Friday, February 13, 2009

‘Justice Rocks series’- A Musical Journey for Social Change

‘Justice Rocks series’- A Musical Journey for Social Change
Syed Ali Mujtaba

A flurry of activity is going on the musical scene in Chennai. Last month the city was abuzz with Tamil Sangamam, where folk artists performed in every nook and corner of the city, giving musical touch to the harvest festivity of “Pongal.”

Hardly, the drum beats of the Sangamam artists could dry up, a Chennai based ‘Youth for Social Change’ organized ‘1000 Bhopals’ concert under the banner ‘Justice Rocks’ series on 7 and 8 February, 2009 at the Bucks Theatre, YMCA grounds.

‘1000 Bhopals’ concert was the brainchild of few youngsters who had earlier organised the ‘No More Bhopals’ concert on 7 December 2008 in Chennai, in support of the 24th anniversary of the 1984 Bhopal Gas Disaster.

“The 1000 Bhopals concert is to highlight the fact that Bhopal is not merely the place where a dreadful disaster took place 24 years ago, it can happen anywhere because of the pollution caused by the industries,” said Jeny Dolly, member of the forum, ‘Youth for Social Change.’

Proceeds from the concert will be forwarded to Bhopal gas tragedy survivors, she added.

The concert featured 14 college and school bands, with three professional bands Yodhaka, Rainbow Bridge and Karnatriix. The concert was amalgamation of all genres of music; Jazz, rock, classical, experimental music, fusion and Tamil folk.

This was the second concert of its kind under the banner ‘Justice Rocks series.’ The first was ‘Lever Fever’ in March 2008, to highlight the issue of Unilever's thermometer production plant in Kodaikanal polluting the environment.

Youth for Social Change was formed two years ago, with the thought that musical concerts are a perfect way to reach out to schools and colleges within Chennai.

It’s organizing Justice Rocks series of concerts targeting the youth to convey the message of social justice through music. It aims at exposing youngsters to contemporary issues through music of different genres.

“When we hear music, it registers in our mind and is an apt instrument to spread awareness. Spreading a social message through music is less aggressive and more inclusive and is of interest to listeners, says Jeny Dolly, member of the forum.”

“Youth for social change sticks to its stand of ‘No corporate funding’ and their concerts are funded with voluntary contributions, by musicians, audience, activists and small businesses,” said Sidharth, a musician and organizer of the concert.

“We are trying to establish an alternative culture in Chennai and youngsters chip in with money to conduct concerts. The bands perform free, the sound systems come with a concession, the venues are available free, it is a voluntary initiative and the chain reaction is happening,” he added.

A pool of amazing musical talent was on display spread over two evenings. The most interesting and unconventional band was that of Sofi, who wore “Burqa” and red necktie and regaled the youth crowd with her Islamic rap.
It was an amazing contrast to see girls wearing hot pants and micro mini skirts, slapping their bare legs for mosquito bites watching a performer wearing “Burqa” on stage.

Go buy a “Burqa,” Sofi yelled to her friends in the crowd suggesting them how to save themselves from the mosquito bites.

There were stalls set up on the entrance along with the food court that sold T shirts and badges, headbands with all kinds of slogans along with those on Bhopal.

Many political statements were made by the performers. Sofi condemned terrorism and debunked it as Jihad. There was a worldly duel between her and other boy, one being DOW Union Carbide and other the victims voice. There was a solo guitar performance with the lyrics based on the sufferings of the Bhopal gas tragedy.

The highlight of the musical concert was participation of over with fifty youth and their parents who had come from Bhopal to grace the occasion. Many of the adults were wearing dark glasses and a few children born after the gas tragedy looked physically challenged.

‘Justice Rocks series’ is definitely a great initiative by the ‘Youth for Social Change.’ Their bold political statement through the musical journo is something that needs to be not only appreciated but also applauded.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is working journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at

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