Posts Tagged ‘Obama’

This Land is Your Land (From Brahmaputra to Gulf of Cambay (Khambhat))

January 24, 2010

The other day I stumbled upon this song “This land is your Land” by Woody Guthrie and I came to know of this song for it was Obama’s campaign song. And the first version of this song as I heard it is on the following link  and a clearer version is on . It was sung on Obama’s inauguration in front of a crowd of 400, 000 people, all standing in the wintry freezing chill of Washington DC. I would not dwell on the point on how Obama administration is doing currently, but his advent was promising. Anyway, what really struck me was, of course the song, but also the majestic scene of all singing together.

The background goes somewhat like this, when Woody wrote and sang, only 1000 thousand records were sold, the song was never played on radio, nor sold on music stores but then somebody heard it and included it in school textbook and in a matter of few years every school was signing this song. The genesis of the song lies in biblical and American folk music but the lyrics are so true for a nation like ours.

I heard it once and I couldn’t help it hearing over and over again and at the same time I was hopelessly wondering that can India ever have a scene like the one depicted in this video. From the moment I heard it I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by emotions. It only made me find out more about this song and I came to know about Pete Seeger (the lead singer), an avowed communist in capitalist America. I am not a communist and neither do I believe communism can do any good to India but at the same time, can I deny that in many ways it is the voice of the masses? Pete is over 90 and as Bruce rightly described him “The Father of American Folk Music.” Pete has traveled the US from coast to coast, lived with people in different places, understood their culture their folk traditions and inculcated what he learned from them, in his songs. He is also described as the person who has been making America sing. In most of his shows, he insists and, I wouldn’t be wrong to say, extols people to sing along with him. His India connection is that he is the one who made “We shall overcome” famous world over which was later translated in Hindi as “Hum Honge Kamyaab.” I would suggest hearing this first which gives an interesting anecdote of how the song evolved. After that, one may hear this version with which, we are all familiar .

If one listens to his song then it is not difficult to realize that the sentiments expressed by him are universally relevant and no wonder that I could connect with it. India has got a great many singers and with all due respect to our singers, I would love to find out one who has made India sing for one cause shared by all.

There was this interesting incident ( Ref ) when he visited a village in Bengal, a guy standing outside his mud house recognized Pete, the guy went inside came out with his daughter in his arms and his family and sung for Pete the Bengali version of We Shall Overcome and another very relevant song of Pete “What did you learn in School” ( ).

His song “Bring ’em Home” stands at somewhat contrast with what I have strongly stood for so long, that is utmost respect for Military but still this song speaks nothing but common sense.

Because of his association with Communist Parties in America, Pete was banned from singing on Radios and TV Shows. Nevertheless, he continued signing with School Kids (and he later said that Singing with High School Students has been the most satisfying experience). He gave his voice to the Civil Rights movement and it is to his credit that We Shall Overcome was adopted in Civil Rights Movement song. Here is a video in which a Civil Rights activist admits that Pete brought the sense of unity among the members of the movement .

India is abound with Social Issues and needs Pan India singers who can make socially relevant songs and make this nation sing. Bruce springsteen is another singer with whom one can identify different phases of one’s life if one listens and understands those songs. The country is only seeing the widening of the gap between Haves and Have Not. Can we make the affluent ones think about this lesser privileged India?

The title song was written by Woody, another communist, and the song went on to be so popular that different versions of the song were adopted by other nations viz. Canada, UK, Ireland, Sweden and more. In fact there was a rendition of this song suited to Indian version (From Brahmaputra to Gulf of Cambay) sung by Susmit Bose, when Pete visited India. I cannot find that song anywhere but here is a mention of it ( . This is an evidence that the song has a universal theme and today when India is deeply divided, though India has always been, by caste, religion, region, we need a song like to put back the feelings among Indians that this is one land that equally belongs to every Indian and not to demagogues or divisive figures.   India is a socialist country by constitution and I would say that today USA is a socialist country by culture. Unlike India, USA is truly a melting pot where everyone is accorded the same human dignity and respect.

Since hearing these songs, reading about Pete and Woody, I have been having mixed emotions inside and thought the best way was to put my thoughts here.

There is a movement going around nominating Pete for a Noble Peace Prize. I am sure he deserves it more than Yasser Arafat (I am all for The Palestinian cause but not the means).