While the leaders choose to remain silent on atrocities against the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, a Kolkata-based band chose to speak up about it through their song, Boatman. Underground Authority, who define themselves as an alternative rap-rock band, have come up with a song that talks about the plight of the Rohingyas in Myanmar, who are being persecuted in and forced to flee their own land and take shelter in Bangladesh.
Underground Authority is a popular band, which also featured on India’s Got Talent. The band features Srinivasan Iyer aka EPR (Frontman), Adil Rashid (Lead Guitarist), Soumyadeep Bubbla Bhattacharya (Bass) and Sourish Kumar (Drums).
InUth got in touch with the band and spoke to them about what inspires them to talk about disturbing social issues. Excerpts from the interview:
1) Could you please introduce yourselves to our readers.
We are Underground Authority, we are a Rap-Rock band from India and we believe in making music to express and not to impress. We have been around since 2010, we were finalists at India’s Got Talent Khoj 2. We were winners of Nagaland’s Hornbill International Rock Competition in 2013, where we also won, Best Vocalist, Best Drummer, Best Bassist and Best Runner up Guitarist. In 2015, we became the first band ever from India to have recorded and released a single called ‘Sunday’s At The Park’ with AnR Worldwide from Los Angeles, which aired on over 72 radio stations across 6 continents. Our rendition of Bollywood songs and our politically-charged originals have been thoroughly appreciated by people.
2) ‘Music to express, not to impress’ has become an unofficial tagline of your band. In times like these when efforts are being made to silence dissent, how easy/difficult is it to do protest poetry? Have you ever faced any hostility?
Right from the beginning we have used the tagline Inspire Lead Revolutionize, which kind of sets the mood for making music to express and not impress. It has been challenging to be speaking out about things which are generally ignored or swept under the rug. However, we believe that it is the duty of every artist to incite change and motivate people to have a voice and our followers, fans and friends have made that possible.
We have been at the receiving end of a lot of criticism, hate and even threats for that matter. Certain people have accused us of being fake or looked at what we are doing as a gimmick. Our latest single, ‘Boatman’ , which is about the Rohingya crisis just tells you that we will continue to speak about what is right or affects people.
3) Apart from the Rohingya issue, what are the other issues, at present, that you find disturbing and are planning to turn into songs in near future?
Well, it does not really work like that. Certain things are perpetual, like we have a song on Racism, called ‘You Can’t Stop Us’, songs questioning the extent of freedom like ‘Azaad’ and ‘Am I Free’, songs about speaking up and raising a voice like, ‘Microphone’, ‘We Kill G.I Joes’. We like to write songs on issues that affect people because we look at music as a means to speak up and urge other people to do so as well. We keep ourselves informed about current affairs and well make songs on any issue that affect us and other people.
4) The lyrics of your songs are quite powerful. Is it a collective effort? If not, who writes the songs?
It is a process, the raps are written by EPR a.k.a Srinivasan Iyer and the hooks are written mostly together. Before writing any song, we have discussions and debates amongst ourselves on the said issue. We make sure that we are clear about whatever we are writing on irrespective of whether it is a political song or a love song. It is mandatory to be informed and we don’t write on anything we do not know about.
5) Which are your favourite Indian bands and why?
While growing up, we really liked bands and artists like Zero, Euphoria, Skinny Alley, Cassini’s Division, Lucky Ali, Fossils to name a few. Right now there are a lot of amazing bands and artists that we have the opportunity of seeing and also performing with, naming a few would be unfair. We are also huge fans of Bollywood, which is the reason why we do Bollywood songs our way. A.R Rahman, Amit Trivedi, Vishal Dadlani, Shankar Ehsaan Loy, Sachin-Jigar are definitely on our playlists.
6) How do you feel is the rock music scene in India? How receptive do you find people are to your protest music/poetry in India?
People are the reason why we are where we are today, so we cannot complain. A lot of avenues are coming up for independent artists and the scene is developing. We would not say it is easy to be an independent artist in India, however, we have received support and criticism and that is a given in any line of work. You have just got to believe in what you do and continue to do it.