write a song about this man who fought for human rights, freedom of expression, transparency and free flow of information.
Where are the great protest singers like Dylan, Joan Baez, Bruce Springsteen, Kendrick Lamar, or Morrissey? Had they been alive, maybe Phil Ochs or Pete Seeger or Lennon would have written one. With escalating global conflicts, intolerance, increased muzzling of the press and restrictions on the free flow of information on the net, wouldn’t it have been a timely reflection of our times?
Don’t you think he deserves a Song?-
-Stanley Paul & Pradeep Joseph
A recent drug crisis in India, especially in the state of Punjab, has authorities scrambling to find a cause. Could music be to blame? Given the enormous popularity of hip hop culture in India, particularly Punjabi Hip Hop and Rap,there is a concern that Lyrics common in popular modern rap that promote violence, misogyny,and alcohol and drug abuse may contribute to the epidemic. Punjabi Hip Hop and Rap are music and culture that combine hip hop music and culture with music and culture of India andsurrounding countries. Some of the leading desi Rap stars are Badshah, Honey Singh, Hard Kaur,Raftar,Baba Sehgal to name a few. According to this theory, the music often glorifies drugs and drug use instead of promoting the benefits of being drug-free.
A history of drug-related lyrics.
Hip hop artists in the United States have used drug imagery since the beginning of the genre.Several early rap artists grew up during the panic surrounding the use of crack cocaine in the1980s. Others were raised in areas experiencing problems with other drugs. Some of these young people felt trapped and disillusioned since they felt that more traditional paths to success excluded them. Instead, they may have grown up idolizing successful gangsters who were prominent drug dealers. Some of these drug dealers may have entered the drug trade in efforts to rise above their circumstances or gain prestige.
People then incorporated these experiences in their music . Their lyrics spoke of using drugs as a commodity to acquire wealth and success and as tools to escape the bleakness of the impoverished and disadvantaged environments that surrounded them. In such portrayals,dealing drugs, not taking them, was cool. They promoted the benefits of being drug-free while earning material riches and respect.Song lyrics transformed over time. Instead of glamorizing drug dealing as an avenue to obtain money and lavish lifestyles, lyrics began championing inebriation and drug use to mask inner pain or to party like rock stars.
A study by the University of California at Berkeley reported that the use of drug-related lyrics has increased. Lyrics about drugs appeared in only four out of thirty-eight popular songs (11percent) prior from 1979 to 1984. By the end of the 1980s, the use of drug-related lyrics increased to nearly 20 percent. By 1993, the percentage was 69 percent.
Music companies realized that mentioning drug use, objectifying women, and hinting at other antisocial behaviors made rap artists appear more edgy to the young people who idolized them.That edginess led to increased record sales. So, the combination of sex (and the objectificationof women). drugs, and rock and roll (or rap) became some of the essential ingredients of modern hip hop. While some rappers tried to counter this with more positive lyrics promoting the benefits of being drug-free , others continued glorifying drug use and other behaviors.
Punjabi Hip hop & Rap became increasingly popular in the United States and around the world. For example, it is popular in India, which added its own contribution to the genre with desi rap or desi hip hop.Desi hip hop or desi rap is an East Asian form of hip hop that combines traditional hip hop with Indian influences. Rap has continued to gain fans on the Indian subcontinent, becoming one of the most popular genres in India with no slowdown in sight.
Like its Western counterpart, desi hip hop sometimes glamorizes drug use in its lyrics. Also like Western hip hop, the prime demographic for desi hip hop is young people who sometimes seek to imitate their idols. Studies have shown a tendency for some fans to try the drugs mentioned in rap songs. Some African American millennials admitted that they've tried the drug Molly (MDMA) for the first time after hearing about it in songs by popular rap artists . With popular artists promoting drug use without a strong counterargument about the benefits of being drug-free, drug use among young people may not seem too surprising.
