The coronavirus scare may have hit many businesses hard, but for the Bhojpuri music industry, it’s providing grist for more songs and videos. Scores of melodies — from suggestive to devotional — on Covid-19 can now be found online, with some garnering lakhs of views.
The songs feature both established singers and amateurs belting out sexist, and often racist, tunes. Many are replete with misinformation; one song says ice-cream and cold drink can raise coronavirus risk. Another urges PM Narendra Modi to “do something about the virus since injections and medicines are ineffective”. A third implores gods to save Indians from the outbreak while dishing out “home remedies” such as drinking water boiled with garlic.
Om Kumar, in whose Gorakhpur studio one such tune was recorded, told TOI: “Every time something important occurs, I try to push out a song on it. The idea behind this one was to bring advice from experts to people so they know how to stay safe.”
While many of these songs are audio only, with still images of skimpily-clad women and coronavirus pathogens pasted on screen, a few have random shots of people in China wearing masks. One song’s poster declares — ‘Maut se bachna hai to zarur sune (If you want to live, you must listen to this)’.
The “buzz” around Covid-19 has inspired some newbies to take the plunge. Deoriabased Govind Barbar has switched from singing deshbhakti songs to the more topical issue of coronavirus. He recently shelled out Rs 4,000 to get ‘Corona lehenga ma’ penned by Kamlesh Bedardi recorded in a studio. “Everyone is talking about coronavirus, that’s why I wrote a song on it,” he told TOI. Barbar insisted the song — which seems to warn women that they are likely to get the infection if they wear skimpy clothes — promotes “sanskar”.
At least three other songs have references to coronavirus “invading” lehengas (skirts) and choli (blouses), including one by Guddu Rangila, which has 3 lakh views. Two of them are constructed around Holi, with one song lamenting that bhabhi — a figure often sexualised in Indian pop culture — can’t play colours with her husband or devar (brother-in-law) this year since her lehenga is infected with coronavirus.
Another song ‘Hello Kaun, Coronavirus’ by Khusboo Uttam and Praveen Uttam has nearly 1 lakh views. In between coughing and sneezing fits, a man who recently returned from China is begging his girlfriend to meet him. She then asks him, “What gift did you get me from China? Coronavirus?” She then proceeds to question whether “he ate snakes and bats while he was there”. The man placates her by saying the virus, like all made-in-China things, “won’t last long”.
Some netizens aren’t impressed. Many comments on the videos have urged singers to stop making fun of a public health emergency.
In India, and the world over, songs, videos and parodies are capitalising on coronavirus