Published: 07th September 2017
Mumbai-based Dhamma Wings is not only the country's first Buddhist rock band but it is also waging a war on casteism
This group of five won't settle for anything less than peace and equality. That's why they present legends like Buddha and Ambedkar through their music
This isn't your 'popular rock band' but their ardent fans revere them for their choice of lyrics and the popular icons they promulgate — Buddha and Ambedkar — both champions for the cause of the downtrodden.
Inspired by the thoughts of these luminaries, Dhamma Wings, a Maharashtrian band has set out on a journey to uproot the evils of caste system from society while spreading the message of peace and equality.
For Kabeer Shakya, the lead singer of the band, the band represents the aspirations of 21st-century Indian youth and believes that there is no harm in calling them India's first rock band that is waging war against the caste system. Excerpts:
'Dhamma' in Pali means to acquire equality. Currently, the band is working in Sinhalese language and on Shivaji Kavali. Jay Bheem Se with over 50,000 views and nearly 2000 likes is their most popular song
How did Dhamma Wings come into existence? What's the story of your band?
It was officially started in 2011, but before that, I used to go around with a guitar and played. Then, when after people started appreciating my music, I started the band. The experience has been shocking in the sense that it is the first time that an Ambedkarite movement has been widely accepted.
Rock and roll: Kabeer Shakya, the lead singer of the band, is happy that their music is making a difference
Who are the band members?
We are a group of five members including me, others include Srijit Banerjee on keyboards, Rahul Kamble is the bass guitarist, Rohan Zodge is on rhythm guitar and Swapnil More on drums. But, mostly, when we perform in villages and small towns, we tend to have local performers and it is at the end that we take the stage.
What has been the response of your audience like? What are the messages that you want to highlight through your lyrics?
This was a country that enjoyed all the riches in the world. But, somewhere all of that disappeared and evils of the society took control leading the country to a mayhem. Instead of blaming each other for the present state what we should is to come together forgetting our difference. However, our core motto is enlightenment through entertainment. Often, people who come to our shows are unaware about the cause we stand for, but we make it a point that when they leave our show they carry with them message of hope and equality
Could you tell us why you are a Buddhist Ambedkarite band?
Initially, the concept was to start a Buddhist rock band and we used to sing songs of peace and harmony, then we gradually came across the teaching of Ambedkar because he expanded new version of Buddhism in India and we understood that equality is as important as peace and harmony. Now, we have incorporated both Buddhist and Ambedkarite thoughts.
"My experience as a Buddhist monk for three months taught me a lot of valuable lessons. Travelling barefoot, begging for alms and surviving on a one-square meal a day was the norm the."
Kabeer Shakya, Lead singer of Dhamma Wings
Could you tell us why you have chosen rock as your genre??
Through out history, rock has been a medium for resistance. That being said, the question was would rock work in India. Fortunately for us, since more youth connect with rock these days, we have been able to propagate our message clear and loud. The fact that discussions like this and counter-movements are happening is because of this acceptance without keeping a bias, they do feel something is wrong and that change should be brought about.
Do you feel that society's attitude has changed or are you still facing criticism?
People do send us positive replies through Facebook and other means. Here in Maharashtra, a group has even approached us seeking our help to a find a solution for a problem that they were facing. Since we have been singing about Buddha we have been getting support from predominantly Buddhist countries like Japan. Another aspect is that we speak a lot about the teachings both Buddha and Ambedkar and myself belonging to a minority community, people often term our band as a Dalit rock band, however, In our band you see people from all walks of life, we all fight for one cause. Be it any Ambedkarite artist speaking about equality, by tagging them as a Dalit, society is only perpetuating the idea of caste. Why can't we see them as a normal Indian trying to speak against the evils in society?
"Myself coming from a backward community, I have never faced discrimination, but angers me is how even now people are being discriminated on the basis of their caste and that's when I decide that our music will be to eliminate this prejudice."
Kabeer Shakya, Lead singer of Dhamma Wings