Changing the message
Dr. Dheeraj Sharma of the India Institute of Management found that there may be links among popular song lyrics pertaining to drug use and increases in drug usage, violence, and negative attitudes towards women. One challenge now is to discourage drug use without censoring music. Censoring lyrics might have an opposite effect. It may make drugs and drug-related lyrics seem more desirable and increase their allure.
Instead, parents and schools may want to provide young people with information on the effects of drug use. People may want to make artists aware of the dangerous effects their lyrics may have on their fan base. There are numerous benefits of being drug-free and ways people can encourage this.
- Dale Vernor
It’s Show Time!
Classical musicians and their on-stage antics A lot of research has been done to classify personality, management and parenting into different styles. Has anyone studied the concert styles of performing artists? I am talking about the styles adopted by Indian classical musicians on stage. I have them classified under seven types.
1 : 24K magic
What is common amongst Mozart, Beethoven, U. Srinivas or Rashid Khan? All are child prodigies, born to sing. In their
concerts, one is merely a spectator witnessing pure magic. Making good music is of paramount importance, nothing else mattered.
2 : Boom boom paw
For many years now, I have stopped going to amusement parks. Roller coaster rides are not for me. However, many classical concerts
these days have started giving the audiences the same kind of thrill. These musicians perform acrobatics with their voices and the
audiences walk out chanting ‘scintillating, mind blowing, thrilling’ …..
3 : We’re all in this together
“Which one is the main singer?” asked the gentleman next to me. His question was valid considering there was literally a dozen people
seated on the stage. The maestro had three disciples , two on either sides and one behind him. And then he had upto four different and
varied percussionists. What’s more, he had many disciples sitting around him just observing him perform. Such musicians could put
Serena Williams to shame in terms of the size of their entourage.
4 : Everything you want
These are musicians who have devised a formula for success and they give the audience what they come to hear. Experimentation and
creativity give way to consistency. It is a win-win situation for both the performers and the listeners.
5 : Party rock anthem
This is the type in which the musicians walk on to the stage and transform into showmen. They have an on stage persona which is very
dramatic. They are to the classical scene what Shah Rukh khan is to the Indian cinemas. Stylised and complete entertainers.
6: Like a prayer
The padmaasana, the mudras, the stillness, here the singer is meditating through his or her music. One may not understand the
technicalities but certainly knows that one is a witness to some serious spiritual exercise. This breed is dwindling because the
masses want speed and action. These singers believe that classical music is not for the masses.
7: We belong together
Last is the breed of performers who like to collaborate with other musicians; call it jugalbandi, fusion, new age music, collaboration.
These musicians are soon only seen collaborating, quite like the doubles players in tennis or the ones who only play the Davis cup.
---- Rama Sundar
Believe me! Remember when you were twelve years old and your grandmother washed out your mouth with soap and
water for using foul language and then threatened to wash your ears out too for listening to and singing songs like “Cocaine” or “Love to Love You Baby” by Donna Summers”? Yes, our grandparents are constantly reminiscing about the “good old, clean, romantic, wholesome music”, music of the 30’s 40’s and the 50’s”. And you too may have been a victim of having being “brainwashed” into feeling that, yes, the music of the 80’s, 90’s & 2000’s (heavy metal, punk, soul, rap and hip hop) are really full of violence, drugs and sex!
Talking of violence, sex and drugs, every generation thinks they had the right value system during their times and that with every new generation it was going to the dogs. Well, we’re here to break a few age old myths and to enlighten you about the real truth as to why those days were called the “Good Old Bad Days” and how your grandparents lied to you!
“Sometimes she gets unruly;
An she act like she just don't wanna do;
But I get my 22-20;
I cut that woman half in two;
Your .38 Special;
Buddy, it's most too light;
But my 22-20;
Will make ev'rything, alright;
No, this isn’t a song of 80’s or the 90’s. These are the violent lyrics of a song where Skip James sings about cutting a woman in half in this blues number called "22-20 Blues" and he sang it way back in …1931! Compared to this the lyrics of “Ma Baker” sung by Boney M in the 70’s seem positively “tame”.
