Kolkata: Rohingya exodus and persecution is perhaps the most planned genocide in recent times. We all know how the Rohingya refugees flee from their motherland, crammed in a boat, sailing across the Bay of Bengal to shores of other neighbouring countries (India and Bangladesh). In the entire exodus, it’s the boatman who actually becomes the anchor for the Rohingyas fleeing to a safer country.
Four young artistes from Kolkata, who have been closely following the news, have beautifully captured the pain, the hope and the anxiety of the Rohingyas in their song Boatman.
“We all know the issue. But many a time we choose not to speak about it as we are not directly affected. The idea of making this song was to make people talk about the most planned genocide that’s taking place in Myanmar,” says Adil Rashid, the lead guitarist of the band Underground Reality.
A band with a soul
The band, which carved niche for itself by making it to the final round of India’s Got Talent, season two, maintains that doing songs that highlight socio-political issues is not a new thing for them. “Doing gigs, creating remix albums might help us earn our bread and butter, but we as a band, have one agenda – to highlight social issues through our songs. We call it protest poetry, and try bringing out at least one such song in a year,” adds Adil, who has quit his career in electrical engineering for his love for music.
Prior to Boatman, they had brought out albums that have addressed issues like violence against women, economic failure, capitalism and more.
Watch the song:
What about Rohingyas…
However, the heart wrenching lines penned by the lead vocalist and lyricists Santhanam Srinivasan Iyer, forces the listener to feel the Rohingya pain, as he raps. Speaking to eNewsroom about the issue, “The idea of Boatman song was to make people feel about the Rohingyas, make them talk about them. We just can’t ignore their mass killing. These were the thoughts that I had while penning down the lyrics. I am glad that people are talking about it,” shares Santhanam.
He adds, “Issue has been on since long and I have wanted to write for long time. And I have a reason. You, see, when I was in college I had watched a documentary titled Douye, it was on Aung San Suu Kyi. It narrated her tale, her fight for democracy and people Myanmar. Needless to say, she became a role model for me. And today, when I see her silent on this issue, it worries me to the core. What is more worrying that even the UN is silent on this issue. Had it been about some other ethnic group, or place, I am sure their would be an uproar on the social media. This trend troubles me. Hence, I took it as a responsibility to sensitise people about the Rohingya issue.”
Rap is all about highlighting issues
It took the team around 15 days to bring out the album. “We don’t have huge budgets and we generally make our videos at home. It took us around 10-15 days to have Boatman ready. It’s a sarcastic take on the government of Myanmar and people, who choose to turn a blind eye to the plight of the Rohingyas, just on the ground of their ethnicity and religion,” sums up Adil.
Elaborating on the style, Santhanam say, “Rap I poetry and as we all know poems have always palys a vital role in highlighting issues. Unfortunately, Rap, has been super commercialized. If we go back to its origin, rap was sung to highlight atrocities committed to the Black people. I have maintained that I write to express and not impress, I write about what I see. I have felt the pain of the Rohingyas. Believe me, it took me only 20 minutes to pen the lyrics of this song.”
Message of the song on Rohingyas
The band firmly believes that no human fleeing from their land of origin, seeking refuge in another country should be barred just on the basis of their ethnicity and religion. “It’s the modern age apartheid, isn’t it?” questions Adil.
While Santhanam adds, “We often talk of religious extremism. But look at this genocide, isn’t it being orchestrated by the followers of the most peaceful religion on earth – Buddhism. My song attempts to highlight this aspect also. It’s not the religion that makes one an extremist, its our insecurities that makes us resort to violence, its our own fears that make us so cruel.”