Word Sound Power: People, Protest & Poetry

18 July 2012

The members of Word Sound Power are musical and cultural interpreters, although they may not think of themselves this way. They work with revolutionary musicians who reside outside of our affluent urban frame, and bring the protest songs of those musicians to our ears.

The Word Sound Power team both curate and contextualise the sounds, songs, and struggles of rural India’s people movements. We last heard from Word Sound Power on their collaboration with Bant Singh, the Punjabi farmer who faced violent reprisals for his pursuit of a court case against powerful members of his village who raped his daughter.

The latest Word Sound Power project, Blood Earth, goes east to Kucheipadar, Orissa. The team collaborated with artists involved in the protest movement against the human displacement and environmental degradation that has been a hallmark of bauxite mining in the region. Word Sound Power consists of three members. Taru Dalmia, better known in musical circles as Delhi Sultanate, steps away from his roles as Ska Vengers vocalist and BASS Foundation headman to take up emceeing duties for the group. His lyrics, performed in his signature patois, are stronger than ever.

No longer focusing on injustice as a broad concept, he now approaches incidents of state sponsored violence head on, the specificity of his language rending his message increasingly potent.
Brooklyn born DJ and producer Chris McGuiness accompanies Delhi Sultanate’s staccato rhymes with dense and richly atmospheric beats. The songs swirl with echoes of dub and dancehall, awash in the reggae staples of reverb and delay. The sparse nature of dub production allows Chris McGuiness to layer the beats with organic elements that root the songs in the tribal village in which they were recorded. Crickets, rain, human voices, and animal noises all come together to remind the listener that the dancefloor and the village needn’t be so far apart. Most importantly, the instruments and voices of the protest singers of Kucheipadar are given space to be heard. Decontextualised from their original setting and meaning, they remain powerful reminders of injustice and that Word Sound Power is more than just a music project.

The group’s projects are recorded on video by Kush Badhwar, a photographer and videographer who provides a visual context for each work by directing and editing short documentaries. These documentaries make the work, sung in this case in Oriya and Kui, a local tribal language, accessible to an outside audience. Much in the same vein as the Delhi Sultanate’s verses, the film component of Word Sound Power acts as a call to arms. The Blood Earth exhibition due to open later this week will incorporate the collaborative efforts of the team, bringing together images, both moving and still, with the musical fruits of the project, as well as atmospheric sound designed to recapture the environment of Kucheipadar.

The exhibition is due to take place at the Siddhartha hall of the Goethe-Institute/Max Mueller Bhavan from 21 July through to 28 July, open from 10am through to 7pm every day except Sunday and public holidays. The exhibition will include original music, soundscapes and video loops, as well as the film by Kush Badhwar documenting the collaboration. (Trailer below)

The event will launch on Friday 20 July at 7pm.


Words: Kerry Harwin (Source: Border Movement)


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