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  • Ekta Kumar

Hard Core, Hard Kaur

Do artists have an obligation to speak the truth, or be fair or objective? That would be naive to expect. We should be able to hear all voices, not necessarily agree or disagree.

Music feeds our soul, also our bodies and our minds. It is one of the most primal aspects of being human. It is an integral part of courtship, expression, emotion and identity - this is true across the ages and across cultures. Songs express our angst, our unfulfilled desires, our anger, fear and our pain. And over the last few decades music has also taken on a form of activism - songs and protests go hand in hand. Iconic songs are associated with movements for social change, and sometimes just a few words can make us think or bring an issue to the front. There is enough evidence to suggest its critical role in strengthening social bonds and interactions all through our evolutionary history. Which is why perhaps we need to be more tolerant of our musicians having a view, and expressing themselves. Their choice of words may not always be correct, their fears might be misplaced, their reasons might be attention seeking and self serving, but we still need to hear them. Especially in a world that is increasingly veering towards being so dull and 'proper'.

Singer-Rapper Hard Kaur has been charged with sedition for her remarks on social media against UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat. Agreed this was no song, no art involved here, and words like 'rapeman' and 'terrorist', 'fascist' are quite extreme. But does she deserve to be in jail? Musicians are in a unique position. Through their art they have to ability to touch us directly. They are our 'influencers', have always been. But does that mean they have an obligation to speak the truth, or be fair or objective? That would be naive to expect. We should be able to hear them, not necessarily agree or disagree. Our leaders should be able to do the same. Politicians, stars, celebrities, sportsmen will always be in the spotlight. They will have millions of fans, cheering them and loving them, but there will always be those who don't. We don't have to agree to everything being said, and especially not on twitter, which in itself is a highly toxic medium. But slapping sedition charges is an extreme reaction.

The world over, musicians have been pushing the boundary. It takes a lot of courage to stand up against one of the most powerful men in the world. Two members of the Russian all girl punk rock group Pussy Riots were jailed for two years for their performance of their song 'Putin Zassa' roughly translating to 'Putin Has Pissed Himself' in the middle of Moscow. Putin clearly was not pleased, but they still continue with their bold demonstrations against Kremlin. In Thailand, despite threats, a rap song has become the rallying cry for dissent against the military. It racked up 21 million views on Youtube within a week. The firebrand Nigerian musician Fela has been arrested over 200 times for furiously attacking his country's military leaders, he hasn't given up. Neither has Madonna. She is still at it, the latest being the display of Palestine and Isreali flags on her background dancers at a Tel Aviv show. A long time ago the Sex Pistons sang for the queen and her 'fascist regime' while now the US President is being called names ranging from 'dumb' to a 'loud mouth asshole' by some of the top artists of America. I could go on and on. There is a long list of examples, from the past, from our present and there will be many in the future. It is hopeless to try and end it.

Technology has democratised music. Songs are more easily available and so are the singers. There was a time when the artist spoke to us only through their lyrics. Now they also have twitter. It is not just through poetry, we get to know them better also through their midnight rants on twitter and closeups on instagram. Hard Kaur probably has her reasons for saying what she did. Our leaders need to be more tolerant of critical voices. We don't need to agree with her, ignore what you don't like. But don't put her in jail.

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