Twenty six year-old Delhi-based Ankita Singh has been profoundly impressed by Azadi, the popular rap from Zoya Akhtar’s recent film Gully Boy. She found the song, which merges former JNU President Kanhaiya Kumar’s speech along with rappers DIVINE and Dub Sharma’s poetry — Desh kaise hoga saaf, inki neeyat mein hai daag, rapped along a synth and drum machine “very interesting and impressive”. Employed with a multinational company, Ankita, under the pseudonym Devsena Singh recently penned a song titled Modi Once More, which speaks of bringing Prime Minister Narendra Modi back into power along synth, drums and rhythmic claps. Har qadam ab saath badhaana hai, Saath Namo ke hum sabko aana hai/ Safety ki baat aati baar baar, Humko safe rakhe Army aur sarkaar, sung by Sharvi Yadav and composed by composer Anurag Chauhan, has garnered almost 70 thousand views in the last couple of months, and was recently tweeted by Minister of Railways and Coal, Piyush Goyal. Interestingly, Kanhaiya Kumar is fighting the election from Begusarai (CPI) and is pitted against Bharatiya Janata Party leader Giriraj Singh.
Ankita began by writing articles for an online portal called Lopak. Owned by Kalpesh group with Anurag Dixit as its co-founder, the portal’s stories staunchly write from the right and support the BJP. “I do the lyrics part and work as a team with a few others,” says Ankita, who adds that the creation of the song and video is a joint effort along with the production house, Teal Films. “We are all doing it ourselves. I believe in BJP, and their agenda,” says Ankita, whose family has been involved with politics — her great grandfather was the mayor of Malihabad (Lucknow), and her brother-in-law is Anil Singh, the current MLA from Purwa, Unnao.
Music may not have a huge place in politics, but in the run up to the general elections of 2019, it has become an interesting undercurrent. There are the campaign songs for BJP and Congress which are doing the rounds on social media. While the one for the BJP, titled Phir ek baar Modi Sarkar has been penned by Censor Board chief Prasoon Joshi, the one for the Congress, Ab hoga nyay, is by Javed Akhtar. CPI(M) has done a play on the BJP slogan Abki baar Modi sarkaar and turned it into Abki baar Modi berozgaar, Yahi hai CPI(M) ki lalkaar.
Mumbai-based composer Arjunna Harjai, who is well-known in the world of advertising and has created jingles for Amazon, Google. Dettol, Suzuki, among others, has created the Congress campaign song. He says that he adhered to the brief, which was to speak to the youth. “So I kept that idea in my mind and approached it with that sort of soundscape, something that’s catchy and will leave an impact. The idea was for every common person to feel that he/she represents Hindustan,” says Harjai, about the song directed by Nikhil Advani. A drum and bass piece, it has the lines Tum jhoothi chaalen chal ke, shehron ke naam badal ke, noto ko kachra kar ke… Ab dhokha nahi khayenge, Congress sarkar layenge.
Some of the latest pieces are straight requests to come out and vote such as PIB’s shrill Vote karenge hum based on yesteryear composer Hemant Kumar’s Aao bachhon tumhe sunaye (Jagriti, 1954), Election Commission’s high-pitched and shrieky Chalo chalen vote dene by Bengaluru-based software entrepreneur Ashis Dutta and his wife and music teacher Nivedita, and Kailash Kher’s Vote do. While some songs are in favour of either of the parties such as Shankar Mahadevan’s Non-Stop India sung like his Breathless piece and praises the current government, there are others which are peans to PM Modi. The 2017 song, Son of India, written by Bindeshwar Pathak, Founder of Sulabh Sanitation Movement and sung by Alka Yagnik and Sonu Nigam, is doing the rounds again and has them singing along a flute and tabla. The cross line is Aisa sewak kabhi na aaya, janta ka ye khayal hai, Ye Modi ji ka kamaal hai. Then there is Laxmi Dubey’s rambunctious Phir Modi ko laana hai. Dubey, who seems to be doing a maata ka jaagran, dressed in red and heavy jewellery, chants, Chaudi chhati wala Modi, Bharat ka rakhwala Modi. Playback singer Kailash Kher has also done a number of pieces supporting the current PM and is asking people to vote for BJP.
While some are direct, there are some which are more philosophical in nature, ones that have been written in a more codified yet elaborate way. One of them is Achhe din blues by Mumbai-based 29-year-old actor and singer Aamir Aziz. The composure of his turmoil is disturbing. He sings along a single guitar, Ek qatar mein laakho log khade the pehchaan patr lekar, Unki aankhon mein tha bhay/ Aur door kahin se awaaz aa rahi thi, Bharat mata ki jai. The piece, that was released last month, was triggered by the hanging of two men in March 2016 in Jharkhand on the suspicion that they were transporting cattle. Do laashey latak rahi thi ek hi shakh-e-shajar se, Sab cheekh cheekh ke batla rahe the hai qaatil kitna mahan, sings Aziz. He has created the song along with director Amit Mishra that meditates on the state of the nation. Both put in their own money to create a piece that now has more than a lakh views. The song has also resulted in threats for Aziz. “I didn’t expect so many responses. It had some dificult Urdu words so I was skeptical if people will understand words like gaflat and muntazir,” says Aziz, who’d wanted to sing of “everything happening all around him”.
A significant genre in a lot of songs has been the usage of rap and the endorsements that have come under it. Many songs have featured it often. While BJP attempted it in a last minute effort to woo the voters with the hook, My first vote to the one, one and only one who has got everything done, brother-sister duo Ragini and Shiv Tandan created Chunega kya and released it last week during the first phase of the election. Ye chhati ko peetenge, baatein lapetenge, Filmein banayenge, Daaru pilayenge, Changul mein tujhko aur mujhko phasayenge… raps Shiv, who has put the lyrics together. Music, says Ragini, is the fastest way to reach the youth. “I think it’s about knowing who you want to choose. It’s about the knowledge of what is happening in the country at the moment,” says the singer, who recently found success with the song Lamborghini, which has many bonding over it on social media. Chunega kya also has a take on nationalism. Shiv croons, Ye jumlebaazi hata, Dhang ke naare laga, Khokhla sa desh prem deewano ko na sikha.