Most Indians have at some point or the other heard the hit Bhojpuri song “Lollypop Lagelu” – it became quite the YouTube phenomenon when it was released in 2015 and now has over 92 million likes. It made its singer Pawan Singh a star.
The popular perception about Bhojpuri music is that they either have raunchy lyrics or that they are about feelings of longing for home. The profanity still continues, but the cut-throat competition on YouTube for likes and views and the pressure to stand out have pushed the Bhojpuri music industry to newer territories. And with Prime Minister Narendra Modi fighting to return to power in the mammoth 2019 Lok Sabha elections, politics cannot be far.
Lalu and Nitish reunite in songs
The current political climate of the country has acted as a catalyst for new and emerging Bhojpuri musicians. A simple YouTube search with words like ‘Bhojpuri’, ‘politics’ and ‘songs’ brings up many music videos based on Lalu Prasad Yadav, Nitish Kumar and Narendra Modi.
Most of these songs use techno music and the voices of the singers are auto-tuned. The music is catchy and the lyrics simple – which is perhaps why they attain popularity so quickly.
The rift between Rashtriya Janata Dal and Janata Dal (United) — a watershed moment in Bihar politics – has especially permeated the Bhojpuri song universe.
For instance, the song ‘Nitish chhodale sath (Nitish broke ties)’ sung by Rahul Ranjan and produced by Max Studio talks about how Nitish Kumar did not take the right step by parting ways with Lalu.
Another song, “Achara pasari Rabri maiya” sung by Chhotu Chhaliya celebrates Lalu Prasad Yadav and mourns his arrest. The song calls Lalu’s wife Rabri Devi as “Rabri Maiya (mother)” and has garnered almost four lakh views in a short span of 20 days.
Ode to Modi and BJP
The Bhojpuri songs are not confined to regional politics only. They revolve around anything that is topical and can fetch views on YouTube.
The song ‘Abaki baar no Chaukidar (No Chowkidar this time)’ sung by Shreya Yadav and produced by BSD Bhojpuri says: “Cycliya ke button dabawe da, phir se Akhilesh ke aabe da (Press the cycle button and make Akhilesh victorious)”.
Another song is a reaction to singer-actor ‘Nirahua’ (Dinesh Lal Yadav) joining the BJP recently in Uttar Pradesh. The song “Nirahua Bhail Gaddar” sung by Dinu Lal Yadav, calls Nirahua a traitor and criticises him for joining the BJP. It has over two lakh views already.
After the Pulwama-Balakot episode, many songs have been based on the relationship between India and Pakistan. Most of these songs glorify the BJP and PM Narendra Modi’s policies. They are nationalistic and often Islamophobic.
The song “Surgical Strike 2” sung by Dhananjay Sharma says: “Jaish ke thikana par vaar Modi ji kaile bade, Pakistan main Bharat ke aukaat phir dikhaule bade (Modi targeted Jaish camps and showed Pakistan India’s might again).” The comments on the song on YouTube unanimously say “Jai Hind”.
“Pura Pakistan Jala Denge” sung and released by Jallu Raja only a few days after the Pulwama attack in February patches together visuals of war, blood-thirsty Indians and despairing former Pakistani presidents. “Mangabe je Kashmir ta dhar ke sina faad deb (If you demand Kashmir, we will tear you),” the song proudly announces.
But all the songs don’t profess love for the BJP or Modi. There are songs that mock the BJP for losing the three crucial assembly elections in December last year. Some also poke fun at ‘chaiwala’ and ‘chowkidar’ Narendra Modi.
Modi, the redeemer
These political songs are sung not just by newcomers seeking to make their mark in the Bhojpuri industry, but by the big stars too.
Pawan Singh, who sang “Lollypop Lagelu” also lent his voice to “Abhinandan ka abhinandan hai” after Pakistan returned the IAF pilot to India. The song has more than 82 lakh views on YouTube.
Pawan Paswan, a young Bhojpuri singer, says, “We don’t know what are Modi ji’s policies, but we know only he can redeem this country.”
Sandeep Chaturvedi, who sang “Yeh hai mere Ram ki dharti”, comes from Ayodhya and identifies himself as a ‘nationalist’. The 23-year-old tells us that his songs aim to create awareness about his dharm and nation. His videos are flooded with comments like “Jai shri Ram” and fans supporting the idea of a Hindu Rashtra. Chaturvedi boasts that his stage shows in Bihar easily attract around 15,000 fans, despite negligible publicity.
“To date, no politician has been able to avenge an enemy the way Modi did,” Raja says.
A viral Bhojpuri video can easily get a million views, but for a newbie like Raja, even a thousand views is a big deal and help him gain recognition in small circles.
Controversy-free but political
In a narrow lane in Ganesh Nagar, east Delhi, an inconspicuous music studio offers a platform to many emerging Bhojpuri musicians.
A group of five people sit in Ambey Studio discussing their forthcoming releases. During this brainstorming session, one of the concerns raised is about singing political songs but also avoiding controversy.
Pravin Samrat, a 27-year-old singer from Motihari district of Bihar, has gained significant recognition in the industry. When he sang “Atal sang Sonia faraar”, he got into quite the controversy and was compelled to pull the song down from YouTube.
The singers in the studio zero in on the “Main Bhi Chowkidar” campaign launched by the BJP and PM Modi. After discussing various options like ‘yaar chowkidar’, ‘pyaar chowkidar’ and ‘chowkidar dildaar’, Samrat decides to sing “Mera balma chowkidar hai (my lover is a chowkidar)”. Others grin.
Vikas, the owner of Ambey studio is aware of this rising political trend in the Bhojpuri music industry. “These days the political scene is rife, therefore, songs with political themes are crowding the industry,” he says.
And the audience isn’t complaining.
Rajat Mishra and Midhat Fatimah are freelance journalists. Views are personal.
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