Popular, Political but Not Patriotic: The Revolutionary List

by Manjiri Indurkar

There are politically motivated songs that make you go numb by guilting you into rethinking your lack of responsibility towards your country (think Ye Jo des hai tera from Swades), and there are those that make you cringe (think Manoj Kumar’s Hai preet jaha ki reet sada. It proposes the idea that every man in India is Ram and every woman Sita. Ugh) and then there are those blood curdling songs that appeal to the rebel in you. That push you towards the revolutionary road. That aren’t politically correct but sound like music to your tired-of-diplomatic-jibber-jabber ears. Here’s a list of revolutionary songs in no particular order that dared to call a spade a spade.

Shehar Humara Sota Hai — Piyush Mishra

It begins like a folktale or rather a fairytale (Ek bakat ki baat bataein/Once upon a time it so happened) but the things it talks about are stuff of nightmares. It tells a horrific tale of a city sleeping as a blood bath washes its roads.

Revolution — Bob Marley

He said that revolution will lead us to solution. And that there is too much confusion and so much frustration. Can anyone deny that?

Salaam Kijiye Aali Janab Aae Hai- Gulzar

It’s the song that every citizen tired of the faux promises made by the politicians will identify with. Yeh jaadugar hai/ yeh chutki mein kaam karte hain/ yeh bhookh pyaas ko/ baaton se raam karte hain/ humaare haal pe/ likhne kitaab aaye hain.

This Land Is Your Land- Woody Guthrie

The American Civil Rights Movement would have been bereft of its most celebrated anthem had Woody Guthrie not written this song. The song, constructed in a folk tradition, the lyrics were imbued with Guthrie’s socialist agenda and the way he saw America.

Apane Ullu Kitne Tedhe- Shehzad Roy

A brief history of post colonial Pakistan, the song talks about how the country is still not free, the ‘gorein’ are still here. Stemmed from his frustration over the government’s apathy towards to rampant corruption in the country (do-number kaamon mein bhi hum number two) and the obsession with the white that doesn’t seem to go, this song is a brilliant critique of the situation in Pakistan but seems to be a fit for India too.

We Didn’t Start the Fire- Billy Joel

Since we are on the subject of history, Billy Joel’s ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’ talks about the important political events from 1949 to 1989; the 100 issues that made headlines in that period. It enumerates more historic events than any history textbook ever could. Personally, I learnt about the children of Thalidomide thanks to Joel.

Mehengai Dayan Khae Jaat Hai- Swanand Kirkire

A song about the ever rising prices of commodities in the scarily consumerist, and gross capitalist times we are living in. Sakhi Saiyan Toh Khub Hi Kamaat Hai (My husband earns a lot of money,) Mehengai Dayan Khae Jaat Hai (the witch called price-rise eats it all up.) It’s true, the kind of economy that we are aspiring to become, no amount of money will ever be enough.

Glad to be Gay- Tom Robinson

Written for the 1976 London Gay Pride Parade, this Tom Robinson song has since become the gay anthem for Britain. The song was very critical of Britain’s attitude towards homosexuality. With lyrics like ‘Don’t try to kid us that if you’re discreet/ You’re perfectly safe as you walk down the street’ he was commenting on the hypocrisy of Britain’s society which wasn’t as inclusive as it claimed to be.

Dhaka Laga Buka- Mehboob Kotwal

A song about the youth politics, it talks about the unbeatable force it can be. An unapologetic, unabashedly political song that essentially says if you won’t clear our way, you shall be pushed out, just be ready (Gaadi Aapni Dhekhe Jhandi Hari/ Roke Jo Kisi Ne To Chhode Patri)

Asshole- Denis Leary

In the entire song Denis Leary spends time convincing us that he’s an asshole (I’m an asshole/ (He’s an asshole, what an asshole)/ I’m an asshole/ (He’s a real fucking asshole)). A commentary on the authoritarian power that America has over other ‘insignificant’ countries, this song brilliantly rips into the capitalist, dictatorial, consumerist, hypocritical, greedy and selfish structure of the world’s biggest ‘superpower’. What an asshole!

Manjiri Indurkar is a writer-journalist and poet from New Delhi. Her hobbies include reading, writing and eating (food and words, equally).

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