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Where Music Meets Activism – Four Powerful Indian Tracks That Sing of Social Change

Four Powerful Indian Tracks That Sing of Social Change

The Condom Rap, #NoRape, Naari and Ekla Cholo Re talk about everything from birth control, gender violence to agrarian crisis

In the vibrant landscape of Indian music, there exists a realm where melodies serve as potent vehicles for social change. As the nation gears up for elections, these songs serve as a stark reminder to political leaders of their responsibility to prioritise women’s health and their safety and enact meaningful reforms. Political leaders must prioritise women’s healthcare infrastructure and ensure that essential services are accessible to all, regardless of socioeconomic status. When young Sofia Ashraf rapped against a global conglomerate for failing to clean up the toxic mercury pollution it was allegedly responsible for in Kodaikanal, the world paid attention to ‘Kodaikanal Won’t Step Down’. Punjabi Dalit rapper Ginni Mahi’s music and Tamil musician Arivu’s super hit song ‘Enjoy ‘Enjaami’ also reminded us of how important the articulation of lived experience is. Music can be a powerful purveyor of ideas and information that can change our society for the better.

Here are a few noteworthy examples where music was employed to say something important —

The Condom Rap

Among various underrated songs spreading an important social message and normalising taboo topics is ‘The Condom Rap’, which was released as part of a campaign for World Population Day in 2019, initiated by Population Foundation of India, a national NGO working on women’s and young people’s health and well-being. The song, which in a fun way, tries to disseminate awareness about the importance of birth control, also outlines the importance of men taking responsibility for contraception. The song addressing a rural audience was featured in ‘Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon’, Population Foundation of India’s transmedia initiative (available on multiple media including TV, Radio, internet, and phone). In simple and relatable language, it makes several relevant points, such as how using a condom can prevent unplanned pregnancies as well as protect against sexually transmitted diseases.


Bilal Shaikh better known as Emiway Bantai is a hip-hop rap artist. He derived his name from two of his favourite rappers; Lil Wayne and Eminem and has a hugely popular YouTube channel with over 21.1M subscribers. In 2018, he released a protest song #NoRape to seek justice for young Asifa, the child victim of the horrific Kathua rape case. Asifa was just eight years old when she was kidnapped, raped, and murdered. This rap song in her memory was viewed over 4.8 million times and reminded Emivay’s followers that women and even children will remain unsafe as long as rape culture is normalised.


Deepanshu Raj or Iqlipse Nova has over 490K subscribers on YouTube and on March 9, 2019, he released a rap song packed with righteous anger against the sexual violence and discrimination women have to face each day. ‘Naari’ has been viewed nearly 2,471,908 times on YouTube and struck a chord with both men and women. The song is symptomatic of a decade that saw the Nibhaya tragedy, increasing misogyny in politics, online targeting of women and the global upheaval caused by the #MeToo movement. It advocated for women’s right to move freely after dark, wear what they want and exercise their choices without the fear of being attacked and blamed.

Ekla Cholo Re

Much before the Shahrukh Khan starer ‘Jawaan’ mainstreamed the issue of farmers’ suicides, a young rapper sought to open our eyes to the plight of the Indian farmer. In 2019, Santhanam Srinivasan Iyer, AKA, EPR Iyer, a hip-hop artist, singer-songwriter, poet and activist created a protest anthem about how the Indian farmer has been invisibilized and forced to either protest or take his life. Blending Tagore’s immortal message of ‘Ekla Chalo Re’, with hard-hitting facts, the rap song shook listeners to the core. EPR also highlighted the irony of India being a ‘Krishi Pradhan’ nation where thousands of farmers beleaguered by debt and poverty, take their own life each year.