On song for a cause: These singers are using music to raise awareness on mental health, gender justice, and more
A number of Indian singers are making their music matter by bringing social issues that have far-reaching consequences to light. If activism and social good can take different forms, why not in the form of music too?
Here are four musicians and an all-women’s band that are striking a chord with the audiences with some powerful messages.
(From L to R) Mrinalini Somani, Pratishtha Patny, Shannon K, Jaya Tiwari, Founder and lead singer of Meri Zindagi rock band
Pratishtha Patny released her first Hindi rap song Ghanta Na Hoga on International Women’s Day, 2020. The artist, who also dons the hat of motivational speaker and self-help coach calls the song a “feminism anthem.”
True to the claim, it is packed with lyrics that sheds light on the trials and tribulations of being a woman, menstruation and the taboos surrounding it, the constant problems that people have with women’s clothes, make-up, and lifestyles, and the influence of mass media on eve-teasing and harassment.
The 22-year-old artist also sings about women harassment and the poor police security and legal support system which are, unfortunately, all too relevant – the most recent known victim being a tribal teenager in Odisha who was repeatedly raped by policemen.
She feels that the inclusion of kindness, compassion, and empathy in our conversations on feminism is needed to advance the rights of all.
A Psychology graduate from St Ann’s College in Mehdipatnam, Hyderabad, Pratishtha has also started a photo series called the 'Gender Non-conformity Project,' on Instagram, that defies gender stereotypes for women and men.
She has music in her genes. And, she took her passion for music further by associating it with a cause. Mrinalini Somani is the founder of rock concert WE, that helps underprivileged children as part of the Salaam Bombay Foundation.
The first concert was organised by WE with 26 students from The Cathedral and John Connon School in Mumbai, in 2013.
The initiative has so far raised over Rs 2.7 crore in funds for the Salaam Bombay Foundation, aimed at enabling more than 2,500 children to acquire training in dance, theatre, and music.
More recently, on June 13, WE featured young artists from universities in the US and the UK and streamed a performance on Facebook that raised over Rs 70 lakh to help close to 500 families affected by the pandemic. The fund will also help underprivileged students continue their creative pursuits.
The concert’s performance is a mix of dance and music, including rock, jazz, pop, contemporary Bollywood hits, as well as the music from the '80s, and '90s.
Meri Zindagi rock band
Meri Zindagi (meaning My Life) is an all-women band from Uttar Pradesh that spreads messages of gender justice, social issues, and women empowerment. It is also as much about, as the name suggests, letting women have control and a say on their lives rather than being subjected to societal norms and expectations.
Jaya Tiwari, 39, the lead singer, lyricist, and the founder of the band is emphatic that the band does not sing to entertain but to sensitise people and make them aware of social issues like female foeticide, education for girls, and domestic violence.
During the Kumbh Mela last year, the six-women band sang about child marriage. The lyrics are thought-provoking: “Mother, don’t just marry me off. Don’t send me away tied to a groom. Let me study and become somebody. Let me be the one to colour your dreams.”
For Shannon K, daughter of Bollywood singer Kumar Sanu, listening to her father’s music while growing up has helped her emote and deliver as a singer. While the 18-year-old artist made her Bollywood debut recently with Duggi from Himesh Reshammiya's film Happy Hardy and Heer, Shannon has established herself in the US music circuit.
Shannon, who has been featured as the ‘Artist of the month’ on B4U-UK and received the Best Original Singer Award for “Latel” by IFAB USA while juggling between music and academics, hopes to work on more singles this year.
The young singer also aims to become a psychiatrist to help teens who are the victims of social media trolls, the very issue that inspired her to write Give Me Your Hand. The key message is about not losing hope and staying true to oneself.
Bullied as a child, Shannon has also taken part in a few campaigns to raise awareness on the increase of bullying/cyberbullying on social media platforms.