DUB Speak

Dancing to the beats of Yo Yo Honey Singh

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2012 was a year that saw movies and music take an experimental and innovative twist in India. From Barfi’s subtle approach towards our society’s outlook on disability, to the recognition of many more bands and upcoming artists, last year seemed to be a ray of hope in an industry mostly monopolised by lewd item songs that consisted of women gyrating to pulsating beats. Despite these differences, the scenario doesn’t seem to have changed much, as the hero is still the policeman or roadside Romeo who thinks it is his birthright to pester and bully the girl of his dreams till she unwittingly falls in love with him.

The biggest sensation that emerged last year was the Punjabi rapper Yo Yo Honey Singh. From an underground artist who was barely recognised for his work, to producing chartbusters like Angreji Beat and Mai Sharabi, this self-proclaimed ‘international villager’ has taken the bollywood music industry as well as its dhol-loving audience by storm. His song ‘Brown Rang’, which refers to the tantalizing beauty of a chocolate-skinned woman that trumps the charms of a typical blue-eyed blond, was the most trending article on YouTube by Indian viewers. Honey Singh has also been one of the most searched artists in India, following Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif. Very little is left to discussion when the three most searched celebrities on the internet are those that promote brainless violence, sexual item songs and misogynist lyrics covered up by feet-tapping beats.

Honey Singh’s songs are, without doubt, highly contagious. When played at parties, very few people will be able to admit to the fact that they sat in a corner while everyone around them swayed to songs like ‘Dope shope’ and ‘High heels’. However, when we dig deep into the colourful rapper’s past, some of his earliest works consist of despicable and filthy lyrics on how to objectivise a woman during sex, including some highly violent references to please his insatiable lust.

As India is a democracy, Honey Singh’s licence to sing is a matter that cannot really be questioned. However, there do exist some disturbing realities that may not directly relate to his work, but hit on the internalization of certain beliefs over the years. Honey Singh might just be one exceptionally obvious case, yet so many others exist in the form of movie scenes and ads. Starting from Fair and lovely and Axe deodorants, even movies like Agneepath and Tees Maar Khan seem to have no use of a woman except to showcase them in sexually charged numbers like ‘Chikni Chameli’ and ‘Sheila Ki Jawani’. As toned and beautiful as the woman look, the leering men that surround them and the crude lyrics that make up the songs don’t do much to show a woman’s independence, no matter how vehemently the actresses and a majority of the audience claim that they portray this. The reality, despite its lack of materialisation into spoken words, invariably focus on what the masses seem to enjoy the most; cheap sexual thrills and an ability to gape at a woman’s body without being ostracized by the society.

Even though politicians and like-minded people seem to have woken up from their beauty sleep after the recent horrific rape case, trying to ban Honey Singh from producing more music is far from what this country needs. Just as his fans believe that he has moved from producing sexually violent songs to dance floor scorchers, blaming one man for his past isn’t going to help a society that is steeped in following practices that marginalise its women.

[email protected]; A History Honours student at Lady Shri Ram College, I’m a self-certified music nerd, addicted to anything that sounds melodic. Preferences do exist though- Jazz, Alternate Rock, Classical, and electronic if in a slightly eccentric mood. If not found rehearsing a song for an upcoming performance or narrating crazy stories to a group of people, look for someone buried in a ridiculously fat book in the middle of a noisy corridor, oblivious to the world around.

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