Transgenders cut a music album

Transgenders cut a music album

Songs sung by transwomen from different part of the country are part of a new music album brought out with the aim to provide such people a platform to showcase talent and break stereotypes.

"The idea was conceived to break the stereotypical portrayal of transgenders in the mainstream. Transgenders are known to sing in a particular fashion and at special occasions in India and our perception is limited to that.

This is an attempt to give transwomen and transgender people a chance to showcase their talent, their creativity and express themselves in front of the world," says Anubhav Gupta, Director, Jeevan Trust.

Gupta says he conceived the idea executed jointly with Abhivyakti Foundation with support from a international organisation called PlanetRomeo Foundation.

The album titled "Caravan" claims to be the first collection of songs by transwomen. "The fact that these people can sing and sing very well will be established when you will hear the songs. Even films have a way of stereotypical way of portraying them. The main idea is to promote music irrespective of gender. Music itself has no gender,"says Gupta.

Nine transwomen from 9 states recorded 13 songs in the album giving it a pan India flavor. The album comprises folk songs, self composed poetry, Rabindra Sangeet among others.

Participants hail from diverse socio-cultural backgrounds having fought the societal stereotypes they have now established themselves in business or professional fields. Many of them are activists having travelled widely all over the world to promote the rights of transgenders.

"Akkai Padmashaili from Karnatka, Amitava Sarkar from West Bengal, Ankur Patil from Gujarat, Kalki Subramaniam from Auroville, Kanta Leisinghatham from Manipur, N Madhurima from Andhra Pradesh, Kalyani from Mumbai and Hansa from Rajasthan.

One the key pointers of the project is that Almost all 5 out of 9 participants hold a degree or diploma in music either in Hindustani vocal, Carnatic vocal or Rabindra Sangeet which was an eye opener for all of us," said Gupta.

These trans women have not only faced adversaries at home work and social front they have fought long battles with their own selves and finally have emerged victorious. Music is the universal language which helps heal, celebrate and rejoice.

These women have spent years in music training and have finally come together to sing, cherish and celebrate their lives and their voices in front of the world.

Akkai Padamshaili is a Human Rights activist working with non-profit organization 'Sangama' in Bangalore which focuses on social and economic betterment of sexual minorities and sex workers in the region.

Akkai has been fighting for the rights of the gender minority community for the past two decades feels that things have begun to alter in the traditional Indian mindset as she can witness subtle and appreciable changes taking place in terms of how the issue is now perceived.

"It was a great feeling to record for the album and use my singing talent to be a part of a unique and creative project. I was slightly skeptical. Someone else had approached me before with a similar idea but that did not materialize. But with anubhav's persuasion soon the trust grew and it has led to a wonderful product," says Padamshaili.

Ankur Patil, a transgender hailing from strict society in Gujarat says she had to face troubles since childhood and never good fit into the society.

"...It is very difficult to describe my journey. It had started in childhood. When we were in class 5, students around me started to understand that I was different they started discriminating. They used to sit on other benches. Teachers used to make fun, students used to make fun. Teachers even sexually abused me," says Patil.

Leaving all the bad memories behind Patil says she got her degree in vocal music. "I was always fond of singing so I got into Maharaja University of Baroda Gujarat in 'Performing arts in vocal'," says Patil.

A song 'Jodi Tor Dak Shun Keo Na Ashe Tobe Ekla Cholo Re' inspired by Rabindranath Tagore has been sung by Amitava Sarkar from West Bengal.

"Long ago during Durgapuja I went to visit Pandals with two friends. It was a public place and in-front of so many other visitors some guys tried to harass us and instead of shouting for help no one came to help us. I can still remember the incident the trauma of which was very difficult to overcome. We went to the local association who organised the Puja and finally after a long struggle we managed to rescue ourselves from the situation," says Sarkar.

"We have to provide dignified life to transgender people we have to work at two levels – a) building capacity of transgender people and b) promoting more advocacy related initiatives on transgender issues at all walks of lives - from family level to policy level. Music, films etc. are the good mediums to sensitize people in a simple and easy way.

My basic objective for being associated with this initiative was, through my song I have to influence people around trans issues and at the same time giving a message to my own people towards raising their self-esteem, which can bring much more support and acceptance for people like us from the mainstream society," Sarkar says.

Other participants too have similar stories of harassment in society but that has not stopped them to come out and claim their rights in the society.

Participants recorded, composed and mixed the tracks in their respective states and everything was then finally mastered and digitized in Delhi. A small booklet about the artists is also the part of the album.

"We are looking at an early late July or early august release. There is a fair bit of curiosity in the project from people and questions as well. We plan to release the songs on digital and hard copy formats that will be available in various stores as well as online websites  at national and international level. We are still looking for sponsors to do an event launch. Our own website will also be ready soon.  We are working backwards now to bring out the album." says Gupta.

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