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Riot Rock

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NEW TUNE: Thirty-year-old Nitin Davar wrote the song that became the chant at the Ramlila grounds. (Bottom left) Ramy Essam set slogans and shouts against Hosni Mubarak to a rock tune

Wen Jordan aka Ranbir Kapoor struts out on stage and screams Sadda Haq, Aithe Rakh, the Irshad Kamilwritten song resonated with more than just the angsty, lovesick hero. It became the anthem for anyone in a mood to rebel, including Free Tibet activists enraged at the removal of their flag from a scene in Rockstar.

"When I wrote the lines, Sadda haq aithe rakh, it was the emotional angst of a man who couldn't get the woman he loved, but these lines could be for anyone fighting for his rights or for a cause, " says Kamil, who was once thanked by a group of 40 students for giving their thoughts a voice through the song.

It wasn't just Bollywood that gave protestors and activists a song to sing. Imphal-based Imphal Talkies took up Irom Chanu Sharmila's cause and wrote a song Eche (sister) to commemorate her 10-year struggle with the AFSPA. "When you grow up in a society which has problems, you want to speak out, " the frontman of the band, Akhu Chingambam, has said in an interview.
Team Anna's hunger strike for the Lokpal also had a theme song. Thirty-year-old Nitin Davar, who has an MBA in finance and holds a degree in Indian classical music, wrote the song that became the chant at the Ramlila grounds. "Jan jan ki hai yeh pukar, baat baat par lagatar, desh ko saaf karo dur ab bhrashtachar, Lokpal, Lokpal baat karo Jan Lokpal". Delhi band Avi & The Uprising have also penned a song they call the Anna Hazare Song.

Across the border, there were tunes of protest too. In recent years, Pakistan's protest culture has entered a new and exciting phase, thanks mainly due to the Internet. The world wide web has given the rapidly expanding online population a platform to engage in political and social activism.

Beyghairat Brigade shot to instant fame with their cheeky song, Aalu Anday - an anti-establishment song that makes fun of the so-called pillars of society - which was released on YouTube and Facebook.

There is also Omar Adil, the Pakistani rapper who uses music to rage against how the world perceives his nation. He is currently working on his next album 'The Mushroom Cloud Effect' which he says is "a metaphor for the aftermath of a catastrophe... the current state of the music industry, my personal troubles, or even my birth".

The cry of freedom from dictatorial regimes spawned a whole genre of protest music in the Arab world. Some of these songs have played a direct role in popular uprisings while others have helped galvanise international support. Budding musician Ramy Essam's song provided the soundtrack of the Egyptian revolution. Made up of the chants of the crowd that he heard at Tahrir Square, the 23-year-old engineering student set those slogans and shouts against Hosni Mubarak to a rock tune on his guitar and the song became a viral hit after he performed it at Tahrir Square on February 2.

Tunisian rapper Balthi's song Zine el Abadine Ben Ali and the 40 thieves is a cutting critique about the former president. Another rapper El General had to flee the country after his song, Mr President your people are dying, became a viral hit. Surprisingly the scarcity of songs about the economic disaster stands in contrast to the flurry of songs released in the mid-2000 s by pop acts in criticism of George W Bush's foreign policy. Anti-war was a popular theme with acts like Green Day and all-girls country rock ensemble Dixie Chicks.

Occupy Wall Street has received little support from the pop world, mainly because it is difficult for mainstream pop acts to be political and popular now. But it spawned a whole new generation of musicians who are writing songs on the fly. Pat Humphries and Sandy O wrote a song Occupy The USA: Welcome to the US Occupation to win the hearts and minds/defend all humankind/Tell the banks and corporations that we're here to Occupy the USA.

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