Music for Change

Music for Change

Hindustani classical musician Shubha Mudgal to present ‘Awaam ki Awaaz’ – verses on equality, right to free speech and dissent

Hindustani classical musician Shubha Mudgal

Nisar main teri galiyon ke aye vatan ke jahan; chali hai rasm ki koi na sar utha ke chale (My salutations to thy sacred streets, my motherland; Where it has been decreed that none shall walk with his head held high) In response to his exile by the Pakistan government, one of the subcontinent’s greatest poets, Faiz Ahmad Faiz wrote this nazm, locating his poetry within the situation, fully, lyrically, stirring up a wistfulness that is felt by many even today.

These lines along with poetry penned by poets Sahir Ludhianvi, Majrooh Sultanpuri, Gopaldas Neeraj, Dushyant Kumar and Ibn-e-Insha will echo at Delhi’s Central Park in Connaught Place this evening, as Hindustani classical vocalist Shubha Mudgal (pictured) will take centre stage at a concert titled ‘Awaam Ki Awaaz’.

Along with Aneesh Pradhan on the tabla and Sudheer Nayak on harmonium, commentary by historian Sohail Hashmi along with each piece of poem will also be a part of “a concert of thought-provoking verses about communal harmony, peace and equality and the right to free speech and dissent”. The concert is being presented by Sahitya Kala Parishad and Delhi Government. The compositions for the poetry created by Mudgal over the last two decades will showcase the grammar of raagdari music, the kind she is trained in.

“The idea of using music to sing of beauty and love is an established fact. But the artiste is also a person who observes and comments on what’s happening around. It is another very important aspect of the repertoire that I am presenting,” says 58-year-old Mudgal. She adds that the repertoire hasn’t only been selected from the recent past alone. According to her, the matters have been burning issues for a long time.


“They recur, unfortunately. The tragic reminder is that they are relevant even today. If Gopaldas Neeraj wrote Aag behti hai Ganga mein, Jhelum mein bhi; Koi batlaye ke kahan jaake nahaya jaaye years ago, then it’s not just about one incident. It is about this strange, almost like a forest fire of violence in India and across the world. His context may have been a different one but the fact that there is violence and barbarism around at this point is something we cannot negate. We just have to switch on the television for five minutes,” says Mudgal. At the concert, she will also make reference to the Emergency through Dushyant Kumar’s famed poem Kahan toh taye tha chiragan har ek ghar ke liye.

Mudgal says that art and politics aren’t separate, as many musicians such as Babul Supriyo and Manoj Tiwari are a part of electoral politics, that every government has sought the help of artistes for highlighting various campaigns and schemes and that artistesare also citizens of the same nation. She disagrees with those who ask artiste to stay away from politics.

She says, “Everyone’s a Swachhata ambassador these days. How can the government say, stay away from politics when you want them to promote certain schemes and campaigns for you. This is not correct. If you are a public figure, you are expected to get involved with something when it suits and otherwise sit at home and mind your language. How can that be?”.

Mudgal adds that there are many artistes who have chosen not to align themselves with any political party and protest only through their work. And as an artiste she does not believe in imposing her opinions on others. “Whether it’s award wapsi or whether the artistes who shout against those who return the awards, it’s an artiste’s decision,” says Mudgal, who has been wary of presenting a concert in Central Park in the past as it’s a space “more open than even other open places, no one is really stopped from entering, and it isn’t a formal auditorium kind of space.

“The idea was to have the concert in a place which is more welcoming than an auditorium and the repertoire should be pieces that talk of social issues. She concludes the conversation with Insha’s satire, “A piece like Kuch kehne ka waqt nahi hai; kuch na kaho, khamosh raho… Unka ye kehna ki suraj hi dharti ke phere karta hai, saraankhon par suraj hi ko ghumne do, khamosh raho says so much. I don’t have to say anything.”