Melodies of Change: How Indian Musicians Are Rallying Against Environmental Challenges

Music serves as a platform for raising awareness.
Music serves as a platform for raising awareness.L:, R:
As an artist, I have to believe that we have a duty to rage on, to create, against all odds, against resistance, to play and create.
Soumik Datta

The juggernaut of concerts, festivals and live gigs has long been associated with a tremendous carbon footprint. The hordes of people shuttling in flights, slugging from single-use water bottles and trashing the venues have compelled prominent bands like Coldplay to begin a dialog around improving the sustainability of such large scale public events. Other than trying to remedy its own transgressions, the Indian music industry is also fostering environmental advocacy through their lyrics, album covers and videos as the climate crisis grows more and more imminent.

In this curated playlist, we take a look at some Homegrown artists who are at the frontline of ecological advocacy.

I. Gauley Bhai — Aunty Ko Tato Bagaicha

Steeped in the folk tradition of Gandarbha Sangeet from Nepal, South Indian Singari rhythms and an intercultural afflatus with Malian blues, this Bengaluru based ethnic rock band has composed a nostalgic ditty to the fading charms of the Teesta river that flows through Sikkim and West Bengal. Aunty Ko Tato Bagaicha's narrative follows a worker bee from the hive to the garden of pleasures where he loses the way back to the queen, lost in the excesses of the materialistic universe. With Gauley Bhai's plaintive violin transitions underscoring the poignancy of deforestation, ebullient group vocals and electric guitar riffs simulating a chase sequence crescendo, the track dissembles into a jazz-kissed reverie that sounds like an outburst of raging water through the cracks in our poorly built dams.

II. Indian Ocean — Tu Hai

Following an eight year long hiatus, the eco-philosophers of fusion rock band Indian Ocean have released a deeply evocative 6-track EP that grazes untrodden sonic pastures. Headlining at the Nature inFocus Festival this July in Bengaluru, their latest album Tu Hai imbibes strains of Carnatic music leavened with classical jazz by collaborators like George Brooks and percussionist Vikku Vinayakram, while the bucolic Sufi-Kashmiri minstrel singing they are known for resurfaces sporadically in tracks like Tu Hai and Rebirth. The first single Jaadu Maaya, written by Varun Grover, lambasts the ineffectual world leaders for not being able to severe ties with fossil fuel driven economies with a music video that pits climate refugees and polar bears as the unfortunate David against the Goliath of hyper-consumerism.

III. Rain In Sahara — Where's The Fire?

Guwahati-born, electronica-informed rock band Rain In Sahara recently detonated a spitfire, nu metal single tapping into the climate anxiety and post-pandemic paranoia of disaffected youth in our country. Apoplectic, death growl riddled with five-stringed bass guitars Where's The Fire is an ear-splitting tirade apprising you of how insidiously techno-feudalism has already transformed our world. The jarring dissonance of the synthesizer syncopates with the staccato drumming, the mood is decidedly alarmist and anti-establishment, belting out a grunge anthem against the nanny state bureaucracy unwilling to recognise the environmental emergency.

IV. Soumik Datta — Jangal

Forged in the fires of indigenous livelihoods sacrificed at the altar of development, Soumik Datta's Jangal is an instrumental album that synchronises the sarod with Latin percussion, Swiss hang drums and analogue synths to rage against the deforestation happening worldwide from the Amazon to the Sunderbans back home. Deftly weaving images and music together in his audio-visual creations like award-winning Songs of the Earth, Soumik is a Bengali-born British-Indian performer who has taken up the mantle to represent marginalised communities from countries in the South facing climate inequality.

Recognising their own privileges and using their music as a platform to raise awareness for crushing issues plaguing our planet today, game changers like Soumik are representative of a new vanguard rousing their fans to defy climate complacency in an age when people place more trust in artists and influencers than scientists and politicians.

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