Kolkata: Inspired by US President Barack Obama’s fundraiser album Yes We Can: Voices of a Grassroots Movement, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM, is set to launch a campaign soundtrack in West Bengal featuring at least 12 songs set to Indian classical and traditional folk tunes that have been selected through three months of painstaking research.
“Various ragas have been used (in the soundtrack) in such a way that they will have a therapeutic effect on voters,” said Pranay Dutta, secretary of Kolkata-based non-governmental organization (NGO) Sonata Foundation and a specialist in music therapy, who produced the campaign soundtrack for the CPM.
“We have not repeated lines, no matter how powerful they are, to induce the listener to hear the tracks again,” Dutta said.
Sound track?: Pranay Dutta, secretary of Sonata Foundation, has produced a music album for the Communist Party of India (Marxist). Free copies of the album will be distributed in rural West Bengal. Indranil Bhoumik / Mint
The CPM will be distributing some 70,000 copies of the compact discs (CD), which is to be launched on 28 March, free among its workers in rural West Bengal, where dry rhetoric isn’t working any more.
Alongside, the party has trained some 25 bauls and fakirs, or wandering minstrels, to take the tracks to the interiors of the state, where the album won’t reach or cannot be played. They are going to be paid Rs200 each a day. For months, these minstrels have been gathering intelligence for the CPM on the issues in rural West Bengal, and have helped write the lyrics, said Dutta, who admitted that the idea of launching a campaign soundtrack was inspired by the success of Obama’s 18-track fundraiser album.
The CPM album addresses people’s concerns on issues such as industrialization, farmland acquisition, unrest in Nandigram, where the state government had planned to set up a chemicals hub, and Singur, where Tata Motors Ltd was building its Nano car factory but couldn’t because of resistance from locals.
“We have produced campaign CDs in the past, but this is something new,” said Shyamal Chakraborty, a Rajya Sabha member and state president of Centre of India Trade Unions, or Citu—CPM’s labour wing—who led the initiative within the party. “Times have changed in the past five years, so we had to innovate.”
The language used in the disc is rustic and the narration muted.
“It would sound like somebody is whispering into your ears,” said Dutta, who has extensively used local percussion instruments such as dhamsa and madol to compose the music for the tracks. “The language, rhythm and tune are such that people will at once relate to the songs. They will not stand out as political propaganda,” added Dutta.
Meanwhile, in Kolkata, CPM candidates such as Mohammed Salim and Amitava Nandy are using the private radio stations in a big way to reach voters. Not only have they appeared on popular prime time shows, both Salim and Nandy have bought airtime on private radio channels on their own.
The Left Front, too, which is an alliance of four parties led by the CPM, is expected to release a radio campaign in the state, but has not finalized it yet.