In December 2020, I was presented with the opportunity to compose a campaign jingle for Sachin Rathod. At that time, I didn’t know he was the first young Dalit candidate to contest the Ingalagi elections, and that he would go on to be the first to win it.
In the initial stages, the task of composing this jingle seemed impossible as I didn't have the appropriate socio-cultural knowledge required to produce something that would resonate with the target audience. Moreover, I don't speak Kannada at all—I am a cross of Punjabi and Bengali who resides in New Zealand. I had absolutely no idea how to tackle this project, but I said yes nonetheless. With the help of Youtube and amazing people like Gunjan, Anagha, and Chethan, we were able to pen lyrics and melodies in Kannada that suited his manifesto and appealed to the people he wanted to serve. I remember one very specific conversation I had with Sudhanshu, the founder of Young India Foundation, while the production was still a work in progress. He put this jingle in context and told me what I already knew but hadn’t realized: this jingle was going to go out as part of the campaign, on rickshaws, people's phones and so much more. This notion genuinely sent chills down my spine. I didn't realize my music, something I do merely as a hobby, could have that big of an impact.
Sitting in another country with outdated equipment and a very limited timeline presents challenges of its own kind. For starters, finding a time that works for everyone, considering I’m over six hours ahead, was tricky, but the people I was working with were incredibly accommodating. Chethan, especially, was happy to send me voice notes back and forth talking about the production and the lyrics; he even lent his voice to the track. The number of times he’s had to tell me to extend my “aa’s” at the end of the words is something we will never forget. Getting the pronunciation right was crucial to the success of the jingle. The production of a song can make or break it. I wanted this jingle to have a touch of folk to help it resonate with the community it was meant for, while having a contemporary feel to represent the progress we, as the youth of the country, have made. I was lucky to be able to create a very catchy folk beat that, paired with guitar chords, sounded like a match made in heaven.
The hurdles throughout this process were hard to cross. However, I crossed this road paved with difficulties with the support of everyone who contributed towards this jingle, be it in any form: supplying the manifesto, writing in Kannada, translating for me, pointing me in the right direction culturally, or providing that chorus voice. I asked people at a very odd hour—think: 2:00am—to send me a recording of them singing just two words, ‘Sachin Kumara,’ to create a chorus effect for the track. Within two hours, I had about six people send me their recordings, happy for me to use them on the track! To everyone who did that, thank you, the track wouldn’t be the same without you! I would love to say that the hardest part of this process was the production but in all honesty, getting the pronunciation correct definitely takes the cake. Singing in a language you’ve never spoken is an interesting process. You learn it so well that it sticks with you for a very long time.
Now, I haven't had the chance to speak with Sachin personally, but if I did, I would tell him that he should be very proud of himself, as he has written history. It takes so much courage to do something that has never been done before, especially in the circumstances in which he has accomplished it. I am very humbled and honoured to have been a part of this campaign and to have contributed in my capacity.
It has been very normal for me to sit on the floor in my room, with my 20-something-year old guitar, and sing my heart out until I can't anymore. It wasn't until a few years ago that I realized my music could be used as a tool to serve the community.