The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Voices of violence victims, in words & tunes

The voices of victims of domestic violence will be heard, for the first time, in song. Swapner Kathamala, a collection of songs on women’s issues, is being released on Thursday to carry the message of hope through a musical medium.

Swayam, an NGO working with victims of domestic violence, conceived and executed the project, in collaboration with Atlantis Music, featuring songs written by survivors of violence as well as by writers Jaya Mitra, Mallika Sengupta and Nirup Mitra. Singers Usha Uthup, Lopamudra Mitra, Indrani Sen, Neepabithi Ghosh and Annie Chatterjee have lent their voices to the tracks, while Bratati Bandyopadhyay delivered the introduction. Usha Uthup will sing a few of the songs at the launch at Rotary Sadan on Thursday evening.

“The concept came out of a music workshop we organised in August 2001,” explains Anamitra Mukherjee of Swayam. The women — all having faced incidents of domestic violence in their own lives — put down their thoughts in the form of poetry. The selected works were then set to tune by music director Sankho Banerjee.

“We use so much music and poetry in our campaigns, but it is always the words of other people. We rarely present what we talk about, or feel. The women we were working with wanted their unheard voices to be heard in the form of words and music,” adds Mukherjee, part of Swayam’s awareness generation cell.

Music spreads easily, which is why it was chosen as a vehicle. “Even the most serious message can be presented through music, without it becoming a sermon,” feels Neepabithi Ghosh, one of the young artistes on the album, who has worked with Swayam’s Bangladesh projects before. Ghosh was encouraged by the “positive” theme of the songs, and the participation of the women on whose experiences the collection draws.

For Manjari Chakraborty, who has written one of the songs, the process was “inspirational”. Her lyrics reflect a changing time for changing women. “I wanted my experiences to come out through the lyrics” says Chakraborty, who is also involved with issue-based theatre. “The cassette is an asset for NGOs, who can use our words in the field,” says the 40-year-old, whose Dha Terekete Tak has been sung by Usha Uthup.

Swayam received “spontaneous” support from all the professionals who helped with the venture, and has not ruled out similar projects in the future. “It wouldn’t have been possible without their support. They all got very involved with the subject,” adds Mukherjee.

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