It has been 15 years since EMS Namboodiripad passed away. Now, his granddaughter is carrying forward the legacy left behind by the world’s first democratically elected communist leader and former Kerala chief minister. Sumangala Damodaran is paying tribute to the workers’ movement through her debut music album titled, Songs Of Protest. The compilation has multi-lingual tracks that narrate tales of various movements in the country, picked from the collection by Indian People’s Theatre Association (IPTA), the cultural wing of CPI (M).
“The album came out of my research on the song repertoire of IPTA. I had been collecting music from different parts of the country and decided to compile and sing some of them,” says Damodaran, who teaches economics at Ambedkar University, Delhi. She has collaborated with Indian Ocean guitarist, Sushmit Bose for the album, which comprises nine songs in Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam and Punjabi.
With anti-corruption fervour at its peak currently, ask her if this is an opportune time to release the album and she replies, “Why? Protests have been always been continuing in our country. But since Anna’s (Anna Hazare) movements has captured the middle class, there is a lot more talk about it now.” The songs in the album include voices of protest during the Bengal famine of 1943, Jallianwala Bagh massacre in 1919 and various peasant movements in Kerala and Bengal. The students from media school, Whistling Woods International, have worked on a documentary-style video for two songs. So, how would her grandfather have felt about her initiative? “My grandfather lived through the historic events that led to these protest songs. I’m sure he would’ve been touched,” she says.
Who was EMS? Born in 1909, former Kerala CM, EMS Namboodiripad was the first non-Congress chief minister of independent India. A founder of CPI in Kerala, he was also the world’s first democratically elected communist leader. He was a Politburo member of CPI (M) until his death in 1998.