Music as a tool to protest

Fearless rhythms

Can oppression and exclusion pave way for creativity? Apparently it can. A choir group, Manzil Mystics, brainchild of Anurag Hoon, was found in 2011.

He has a history which he is not afraid to share, “Apart from the stereotype that I had to fight, there were other issue to be dealt with. Being from a gujjar community, I have seen female foeticide and honour killing within my family. Girls are not educated even till class 12 and they have to do purdah,” he sighs.

After loosening ties with his family, he started Mystics along with the co-founders, which today has 13 members. The band sees music as a tool to speak truth, protest and for harmony. Their songs are based on social issues such as environment, gender-based violence, governmental corruption, honour killing, failure in education system in India and others.

Mystics is not the only band which has opted for music as a tool for social justice. But, what makes them different is their audience, who live in some of the most discreet areas of Delhi like Harijan Basti near Ambedkar Colony; MCD School, Dilshad Garden; slum kids of Sanjay Colony in Govind Puri; and GB Road.

“Kisi modd par, agar mushkile aaye, kyu na sathi hum tum ek bann jaye. Hum manzil-manzil tak sath ho, Aao hum dhund le, jivan ke sato rang,” he recites a song for Metrolife.

“Our songs have simple lyrics, but the classical and folk fusion is what gathers the crowd. We’ve performed for large audiences,” says Hoon. Mystics started its journey in Manzil, a non-profit organisation providing a community and resources for local youth from low income backgrounds.

“We believe that music is one of the alternative ways to teach good things to people. We design our activities in a way that we teach how to sing, write, and compose a song, but attendees learn life skills too,” says Hoon.

Though all the musicians are professional and music is the only source of income, they do not charge for these workshops.

“The agenda is to have no agenda at all. The idea is to cross – subsidise the paid shows with the unpaid workshops so whatever we earn through shows and gatherings we give 60 per cent back to community,” says Hoon.

Chai, Coffee, and Music – a quarterly gathering that happens in south Delhi, where they invite fellow musicians and other artistes, is not just for entertainment, but for promoting arts and Indian culture through the gathering.

“We invite theatre artists, musicians, dancers, and comedians to come, perform, and contribute. We just meet and celebrate life through different art forms and drink a lot of chai with Parle G,” exclaims Hoon.

The band is a curious mix of young and professional artistes, a Kabir music vocalist, a rapper, classical and folk singers, Gurbani singer, a rhythm guitarist, a djembe player (an African drum) and last but not the least, a photographer and filmmaker, as most of the messages are spread through social media today.

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