What started out as a folk song sung by the mondina workers in the paddy fields of Northern Italy later became a global anthem of protest. Bella Ciao has been sung and chanted all over the world where people gather to protest fascist governments or oppression of the powerful.
Now a new rendition of the classic song has been published by Indian musician Poojan Sahil. In an interview with The Telegraph India Poojan commented on his thinking as a new generation under an oppressive government:
“Like many of my generation who came out to support the anti-CAA protests, there is disappointment at what is going on around us. We feel that we will have to struggle for freedom of thought, the very existence of our friends…. essentially the world the generations before us took for granted,”
The Indian government recently agreed to three new laws that give private entities more control and freedom in the country’s agricultural market.
Farmers across India have taken to the streets, the highways and the borders to protest these new laws for they believe it will cripple this part of the country’s economy. They don’t believe big business will have the interest of the people in mind, something that has proven to be true in other countries.
Musicians have stepped up and are using their talents and voices to support all their local farmers that provide them with food.
One of these songs is Pecha. According to a recent interviewHarf Cheema (one of the musicians behind the song) said the song is about “common people fighting against the government for their rights”.
“First, farmers will feel attracted towards these private players, who will offer a better price for the produce. The government mandis will pack up meanwhile and after a few years, these players will start exploiting the farmers. That’s what we fear,” Multan Singh Rana, a farmer in the northern state of Punjab, told BBC Punjabi.
Harbhajan Mann is another musician that wrote a song in support of the farmers. According to a Facebook post he wrote he grew up in a family of farmers and he believes he is in debt to farmers around his country. Recently Mann was recently selected for the Punjab government’s ‘Shiromani Punjabi Singer’ award. In addition to using his voice as an artist Mann decided to decline receiving the award in support and protest of the actions being taken against farmers in India.
“How can I accept this award when my mother earth is in danger.”
– Harbhajan Mann
As farmers and their families have literally set up camps around the country the protests will seemingly continue for an unforeseen time – or at least until the government listens and makes the changes that this valuable part of the Indian society is demanding. Until then musicians will step it up and continue filling the soundtrack of the protest.
Cover photo by Ravi Choudhary, a photojournalist with Press Trust of India (PTI).
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…”