No pastiches of the Beatles, Bob Dylan or Mike Softley. No influences from the counter-culture of the 1960s.
It was protest music, home-brewed and straight from the heart. Culture Unplugged, a multi-layered concert organised by Justice Rocks on Saturday at Spaces in Besant Nagar, was contemporary in its music and theme. A young Sofia Ashraf, who rapped her gripe against moral policemen who are on the prowl across the country, best epitomised the spirit of Justice Rocks, a loosely-composed group of youngsters who direct their barbs at ‘cultural bullying, hate politics and fundamentalism’ through music and performing arts.
“As a rule, we don’t invite professional bands and groups. It is a space for students and amateurs to perform. Being good musicians or artistes in not the criterion but, being sincere is. These youngsters are sensitive about contemporary socio-political issues,” said writer-teacher-activist Nityanand Jayaraman about the youth collective, now six years old.
A part of Justice Rocks militates against the commercialisation and exploitation of student cultural events. “Students are enslaved by big corporations through sponsorship of campus festivals. If the corporations bring plastic, the students cannot protest. How can they go against their sponsors?” said Mr. Jayaraman.
Justice Rocks is the way out, he said. “Its programmes are supported by three cardinal ideas: having fun is not expensive; activism or speaking out need not be boring; a spirit of community can be built among youngsters seeking changes in various forms,” he said.
Sofia, a copywriter from Mumbai, is ruthless in her censure of fundamentalism stifling creative expression and personal freedom. On Saturday, she gave a spin to the famous ‘Surangani’ song and drew attention to the ban on a band in Kashmir and the attacks on women at a Mangalore night club.
Kaber Vasuki (24), a freelance writer who sings and plays the acoustic guitar, blames consumerism and capitalism for the alienation of man — as his song ‘Kannadi Maligai’ illustrated.
The soiree also featured F-16 — an electro-rock band, the Tibetan Students Association of Madras with their Tibetan folk songs and Gnani’s Pareeksha theatre group, among others.
Shorn of the trappings of a glitzy mega event, the concert did not cost a fortune. Mr. Jayaraman said, “There are no sponsors. Only ‘unsponsors’, those that have caused the problems being discussed at the concert. For instance, a few years ago, we organised a concert ‘Don’t Work For Dirty Dow,’ where the unsponsor was Union Carbide and Dow Chemical.”
With ‘culture bullies and fundamentalists of the world’ as ‘unsponsors’, the Saturday concert obviously covered more gripe ground.