Folk legend Susmit Bose, who is known for his rendition of the gospel song “We Shall Overcome”, is currently in Rajasthan for prison gigs to provide music to those behind bars. Bose is popularly known for songs that seek social justice, equality and peace. He has always condemned aggression in all his songs.
This is the first of its kind prison gig being organised across Rajasthan. With his trademark guitar and mouth organ, he not only sung with the inmates but also gave them a taste of the world outside.
With a message that prison wasn't the end of the world but a place of self-transformation, Bose interacted and held workshops with prisoners in Jaipur, Jodhpur and Udaipur jail recently. “This was the first time that I tried something of this kind and it turned out to be an amazing experience. I was very happy to see that a lot of inmates were interested in music. In fact, I have advised the jail authorities to continue with music session as it plays a very crucial role in reformation. Rather, music must be an essential part of the prison routine.”
He even got together women and men inmates who weren’t professional musicians but music enthusiasts. There were a few women who could sing but knew little of the instruments and there were men who could play instruments like harmonium and 'dholak'. When paired together they created music that touched the heart.
Bose, who grew up listening to songs by icons of social change in the West like Bob Dylan and Joan Baez who addressed social issues like urbanisation, thought his guitar and songs could be the best medium to address the complex issues. After creating music albums like 'Winter Baby' in 1973 based on child abuse, 'Train to Calcutta' in 1978 and 'Man of Conscience' (1990) he has now decided to have more of musical workshops. “Over four-decades I have given my soul to music. I have sung what I believed in and believed in what I’ve sung. But now I want to focus more on workshops where I get an opportunity to interact with people musically and put across social messages strongly like this prison gig.”
Believing that music touches damaged and broken lives, he wishes to do many more such musical workshops. He said, “Music is very important in a prison, where the individual is often reduced to a greater machine. Through music, we can help people reflect why they are there and help them come to terms with the mistake they did and help get to the root of that."
Talking about the state of affairs in Indian prisons, Bose said that he was sad seeing the condition in which the prisoners lived and hoped that they too, like any other citizen of India, get voting rights so that government can focus on them too.
When asked if he too, like Bob Dylan, plans to make an album that talks against injustice and demands for equality for prisoners, he said, “As of now I have no such plan but it is a good idea. In future, I can plan one such album where some of these prisoners, like professional musicians, can perform and put across their message to society.”