In The Time of Working from Home #5

In our collective experiments with self-expression, we try and cover as many forms and media as we can. Here we present a selection of songs chosen by the HUL team. The playlist ranges from political songs to dance music to songs that help us sleep at night, representing the varied ways in which we listen and the reasons why some songs become dearer to us than others.


Kandam Bechoru Coat
Movie: Kandam Bechoru Coat (1961)
Singer(s): Mehaboob, M. S. Baburaj

This song is from the first colour film made in Malayalam. The music and the visuals are very lighthearted and humorous, but when we pay attention to the lyrics we understand that the song conveys poverty. It is about the coat of a poor cobbler called Mohammad Kaka, which is compared to that of a lawyer and a capitalist. There are also conversations with the bedbugs and cockroaches which live in the coat. The song is based on the Mappilah genre of songs. 


I was trying to pick my songs at night and maybe that’s why both songs I chose to use metaphors of the night.

Khoya Khoya Chand
Movie: Khoya Khoya Chand (2007)
Singer(s): Ajay Jhingaran, Swanand Kirkire

The song is about conflicts about your own self, your desires, aspirations, and moral obligations. The song helps me navigate such situations in my own life sometimes.

Chandni Raat
Album: Chandni Raat (2019)
Singer(s): Ali Sethi

I like this for the simplicity of its video and music.


Ghei Chhand Makarand
Movie: Katyar Kaljat Ghusli (2015)
Singer(s): Shankar Mahadevan

This song is from the Natya Sangeet tradition and is based on a play of the same name as the film, with songs composed by Pt. Jitendra Abhisheki. There are two different version of the song in the film, and they come in at two different points. One version is by Shankar Mahadevan and the other has been sung by Rahul Deshpande. The way the song has been sung evokes a different emotion each time.

The Urvasi Project
Album: The Urvasi Project (2017)
Singer(s): Benny Dayal, Jasim

It is a remake of A. R. Rahman’s ‘Urvasi’ with some parts of Rahman’s ‘Pettarap’ and Khaled’s ‘Didi’ (an Arabic song). I like it for the way it is remixed, and because I don’t have to watch the original video, which is full of problematic elements.


I picked this playlist that I call Timeless because each song is relevant even in today’s context. The first three songs are by Nachiketa Chakraborty (who is a revolutionary Bengali rock-star who broke out of the Bengali music industry in early 90s and questioned and address the different aspects of the society) who believes in questioning and challenging the system. His ‘Ulto Rajar Deshe’ is questioning the entire system and the socio-political situation of our country, ‘Swadhinata’ is about the promised freedom which we obviously don’t get and what we get in the name of freedom instead, the third song ‘Tumi Asbe Bolei’ is about the hope and fear of ‘that which is coming…’ The last song is ‘Koto Rongo Dekhi Duniyai’ which has a setup of a small time singer singing a song about the situation around him, only to be ordered by the king to be killed.


Jaat Kahan Ho
Album: The Golden Record – Voyager 1 (1977)
Singer(s): Kesarbai Kerkar

This recording, in Raga Bhairavi, sung by Kesarbai Kerkar of the Jaipur-Atrauli gharana, was launched into space on the interstellar space probe Voyager 1 as part of a time capsule that comprised of many artefacts of human civilization on Earth. The song expresses a mother’s anxiety about her daughter who has come of age and is set to enter the outer world. Jaat kahan ho akele? she asks (Where are you going on your own?) in the main refrain of the composition, which I found very apt for a space probe that will spend 40,000 Earth years in outer space before it enters another star system and even has the possibility of encountering extraterrestrial life.

Taini Waini
Album:Taini Waini (Special Maxi Version Album) 12″ (1985)
Singer(s): Babla and Kanchan Shah

This song is a good example of the chutney music genre, which developed in Trinidad in the 1970s and 1980s out of a combination of Bhojpuri music brought to the island by indentured workers from India and Afro-diasporic forms like calypso and soca. The song was originally recorded by Byron Lee and the Dragonaires and adapted into Hindi by Babla and Kanchan. It is a fun dance song with the rhythm and the beats as its main focus, and represents a fascinating aspect of transglobal cultural confluences.

Ma’am B

O Ganga Behti Ho Kyun
Year: 1970
Singer(s): Bhupen Hazarika

Bhupen Hazarika’s composition ‘Burha Luit’ / ‘O ganga tum’, based on Paul Robeson’s ‘Ol’ man river’ (which sings of the Mississippi saying nothing and only rolling on), has been translated into multiple languages and rendered by many artists. An impassioned outcry on behalf of the impoverished and the disenfranchised masses, it is a lament as well as an exhortation that has only grown more relevant in the five plus decades since its composition. It continues to inspire people’s movements even today 

 Bristrit Kinaroko
Singer(s): People’s Collective

A recent version in Nepali of the same song.

You can listen to the playlist here.

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