Couldn’t possibly get more violent than that right? Wrong! Check out the lyrics of Blind Willie McTell singing the "A to Z Blues" – circa 1956
“I’m gonna cut your head four different ways;
That's long, short, deep and wide.
When I get a rhythm of this rusty black handle razor;
you're gonna be booked out for an ambulance ride;
Cause I'm gonna cut A, B, C, D on top of your head;
That's gonna be treating you nice, like mama you ain't gonna be dead.
I'm gonna cut E, F, G right across your face;
H, I, J, K, that's where runnin' bound to take place;
Cut L, M, N cross both your arms;
You'll sell an' peddle gal your whole life long;
Cut N, O, P, Q that's gonna be trouble too;
Cause I'm gonna grab you mama and turn you every way but loose;
Cut R, S, T to hear you cry;
That'll be the last time tears a run from over your eyes;
Cut U, V, W on the bottom of your feet;
That'll be the last time you walk up an' down 25th street;
Marking cross your bosom with X, Y, Z;
When I get through with this alphabet;
You'll quit your messing with me”.
Let’s all be thankful that Blind Willie wasn’t a KG teacher teaching little kids the A to Z of the alphabet!
And if the “bad blue” boys of the 1930’s, 40’s & 50’s thought they were going to get away with violence against women, they were absolutely wrong! Because Josie Miles and her sister “blues” singers proved that they too were equally blood thirsty (if not more) and didn’t even need a reason for getting violent! Compared to these “bad mamas, the so called “bad girls” of today come across as “pristine virgins”.
In the following song "Mad Mama Blues" Bad sister Josie Miles is out to wreck the city, and there's absolutely nothing you can do to stop her.
“Now I could see blood runnin'
Through the streets;
Could be everyone;
Layin' dead right right at my feet.
Give me gunpowder;
Give me dynamite;
Yes I'd wreck the city;
Wanna blow it up tonight.
I took my big Winchester;
Down off the shelf;
When I get through shootin';
There won't be nobody left.
Violent enough? “But hey”, I hear you say, “maybe they were violent, but at least they weren’t doing drugs!” At least they didn’t have songs like Eric Clapton’s “Cocaine” or The Beatles “Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds” encouraging people to try LSD or snort coke! Wrong again sister! just check out the lyrics of this next song -
Dreamed about a reefer five feet long.
Mighty Mezz, but not too strong.
You'll be high but not for long.
If you're a viper.
I'm the king of everything.
I've got to be high before I can swing.
Light a tea and let it be
If you're a viper.
When your throat gets dry you know you're high.
Everything is dandy.
Truck on down to the candy store.
Bust your konk on peppermint candy.
Then you know that you’re body's spent.
You don't care if you don't pay rent.
Sky is high and so am I
If you're a viper.
Name of the song? ‘If You’re A Viper” sung by Stuff Smith in the year 1936 and I’m sure he was really flying super duper high if he smoked five foot reefers!!
Do I hear a few voices still protesting, “OK fine, they had violence and drugs in their lyrics, but at least they didn’t have any “F” words or explicit sex in their songs, like “Oh Me So Horny,” by “2 Live Crew” who Broward County Police had to haul into court, because their album “As Nasty As They Want To Be” had been banned for its obscene lyrical content.”
So Wrong again!
Lucille Bogan, a very motherly, plain looking woman was not called the queen of the "Dirty Blues" for nothing. Yes, this “plain Jane” was the writer and singer of such dirty classics as "Sloppy Drunk Blues," "Tricks Ain't Walkin’ No More" and the "Bull Dyke Women's Blues’s”.
And the lyrics of her most famous song, “Shave ‘Em Dry” which she sang live in pubs in 1935 are too explicit to even print here. But if you don’t believe me you can go to Goggle and type out “Lucille Bogan – Lyrics of “Shave “Em Dry” and check them out. But don’t blame me if you’re scandalized!
