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Protest Song Of The Week: ‘Bol’ By Sarathy Korwar

London-based percussionist and producer Sarathy Korwar crafted a protest album centered on the backlash against refugees and immigrants. “There are more arriving, and you’re gonna have to deal with it,” his latest album declares.

“More Arriving” features a song called “Bol,” where he cycles through a series of stereotypes used to define him as a brown man, who grew up in India (even though he was born in the United States.)

The nine-minute track builds like a free jazz composition. Its multiple instruments capture the defiance of the lyrics. Spoken word poet Zia Ahmed provides the vocals.

“I’m Shiva. I’m al Qaeda. I am auditioning for the role of Terrorist #1,” Ahmed raps. “Yeah, I can do that in an Arabic accent.”

Korwar combines electronic motifs and Indian classical music sounds for his rumination on identity. As he contends, “The question deep down is what you think is your own, and how much right you have over a certain piece of land.”

The imagery of “Bol” shows a brown man trying to conform with British society. And yet, the man recognizes no matter how much he sips tea like all the British do he will still be an outcast.

Korwar was influenced by rock and roll music, jazz, and blues artists like John Coltrane, Ahmad Jamal, Muddy Waters, and The Doors. He studied jazz. But his influences are not limited to musicians. He also has drawn inspiration from Don Cherry, Zakir Hussain, Vijay Iyer, Charles Lloyd, and Arundhati Roy.

“This is a modern brown record. The kind of record that a contemporary Indian living in the U.K. for the past 10 years would make,” Korwar declares on his Bandcamp page. “This is what Indian music sounds like to me right now.” It all begins with the title: “’More Arriving’ comes from the scaremongering around Brexit.”

Korwar added, “I want the idea of brown pride to come through,” he says. “My voice is one amongst a thousand, but this record is a snapshot of something much greater than myself. It’s the chance to send a message.

His songs embrace confrontation and direct their vibrations at those behind racist and class-based oppression, who deserve to be the targets of protest music.

The music video for “Bol” (a 4-minute version of the song):

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."