“Doob Doob Jaana Mai Nai Tarna
Mai Tan Ankhan Band Kar Turna
Fadh ke Jutti Hath Vich Khadna
Mai Tan Ankhan Band Kar Turna
Doob Doob Jana Mai Nai Tarna
Maa Ne Meri Mai Nai darna”

These lines from the song 'Maa Ne Meri' composed by Swaang, a Mumbai based cultural group, as a tribute to the brutal Delhi gangrape victim of December 2013, are a constant reminder of the struggle we have to wage to stop and resist violence against women and girls. 

The Kriti team had the opportunity to bring Swaang to Delhi and Dehradun in solidarity to the One Billion Rising Campaign, and Women's Day campaigns, so that many more can rise to combat violence against women! As a team, that believes in promoting an alternative culture of performing arts, for the Kritians, this April Journey was dedicated to progressive music! 

Swaang shares our belief that "art must be used beyond entertainment as every artist has a responsibility to be part of the change" and this made the journey even more amazing.  Swaang members include actors, writers, music directors, musicians, and producers all working in different capacities in the Bombay film industry, but whose hearts continue to pull towards progressive politics due to their past associations with the same. Their repertoire includes protest songs based on the writings of legendery poets like Faiz Ahmed Faiz, Dushyant Kumar, Gorakh Pandey and some original writings of the group. 

On 1st April 2013, we presented Swaang with its first music concert in Delhi, as part of an evening of 'Laughing and Singing our Way Forward', organised by Sangat and Jagori with the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi. An evening highlighted by Kamla Bhasin's feminist jokes, Sonam Kalra's mystical performance of the Sufi Gospel Project and other feminist songs, the vocals, strings and drums of the nine member Swaang troupe (Rohit, Swara, Ravinder, Pankaj, Brinchi, Indrajeet, Jack, Manash, Bidrohee) had the audience of over 400 people singing and dancing along till late that night. 

The opening performance with Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s "Chand Roz Aur" set the tone for the evening, that struck many chords with songs on corporatisation, the poor and homeless, children who labour, women and citizens...Merging music with poetry is what makes Swaang stand out with the sounds they create, and on request, they recited, ‘A river of Girls’ composed by Tishani Doshi for Save the Children - a poem about the cries of the ten million and more girls who were killed before being born...
This is not the cry
of a beginning, or a riverburied in the bowels of the earth.This is the sound of ten million girlssinging of a time in the universewhen they were born with tigersbreathing between their thighs;when they set out for battlewith all three eyes on fire,their golden breasts held highlike weapons to the sky.

Keeping up with the spirit of the show, the last song got everyone in sync as Swaang sang..."Tu Zinda Hai to Zindagi ki Jeet par Yakeen Kar" and a medley of other oft heard lyrics (including Damadam Mast Kalandar) ending with the whole auditorium resounding with the sounds of Mahilayen Maange Aazadi, Ladkiya maange Aazadi, Padhne ki aazadi, Kuch Kahene ki Aazadi....

On 3rd April 2013, Swaang took the stage of the Open Air Theatre at the Jawaharlal Nehru University from 9 to 11 pm, where it had over 600 students listening and responding (some with tears in their eyes) to the lyrics of "Maa Nee Meri""Jamalo" (a song that celebrates a woman's different struggles), smiling at "Sur Suri"...which speaks of the endless chai shai times that   
many of us spend,while pondering on the 

vagaries of our politics and society, thinking of the homeless and poor on the streets with "Khwabon ke Hawalon se", and showing solidarity to the protest music of the evening. This performance was well received by JNUites, many of who share common grounds with progressive cultural groups like Swaang.

Travelling by an early morning train the next day, we reached the foothills of Uttarakhand,to its capital city, Dehradun. Staying amidst the hills and hearing the whistling sounds of the many birds and the trees that surrounded us, we were energised for the concert on 5th April 2013 at the Town Hall Auditorium. Organised in collaboration with the Uttarakhand Network on Violence against Women, this evening brought together the Swaang music, along with a contemporary dance performance by our friends of the Stance Dance Studio, who had spent almost eight hours since reaching Dehradun a day before, to choreograph 20 young girls and boys from the community to join their performance on stage! 

"cha.nd roz aur merii jaan faqat cha.nd hii roz 
zulm kii chhaa.Nv me.n dam lene par majabuur hai.n ham
ik zaraa aur sitam sah le.n ta.Dap le.n ro le.n
apane ajdaad kii miiraas hai maazuur hai.n ham

The programme was presented to a full hall of 500+ people, mesmerized by what they heard and saw, a first time experience for most in that city! Dancing to the beats of the Swaang songs, clapping and applauding the lyrics of the songs heard on the kind of democracy we have and the high handedness of our governments, many school and college students as well as activists and ex-army officers and wives spent an evening that was most meaningful and heartwarming along with being entertaining. 

The contemporary dance by Himani, Sushant, Mousumi and Vidushi on the song 'Break the Chains' saw them perform "Svabhavsiddha"- a pledge to understand, acknowledge and celebrate one's identity and self worth as a woman, with a beautiful interplay of text, movement and danceThey were joined in the finale with a lot of energy, dancing and balloons, celebrating the power of women to resist violence and empower themselves, as the girls and boys danced to their fullest!  The audience was happy to see the groups working in solidarity on violence against women issues and hoped that such efforts would gain more ground. 

Kriti Team thanks all the partner organizations and Save The Children for their support to make these events possible, and we hope to continue these protest and progressive art journeys.... 

Photo Credits: Soumen Nath for Save the Children, Sharat Ponia, Anurag Verma for Kriti Team, Aakriti Gupta and others for Kriti Team
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