And yes, dear child, if you still don’t believe that your grandparents lied to you, then I’m sure you’ll also believe that “Madonna” is still a virgin, that “Michael Jackson” is still alive and “moon walking” and that “The Beatles” are practicing hard… for their next gig!
- Noel Keymer
“I think music in itself is healing. It's an explosive expression of humanity. It's something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we're from, everyone loves music." Billy Joel. Allopathy, (the most commonly used system of medicine) is fast on the wane, with most people wanting to try something new. And the good news is that today people can choose from more than a 100 alternative medicines, ranging from traditional Ayurveda to Naturopathy to Aromatherapy to Music Therapy.
Music therapy however, is not a new therapy and has been around for centuries. In the Bible in 1: Samuel: 16:23 we read: “Whenever the spirit from God came on Saul, David would take up his lyre and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him”
So how does Music therapy work? Experts say it does two things:
1. It acts as an alternative for a sedative, drug or tranquillizers which would be prescribed in allopathy.
2. It is believed to increase the metabolic properties of the human body. It is also said to accelerate our breathing and improve the body’s muscular activities, soothe the Central Nervous System and Circulatory System of the listener as well as of the performer. Music therapy is believed to heal both physical as well as psychosomatic disorders.
Music therapy can be divided into two broad categories: “Active” and “Receptive”. In active music therapy, the therapist and patient (after discussing the problem) get together, and the patients are actually encouraged to create their own music, using their voices, musical instruments, or even everyday objects like, spoons, bottles, pans and pots etc. Therapists say this allows patients to explore their creativity, shed their inhibitions and express themselves through the music they create. This therapy is said to work well for people who are introverted, facing mental blocks, personality disorders or those who have problems expressing themselves.
It has also been said to have achieved good results with autistic children. Receptive therapy on the other hand, needs a more controlled environment and normally takes place in a more relaxed, soothing setting. It is said to work best when the patient is lying down in a dimly lit room and relaxed. Then the therapist plays pre chosen music, to which the patient is asked to listen to with eyes closed, or if they like they can doodle or imagine happy scenes in their mind.
The music used in receptive music therapy could range from calming ragas, classical western music or nature sounds (like waterfalls, wind in the trees etc) for people who are hyperactive, to peppy, happy, feel good uplifting music for people who are depressed or feeling low. Later, once the therapist determines which receptive music works best for them, patients are given recorded CD’s which they can listen to at home.
Corinne Heline (1882-1975) once prophetically quoted: “…man is a musical being. One day he will recognize music as a vital factor in the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual growth of the whole human race.”
I personally feel that the day has arrived.
- Noel Keymer
Those of you who have been around from the 1960's through the 1990's will remember the vibrant live music scene in almost every starred hotel in India. Those were the days when you walked into a nightclub like 'Rendezvous' at The Taj Mahal hotel and 'Supper Club' at the Oberoi Sheraton in Mumbai to see curtains going up on a band that was the prime focus of these outlets. Every seat in these restaurants allowed an unobstructed view of the band that performed every night on resident contracts. Today all this has disappeared thanks to some ridiculously high entertainment taxes on live music. Today, non off these hotels have complete bands playing save for a few that feature small duos or solo singers. The Lodhi in New Delhi, recently listed among the world's best hotels, decided to step in and rewind to the good old days. They got Goa's premier jazz quartet 'Jazz Junction' to move to Delhi on a resident contract and the decision has paid off in terms of footfalls generated by the band. Jazz Junction featuring singer Daniella Rodrigues, pianist Tony Dias,
bassist Colin D'Cruz and drummer Angelo Colasco began playing at The Lodhi in June 2018. Four months into the contract the band generated a sizeable following, with quite a few high profile guests choosing to celebrate their special occasion at the Elan bar where the band performs. Against all odds the rewind option proved to be a huge success and hopefully other properties around the country takes the cue to trigger a whole new revival of live music.