Heartened by superior community’s responsiveness towards alterity and sexual autonomy, the media in India has begun experimenting with the illustration of the forbidden pleasures and ‘realities’. But does the media do justice to the queer representation? Read to find out more about the pride music scene in India.
Sexuality and its alternative dynamics are taboo subjects in Indian society. They can turn family dinner conversations into awkward disasters. Of course, society does influence the media and entertainment industry. Especially, the mainstream music industry’s handling of the diverse area of cultural usage raises the question of representation. Certainly, the coverage centered around the Queer community; frequently needs to be appealing for the so-called traditional Indian values aka Sanskaar. Does this dual nature push the debate of what is perceived to be publicly moral?
Over time the Queer groups have gained greater visibility and are pressing for their legal rights and social recognition. Away from the mainstream, a wave of Indian Queer artists is emerging as standalone singer-songwriters and vocalists leading bands with heterosexual musicians. These individuals have created their places, engaging in multiple genres such as folk, blues, jazz, funk and neo-disco. Queer musicians in India raise the question of ethics concerning the mainstream coverage. By insisting on ethics of representation, one is not turning away from politics, rather fighting a legal battle against both the political rights, which more often than not rides the moral high horse for political reasons and the hegemonic regime of compulsory heterosexuality.
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The song Lingering Wine by LGBTQIA+ singer-songwriter and musical artist Pragya Pallavi has a sensual, jazzy soul homage to same-sex love. Thematically, her album Queerism talks about the struggles of queer people, celebrates the decriminalization of LGBTQIA+ identities in India, and address issues such as millennial feminism, social justice, global warming, suicide prevention, and love. The album features English and English/Hindi compositions, with collaborations with National Award-winning sound engineer K.J. Singh, an Indian DJ and “Mother of Electronica” Ma Faiza.
The song itself includes Pragya’s soulful music compositions and powerful vocals. Also, the song encapsulated a universal appeal luring lovers of all sexualities. The composition of the song gives a unique blend of disco and EDM, hip-hop and jazz soul, to Indian fusion, funk, and dancehall.
If Bollywood Songs Were Rap
Lilly Singh, a YouTube star dropped a music video in 2019 video called If Bollywood Songs Were Rap, which includes interpretations of several hit songs of the mainstream Bollywood. The video touches on topics including women empowerment, bisexuality (Lilly too recently came out as a bisexual) and mental health.
In the first song, Choli Ke Peeche Kya Hai, Lilly, who recently became the first Indian women to get her late-night show, takes on stereotypical objectification of women especially in the entertainment industry, talks about strong and badass ladies and how women can rule in any field. In the second song, All Izz Well, her rap talk about mental health and how it is okay to ask for help if one is going through a bad time in their life. But in the end, with the popular song Aankh Marey, her rap embodies the dynamics of sexuality and even touches her coming out story. Apart from normalizing bisexuality, the music video embodies a beautiful message, “Regardless of all the things we’ve been told and taught, you’re beautiful and deserve respect.”
Let Me Explain
In the same year 2019, Guwahati based singer-songwriter Rahul Rajkhowa made a landing with his music video, Let Me Explain. The video depicts a lesbian relationship intermingled with shots of beautiful Sikkim, marking itself the beginning of Pride Month. Notably, the video opens with the message, “dedicated to those who fought against Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.”
Rajkhowa in this song takes a different track by dropping his aggressive rapping style and shifting to chill music, putting people in a relaxed groovy state while pushing them to think about the social issue at the same time. The calming lo-fi hip-hop beats perfectly suit Rajkhowa’s verses about love and sexuality. Rajkhowa emphasizes the importance of strong messages his song delivers, adding during an interview with the Rolling Stone, he said, “If you can sing about an important relatable issue over catchy verses and groovy music, you can’t possibly go wrong.”
Love is Love
Article 377 criminalizing homosexuality was repealed from the Indian Constitution in the year 2018. Commemorating this moment of pride for India’s LGBTQ community meant doing something truly unique for the masses. And Swedish artist, musician, and founder of international LGBTQ organization Rainbow Riots, Petter Wallenberg, found the perfect milestone to strike the joy in Pride.
A year later India got its first Pride Anthem, featuring former Mr Gay India and singer Sushant Divgikar, aka Rani Ko-He-Nur. The song not only embodies the message about the importance of love and equality when it comes to being true to one’s authentic self but also adds another dynamic to the LGBTQIA+ movement in India. It states that the story and the struggle simply do not stop with the overturning of Section 377, but there are still a few chapters to go before the Queer community reaches a happy ending.
The supplementary video was shot onsite at India’s first legally recognized Pride in February 2019. The choir featuring aims to be an advocate for equality, compassion and inclusion, to spread a message of love and acceptance through the transformative power of music, and to provide a safe space and platform for queer musicians and singers to express themselves without fear or prejudice.
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Giving queer artists equal representation not only helps in normalizing the upscaled notion of sexuality in society, but also imparts a sense of acceptance and confidence in the artists. But despite the awareness and change in the law decriminalizing homosexuality, the queer community in India still finds it hard to be accepted for who they are. They are not accepted by society, and most often bullied and deemed as abnormal entities. The musicians from the LGBTQ+ community are rather apprehensive of their music getting stereotyped because of their very sexuality and identity. Rather the march has just begun in India and needs to be amplified and sensitized by the beats of cognizance and acceptance, breaking the shackles of inherent perception.
Feature Image Credits: Hindustan Times