How demonetisation has rocked Bhojpuri pop music vibe

Because it’s not enough to just sexualise humans, one must extend the courtesy to currency as well.

 |  6-minute read |   24-11-2016
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If you thought bad rhyming words killed poetry and music, you have not yet explored the rich YouTube storehouse of Bhojpuri commercial pop. And if you have by any chance opened a single video, I can bet that nothing in this world can make you un-see it.

The beats, the random lyrics and the catchy moves, it all meaninglessly fits. Although there are a lot of repetitive features (like the "choli") in these videos, from time to time there is a unique spin to them. 

Like most contemporary regional pop music which relies on YouTube for its circulation, Bhojpuri commercial pop too is seen to be catching up with the abruptly changing times. And a common thread binds them all - they try very, very hard to rhyme, for example, honth (lips) - with note. Get the brilliance?

It is almost an existential effort, every subject in these videos, without any rhyme or reason is somehow tied to the most primal instinct - sex. And many actually believe that it has always been like that - crass and vulgar.

This is however not true, with the change of medium, that is, from the word of mouth to cassettes to video, a lot of subjects in Bhojpuri songs have been stripped away from their colloquial-ness. You need to read Peter Manuel for that.

bhojbd_112416060715.jpg Even the most unthinkable and troublesome topics are made analogous to sexual activities.

What we get to view on YouTube is, therefore, a picture of absolute adulteration - of content that was powerful in its initial forms. The sexual innuendoes used by women in these videos, for example, were way different in the songs, but now anything "female" only exists to satisfy male sexual desires in these videos.

Even the most unthinkable and troublesome topics are made analogous to sexual activities. Let’s not apply rationality here, at all.

Take for instance, the current currency crackdown by PM Modi, which has bruised the hearts of many a singer.

This song, for example, ''Bada re sunar lage doo hazaar ke notwaa" (The two thousand rupee note is shiny/sexy).

It is set to an addictive uptempo disco beat (with the kind of keyboard patches fashionable among birthday parties for 12-year-olds), but the central takeaway is the way it sexualises the new Rs 2,000 note. Because it’s not enough to just sexualise humans, one must extend the courtesy to currency as well.

As if the refrain did not make that point clearly enough, the singer croons, in the first para:

  • Chikkan-choukan pink color mein,
  • doobar patar note haa
  • Lage take naihano char dulhan ke hoth baa
  • Din bhar line lagne
  • Tab jaake soorta dekhi

A quick translation would go something like this:

  • "Slick and smooth, in resplendent pink, a slim, skinny new note,
  • Methinks it looks like a bride's made-up lips,
  • You have to queue up for an entire day,
  • Before you can catch a glimpse of this beauty."

Neruda would be put to shame at this effortlessly sexed-up verse. The singer clearly wants to do with the Rs 2,000 note what spring does to the cherry trees.

Then, there is the masterpiece, "Laagal dilwa pe chot, band bhail hajariya ke note" (The thousand rupee note is banned/ And this breaks my heart).

It’s another song that's a thinly-veiled piece of demonetisation propaganda.

At the beginning of the song, the beleaguered and clueless singer (who being clueless is, of course, female) wails about her meagre savings being made worthless. A guy then steps in and mansplains the sh*t out of the demonetisation saga, assuring her that her money is safe.

Public service announcement via cringe-pop? You bet.

Other Bhojpuri songs cut to the heart of the matter and address the dark knight directly. One called, "Jug Jug Jiya Modiji" (Long live, Modiji), waxes eloquent about Modi's supposed crime fighting-via-demonetisation. The singer wails "Kala dhan ke kaam va tamaam kaila" (He dealt a fatal blow to the black-money brigade).

The preachy Satsang-kind voice of the singer in "Jai Jai Modi Sarkar Ki" is optimistic that finally with demonetisation, the country will free itself from the foreign rule. It claims that "is kade faisle se sattar pratishat naagrik sahmat hain" (70 per cent of citizens agree with this tough decision).

The poll under question was clearly one culled from Modi's app, which did not include a "disagree" option.

The song even says, at one point, "Sab ke haathon mein dekho do do hazaar/ Laya chehre pe nikhaar hai" (In everyone's hands, the new two-thousand rupee notes/ On everyone's faces, a shiny new glow).

Now, many of my friends are of the opinion that Bhojpuri commercial pop has suddenly transformed, it’s begun to question politics! I am afraid, that’s really tempting to say.

For the objectification of female desire remains just where it is. The bad rhymes are still at place. The shrieks from clueless (seemingly androgynous) voices as a woman enters the set are also the same.

It’s just that the gross symbolism associated with a female’s body parts have now reached a much wider (national, so to speak) audience. Because now even the Bhojpuri commercial pop industry realise they too need the nation’s cult hero, to sell their songs and their women.

In a song titled "Kehu naike lait pansui ya hajariya", the first four lines

  • "Kehu naike lait pansui ya hajariya
  • De daa tu hamraa sau ke nambariya
  • Deba ta khiyaai be rasgullaho
  • De daa humraa ke khulla"

It translates into:

  • "Nobody accepts 500 and 1000-rupee notes anymore
  • Give me a bunch of 100s, love
  • If you give me 100s, I'll feed you rasgullas
  • Please, oh please, give me change."

 

This song can be interpreted in two ways: One is an honest plea by a shopkeeper (selling rasgullas), asking customers to give change. The other, as the woman in the YouTube screen shows, is a courtesan/item girl/dancing woman who is asking her patrons to shower her, but only in 100 rupee notes. If you shower her in 100s, the girl says, she will offer you rasgullas!

While I am still recovering from the institutionalised harassment that the PM has ignited, Bhojpuri commercial pop has brought back some humour into my life.

In fact, few days back at a bank’s queue, I had been grooving to these tunes for about six hours. A familiar funny Uncle asked me, "Aaj bhi earphones ke saath aa gayi?” (You got your earphones today as well?). He burst into eerie laughter immediately.

It’s amazing how much power exists in collective humour, a gist of which I got in these queues.

Now if only someone could make a Bhojpuri song about Modi's wife running away due to lack of Rs 100 notes?

Also read: How black money hoarders are using Northeast to outsmart the government

Writer

Rini Barman Rini Barman @barman_rini

Independent writer and researcher, Guwahati

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