www.thehindu.com | April 20 2020
Isolation isn’t easy and may be music will keep us company through the trying times.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us into necessary isolation. Many of us are spending anxious hours sitting inside our homes and surfing social media for further updates. We are surrounded by a mountain of anxiety. Amidst all-pervasive gloom, I couldn’t help notice the steadfast outpouring of music on social media platforms. Many of the songs posted are new compositions specific to the situation. While most of these are indeed rib-tickling and perhaps merit no serious artistic attention, we ought not to dismiss this phenomenon. It perhaps reinforces the idea that tragedy invariably leads to comedy.
Republican Party of India supremo Ramdas Athawale’s video, where he is seen chanting “Go Corona, Corona Go” along with the Chinese Consul General in Mumbai, Tang Guocai, went viral and the novel coronavirus crisis found an unintended anthem in his utterance. “Go Corona, Corona Go” has been widely remixed and parodied. If it were a Hindi film song, it would have been a blockbuster. I say this while fully aware of the abysmal standards of contemporary Hindi film music. This can surely be called COVID-19’s ‘Kajrare moment’. Amongst other things, I also saw an edited clip from a Jim Carrey film where the famous actor is dancing hysterically to the aforementioned ‘corona anthem’. Far from true, this video regardless brought some cheer during a stressful time.
The pursuit of a ‘Raag Corona’
Another video of a group of women singing “Corona Bhaag Jao” (“Run away corona”) received much attention. It was sung akin to a religious offering or prayer for benediction purposes. The Internet is also abuzz with some Bhojpuri singers using the COVID-19 outbreak to peddle several songs indicating what mayhem the virus might cause to the womenfolk. For anyone familiar with the raunchy lyrics of such Bhojpuri songs, the indications are obscene.
Someone also shared a video of well-known devotional singer, Narendra Chanchal, singing “Kitthe Aaya Corona Maiyyaji” (“Where Did Corona Come From, Oh Goddess?”) at a religious gathering and the audience looked deeply absorbed. There are numerous others using film songs to spread safety messages. Some are using familiar tunes while writing new lyrics pertinent to the situation. Many classical musicians are playing Facebook live recitals to stay in touch with their fans. On a lighter note, should we be surprised lest someone came up with a ‘Raag Corona’?
Numerous rappers have also risen to the occasion. We had our Italy moment too when some residents of a housing society in Gurugram came out on their balconies to recite the Gayatri Mantra and “Hum Honge Kamyaab” (“We Shall Overcome”). Music seems to have captured everyone’s fancy in distress.
But why music? After all, singing will not destroy the virus and restore better times. Easy ways to resolve this could be that a catchy tune will spread faster because it has an immediate mass connect. This music might also offer momentary relief or escape from our grim ongoings by eliciting some much-needed humour. It is an easy communication tool and thus an effective message dissemination service if properly used at a time when most of us are spending inordinate amounts of time online. Or is it that we are so vulnerable in the face of distress that we cling to anything that generates promise or serves as a distraction? The caveat, however, remains that none of these songs will be remembered after the pandemic. Is this only for temporary fame then? A poet colleague recently told me that this is also resistance. A catastrophe has been unleashed and there is very little that we can do other than trying to stay safe. Isolation isn’t easy and may be music will keep us company through the trying times.
- Prof. Kunal Ray, Assistant Professor – English Literature
*Views expressed are personal.