The caste system in India is an ever-filling source of inspiration for protest musicians in the country. This system that the powers use to constraint different classes, races and colors of people in India is an ancient idea that motivates creative people today to criticize it.
Some of those people form the rap collective Wanandaf. In a recent interview one member of the group, Agaahi, explains how they have been performing all around during these Covid times: “Since protest sites had to be vacated in the pandemic, music has to find a way to people through other means…”
“We want our music to be a wake-up call to other rappers too, use your music with care, the genre is a powerful force to speak about society…”
As it often happens, the current protests in Thailand started out as student events. This generation has had to partially grow up in times started by the 2014 coup d’état in Thailand. Now more people are joining the protests demanding the resignation of General Prayuth Chan-ocha’s government and an economic reform of the monarchy.
Some members of the rap collective have been arrested for their activism as we’ve covered before here on Shouts. That does not seem to slow them down though. They blast through the new song with seemingly no concern for their own safety. Artists have been jailed around the world for using their voices in this way.
The Manusmriti, a sort of a bible for Hindu people, divides the Indian people into categories based on their work and their social duties. This scripture is at least 3,000 years old but today, still, people in India have to endure this ancient system that now has a new term: caste.
Although discrimination on the basis of caste was legally banned in 1948 the problem continues in India today. But some people try to fight this old system and use their voice in a positive way. One of them is Madara, a rapper from an upper caste family who has witnessed how this outdated social system affects all aspects of the world he lives in.
Halldór Kristínarson: Your song Jaat Kya Hai focuses on the caste system in India. How have you personally seen this system affect people?
Madara: I come from an upper caste Hindu Family and of course I’ve seen discrimination in my family in about every other conversation. It’s almost a trend to call them names, use curse words to assassinate their character and suppress their voice. My grandfather and my uncles have been the biggest example whom I have seen treating lower caste people badly or bad-mouthing about them for no reason.
HK: What other issues motivate you to make music and pen down some lyrics?
M: Every issue I’ve personally experienced or read and which conflicts with my personal ethics or because of which I have seen people around me suffering. Like child marriage, colorism, racism, dowry, farmers suicide, education system, unemployment, prostitutes, etc.
HK: Has your music always been politically driven or made in protest?
M: No. I didn’t start my rap with protest lyrics. I’ve written many tracks on different topics as I don’t believe in sticking to a certain type of rap, rather I like to call myself a conscious rapper who writes on contemporary topics. It’s just that I’ve released only the political ones for now.
HK: Have you received any backlash or threats for the music you make?
M: Yeah a lot, I keep getting death threats every now and then but I’m habitual now. Everybody dies but not everybody lives.
HK: How is the protest music scene where you live? Are there many musicians and artists using their voices for good?
M: Protest scene here is not how we would like to imagine it to be honest. As per Law we do have freedom of speech in our constitution but reality is quite different. Most of the artists who want to speak up against the system, don’t, as they are afraid of the consequences.
HK: One of my favorite rap songs of 2019 was the banging Tukde Tukde Gang. Can you explain a bit what that song is about?
M: That song explains the faulty education system of India. If our ministers are holding fake degrees and not accepting it, how will they teach us? I was doing my research on social evils in India and I found out that the root cause of everything is education in which the government is investing very little and when someone raises their voice against it they’re called “Tukde Tukde Gang” but in reality it is the government who should be called that for using religion politics to break people.*
HK: Who are some of the artists that have inspired you? Specifically regarding your lyrics, are there any people who have made an impact on your work?
M: There are many, I love reading and hence in the field of writing I would like to mention Harishankar Parsai, Javed Akhtar, Kamleshwar, Piyush Mishra, Rahat Indori, Munnawar Rana, Paash etc.
HK: How have you been coping with this strange year of 2020? Are there any online live performances schedules for your global fans?
M: It’s been one terrible year all around. There are no online live performances as of now. I’ll start performing in 2022. I’m just surviving on my savings for now, using them to make my tracks.
HK: Thank you very much for participating. Is there anything else you’d like to shout from the rooftops?
M: Never stop questioning!
* “Tukde Tukde Gang is a pejorative political catchphrase used in India by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its sympathisers accusing their critics for allegedly supporting sedition and secessionism.” Taken from Wikipedia