Yo Yo Honey Singh: A vulgar obsession or our own creation?
(WARNING: Post contains graphic language. Reader discretion is advised. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily of Thomson Reuters)
The gang rape and death of a 23-year-old woman in New Delhi this month has sparked debates on many things from an Indian society centered on the well being of men to the tendency of Bollywood films to portray women largely as mothers or sex objects. Now, some of that criticism is sticking to Punjabi rap star Honey Singh.
Singh, whom the Indian media have called a youth icon, is facing calls for a ban on his New Year’s Eve performance at a hotel in Gurgaon, the massive suburb southwest of Delhi – and as this blog post heads out the door, NDTV reports that the show indeed has been cancelled.
Singh’s detractors say that some of his songs are misogynistic and promote a permissive and casual attitude to sexual assault.
I happen to agree. Here’s a sample:
Loose translation of this in English would be:
Come let me f**k you,
Let me get lust off your head
Let me beat you up with my shoes after f**king u
Let me come in your mouth
Why would a democracy ban artistic expression? I know that we have a censor board for film and television, but banning the artist doesn’t diminish the market’s desire for the product. Opposing the attitude toward women in Singh’s lyrics means asking for a refund for your ticket to his show, or simply not showing up. It means not buying more of his music or watching films in which it appears.
I tried to contact Honey Singh via Twitter and e-mail to know what he thinks about the ongoing controversy. However, the requests remain unanswered at the time of posting this blog.
But more significantly, I want to know why this is coming up today. Indian kids have been grooving to songs like “Ch**t” (“Cu*t”) for years. Did it take a woman being raped, beaten and partially disemboweled to wake up these kids, many of whom are protesting the attitude of millions upon millions of people who think about as much of a woman as the title of that song? Did anyone ever think that nearly seven years of that message seeping into the ears of the people, especially men who harass women, was doing slow damage on its own?
A recent local media report said Singh’s was the most popular music on YouTube. Another website said he received 7 million rupees (more than $127,000) for a Bollywood song, apparently the first singer ever to be signed for such a high fee.
This is because the people with the paycheck have made a bet, and not all that risky a one, that people like you and I want to hear him. That’s true. He’s a celebrity because lots of people like his work. They think it’s fun to dance to. Here’s a sample.
Maybe the Indian public is having its version of a “Sister Souljah moment”.
Some of the talk on Twitter suggests that people should spend their time looking at other ways to deal with the problem of how India treats women. Ashish Shakya (@stupidusmaximus) tweeted “You guys are giving Honey Singh way too much importance. He’s inconsequential. Let’s talk about something else. Muffins?”
“Honey Singh is the new Sachin Tendulkar,” said Saurabh Malhotra (@CricMS). To be blamed for everything totally irrelevant to him”.
Honey Singh, above all else, is one more piece of the puzzle that India must solve to radically and quickly update its fundamental views toward women. One of the ways to do that is to think about why we can separate our desire for social justice from our desire to listen to songs called “Ch**t.”
It might be a good question for Singh to ask himself. Here’s his tweet from Dec. 29 about the rape case: “#RIPDAMINI – ashamed to be an Indian where the BIGGEST democracy in the world can’t PROTECT our women!!” The artist has discovered irony.
Following angry reactions to offensive lyrics of the track “Ch**t”, Honey Singh’s lawyer issued a statement Monday on the singer’s behalf.
“Honey Singh wishes to clarify through this notice that he has no connection whatsoever with the said songs. My client has already written to various digital platforms to immediately take down the video/songs and is also considering appropriate legal action for defamation, loss of reputation and violation of privacy”. (Read here)
Left unanswered in the coverage that we’ve seen so far is whether Singh and his team are saying that he didn’t even sing the song. We’re trying to find out, and will update as soon as possible.
Singh, meanwhile, says he’s making a new kind of honey. The rapper tweeted, “
#HoneySinghIsInnocent – trend if you’re with me! I’ve admitted that my past was a wrong choice but now I deliver completely different music!”
(Follow Sankalp on Twitter @sankalp_sp)