The nexus between art, society, and politics is old and strong. The most prominent example of it is the rich literature and music of the pre-independence era. Art has been a tool of the voiceless to express themselves and ask for justice. One cannot be a social being and look at art in a vacuum.
The Piano Man Jazz Club faced a backlash for hosting an event by a band named ‘Bhangijumping’. As the people started protesting against the event, many layers of socio-political ignorance came to light which reflects upon a long exposure to upper-class privilege. It was surprising to find that neither the club owner nor the artist was aware of the deeply rooted casteist implications that could hurt the sentiments of many.
The protest started with an online petition on change.org to shut down the club for its elitist and casteist treatment of the objection people had against the band name. The matter escalated as people decided to boycott the event. Many took to Twitter to express their disappointment:
A band called “Bhangijumping”?
What is wrong with you guys?
And Piano Man, seriously, why feature this band?https://t.co/9w2vlYfhar
— Omair Ahmad (@OmairTAhmad) June 5, 2017
Round Table India – The Piano Man outrage: Calling out casteist mentality in elite circles https://t.co/5sVe7YgW0q
— kuffir nalgundwar (@kuffir) June 6, 2017
Wtf is wrong with @TPMcafes? You think it’s completely cool to host an event titled BHANGIJUMPING? Casteist slurs are now cool haan? Shame.
— Shobha (@Shobha_SV) June 3, 2017
This attracted the club’s attention and they issued an apology which sounded more like a make-do apology to shut down the criticism.
However, the club owner issued another apology announcing the cancellation of the event and explaining his lack of knowledge on the casteist angle of the story.
The most shocking revelation in this whole controversy has been the fact that the band member, Akshay Kapoor, was unaware of bhangi being a casteist slur used for human scavengers by the upper cast. It is quite unbelievable that despite having a long history of Dalit oppression, a word used so prominently can escape someone’s knowledge. Even if a person is unaware of a word, why would someone use it just for the rhythmic semblance with bungee jumping without putting in any research?
— Priyanka (@autumnrainwish) June 6, 2017
The fact that there has been a realization concerning the issue is commendable on the owner’s part as they came a long way from “small mindedness” to “This is honestly spiraling into a space that I do not understand.” On the other hand, the regressive demand to shut down the club is an example of not willing to impart a level of understanding through peaceful methods.