They want to set up ‘Baba ka mandir’ in Pakistan, they want you to use muscle power to remove Babar’s name from history, they want you to know that if you live in India, you have to say ‘Vande Mataram’ and when you are visiting a temple, they want you to dance ‘kamar hilake….’
Desi, self- made popstars who are on a mission to spread their words of wisdom have given rise to India’s newest genre of music—Hindutva Pop. Not quite politics, and not yet a movement. These are songs about Hinduism, nationalism and cow politics. But there is a slight twist: the songs are accompanied with, what they call, 'DJ Music'.
When Laxmi Dubey gets on stage, she often wears a silk turban. A bright red coloured tika is smeared on her forehead. “That’s my signature style,” she says, as she readies for her show in Chhattisgarh. The Bhajan singer from Madhya Pradesh has been performing almost every day in various parts of the neighbouring state that held its Assembly elections last week. “The chief minister had invited me to perform,” she says.
Dubey is the new singing sensation in the country. With a 28-member troop of musicians, dancers and background singers, she is winning the game both online and offline. She gets invited to perform at religious festivals, inauguration ceremonies and often during elections. A video song of Dubey-- Har Ghar Bhagva Chhayga-- posted on YouTube in July last year has nearly 20 million views. The video shows men donning saffron scarf, with a visibly bold ‘Om’ printed on them, around their necks. In flashes, Dubey makes her appearance as she sings, “Bharat ki abhiman hai Hindu, matrumbhumi ki shaan hai Hindu… Gau hatya ko band karenge yeh sankalp hamara hai...” If you aren't paying attention to the lyrics, you will probably headbang to it. Of the 11,000 comments that are posted below the video, almost each of them says, “Jai Shri Raam”.
This musical cocktail of religion and nationalism has been labelled by many as ‘Hindutva Pop’, Dubey calls it, ‘Rashtra Bhajan’. “I was 7 years old when I started singing bhajan. In the last few years, I realized I wanted to work for Hindutva and change the mindset of young people,” she says.
Dubey, who hails from a family of musicians in Bhopal, had never thought that classical bhajans that her grandfather taught her could be combined with beats and ‘DJ music’ to create dance numbers. “But there’s so much demand for this kind of music. The audience loves it. When I start performing, they don’t want me to end the show. The entire crowd dance and sing along with me,” she says.
For Dubey, it was ‘calling of the God’ that made her make an entry in this new genre. Dubey doesn’t work with any particular political party, but she is not shy of wearing her politics on her sleeve. “I am a proud Hindu,” she declares before saying that she is a big fan of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government. Dubey often gets invited by right-wing politicians to perform at shows and feels that she has paved the path for many Indian musicians.