Freedom songs

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Music New music album Songs of Protest revives the historical protest songs in a contemporary style

Musical Duo Susmit Sen with Sumangala Damodaran
Musical Duo Susmit Sen with Sumangala Damodaran

U rdu poet Makhdoom Mohiuddin's song Jaane Waale Sipahi Se Poochho, composed during the World War II had a fiery rendition and expressed angst towards the futility of war and violence. The decades1940 and 50 witnessed a revolution in art and culture. Additionally, the Indian People's Theatre Association (IPTA) played an active role in arousing the national sentiment through songs, art, theatre and dance. It was a period marked by memorable revolutionary songs.

Inspired by the protest songs of the period, Sumangala Damodaran in association with Indian Ocean's lead guitarist and founder Susmit Sen has put together a new album Songs of Protest. “Popular songs like Hum Honge Kamyab have become stereotypes. There are songs not part of the usual repertoire of protest songs that have not been explored yet. They are cathartic and evokes beautiful emotions,” explains Sumangala Damodaran, who has created an archive of protest songs from different regions after four years of research.

It was a chance meeting and a common cause of combining art and social issue that brought Sumangala and Susmit together for the album. “I grew up during the Naxalbari movement in Bengal and familiar with the songs that were created during that period. The songs are beautiful and a lot of memories are associated with them, it encouraged me to take up the project,” says Susmit who is also producing the album.

“So far I have only worked with the band but sometimes it is fun to work with other musicians. Though, there is of course the Indian Ocean touch to the music,” clarifies Susmit. Protest songs on the Bengal famine, Partition and Jallianwalla Bagh that immortalised the historical events, in various languages have been revived in the album. “We have retained the original tunes but have added a contemporary touch to the songs,” he explained.

“We wanted to revive a tradition and integrate social issue with art so that it finds resonance with the youth,” says Sumangala Damodaran.





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