By Shiva Thorat, TwoCircles.net
‘Music for a cause’ has been used, and abused by artists so often that one cannot help but become a little sceptical when anothet artist uses the same words. However, in the case of Asit Sapkale, a 24-year-old singer, composer and an artist from Nerul, Navi Mumbai, the raison d’être of his music is his cause, nothing more. His music exists because of the oppression he has witnessed and experienced, so it is only logical that for Sapkale sings on subjects that other supposedly liberal artists would not touch with a two-feet pole.
Sapkale, who belongs to the Mahar community, has grown up around, and inmersed in, Ambedkarite politics. His family is from Ambewade village, Ratnagiri district. His father moved to Mumbai 30 years back.
Like his music, his life is also a constant struggle against the challenges that he faces. Even as he tries to build a career in music, he knows that he does not have the resources to sustain himself. He is doing Bachelors of Arts in Psychology and Marathi at the historical Siddharth College of Art Science and commerce of Mumbai, which was established by visionary Dr B R Ambedkar. He is also doing a diploma in Music in Sugam Music in Mumbai Universities Vidyapeeth Vidyarthi Bhavan. To fulfil the financial necessities of his family, he is working as part time vocalists in non-profit NGO, National Street For Performing Arts.
Although caste may not be visible much in Mumbai compared to other areas, it nevertheless asserts itself strongly, and it is no different for Sapkale. Everytime he shows his resistance. His friends avoided him a lot when he decided to pursue various causes.
Interestingly, it was his father who forced him to learn Music; but he is in so into music now that he can’t even think without of music. In the beginning, he faced criticism from his colleagues and classmates music because of his staunch address of caste. He shared, “Once, when I tried to expose the Brahmanic style of music, the teacher scolded me and said that music is the gift of Saraswati, the
Hindu goddess. So, it should not be critiqued,” he told Twocircles.net.
As a member of the Mahar community, Sapkale listened to a lot of movement and popular Ambedkari songs. He was deeply influenced by the Ambedkari songs. He says, “Music is my duty and a better medium than anything else to show my support. Every rhythm should reach even the most downtrodden. Everything is the particle of labour; no Saraswati created it, no Gods came to create it. Music is the outcome of labour. But hierarchies owned the music and doesn’t allow everyone to enjoy it”.
When Sapkale was asked what he thinks about Music and movement, he replied, “To spread Ambedkari thought music is the only feasible medium. The system already has started to act against it; demoralise it through a lot of accusations but, music can provide the space to spread the voice”. Once Babasaheb Ambedkar praised Bhimrao Kardak vocalists and Balladeer of an Ambedkari movement saying, ‘my ten speeches and balladeers one song is equal’. Due to poverty and because caste system, Sapkale did not get proper education of Music. For family necessities, he has to do part time job even as he finishes his education. In the age of marketing, it is no wonder that Asit is struggling from the pretentious music of profit making. He said, “From the imaginative world of music, I am taking the lessons of music where making capital out of the music is the priority. The industrial thinking of the music never thinks that songs can be the form of resistance”. He does not want to work for money. His friend Ashok Thage and he decided to produce a music album. He recently composed, sing a song called ‘Guntata’ (engage) which will be released in August.
He had written few songs among them his first song was on the Javkheda Massacre where three people were murdered brutally. Javkheda, in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, witnessed the murder of Sanjay Jadhav (42), his wife Jayashree (38) and their son Sunil (19).
Asit said, “To protest against these murders, I was called and decided to sing the Javkheda song for first time.” Asit also contributes to the Republican Panther cultural revolutionary organisation in Mumbai. Republican Panther was established just after the Ramabai Nagar massacre in 1997 in Ghatkopar, Mumbai.
Asit has decided to propagate the thought of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar and he will sing to reach the masses to spread the equalities and justice voice of Babasaheb Ambedkar. One of the community members of Ghatkopar residence, Bhagwan Kamble said, “When Asit sings a qawwali ‘wo baat karo paida’ it always gives me goosebump inspires us to fight against the ridiculous system of caste and hierarchy”.
To work for his community, he has his own orchestra troupe called Swar Tarang. Typically, an orchestra is about the Bollywood songs but Asit and his father decided to not sing a single song of Bollywood and instead focus on Ambedkari music
His family has been connected with the movement from beginning of their migration to the Mumbai. Asit thinks that ‘to convince middle-class mass there should be another form of movement songs. Professionally I cannot show my anger regards to pretentious attitude, so I owe my life to sing for the masses.”