Piano Man faces backlash over casteist band name, gig called off

The social media uproar over the weekend prompted the band to change its name, and The Piano Man Jazz Club to cancel the scheduled event and issue an apology.

Written by Somya Lakhani | New Delhi | Published:June 6, 2017 5:09 am

The Piano Man Jazz Club in Safdarjung Enclave has been mired in a controversy for the last four days — ever since an event flyer of a band, which called itself by a name derogatory to Dalits, made it to Facebook.

The band’s name was met with backlash, with many people calling for a boycott of the venue. On Monday, a petition on change.org asking for the venue to be shut down began doing the rounds. “A bunch of us tried explaining the meaning of the word to the band, but they kept saying it was their own interpretation.

It’s a casteist slur which is so normalised in society, but there are consequences,” said Raya Sarkar, one of the people who spoke out against the venue for organising the event. The 24-year-old claimed she, and several others, then ended up at the receiving end of caste-based abuse on social media by those who support the band and the venue.

The uproar over the weekend prompted the band to change its name, and the venue to cancel the scheduled event and issue an apology. “The main problem is ignorance, no one realised the impact of this, and that has been acknowledged. We understand where the angst is coming from,” said Arjun Sagar Gupta, owner of the venue. In an email to The Indian Express, Akshay Kapoor, who formed the band, said,

“It was ignorant on my behalf and it hurts me to see what this issue has turned into, all because of a personal choice that I made. I was genuinely unaware and highly ignorant on naming my band what I did. I did not intend to hurt people and did not take into consideration the sensitivity of the matter.”

According to Professor Vivek Kumar, Centre for the Study of Social Systems, School of Social Sciences at JNU, the word has for long been used to “humiliate, suppress and exclude” a community, and the use of the term is banned under the SC/ST (Prevention Of Atrocities) Act, 1989.”

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