It’s a well-known fact that when TM Krishna sings, you listen. In an effort to get people to do just that, the Vettiver Collective, a Chennai-based voluntary space for social and environmental issues that is run by environmental activist Nityanand Jayaraman, roped in the Carnatic maestro to produce this stunning music video called Chennai Poromboke Paadal ft. TM Krishna, which tells a tale of environmental destruction disguised as ‘development’ in Ennore.
This trend of using music as a form of protest isn’t a new phenomenon. In 2015, rapper and social activist Sofia Ashraf took on the might of Hindustan Unilever Limited with her Kodaikanal Won’t protest music video. Today, she continues to be a firm believer in the power of music to bring about change, and is a firm supporter of the Vettiver Collective’s efforts. When asked about using music to effect change, Ashraf had this to say: “Be it the local street theatre or the Bengal Art School, India has a rich history of subversive art. But thanks to the current political and social scenario, people seem to be refraining from any form of dissent. In such an environment, seeing an established artist like TM Krishna sing his mind sets a great precedent. The Revolution is alive and kicking.”
The Regressive Development of the Ennore Creek Area
The Ennore Creek – which was once vast wetlands rich in flaura and fauna, as well as the lifeline of fishing communities in the vicinity – has now become choked by the dumping of toxic fly ash and other waste materials by the numerous industrial operations in the area. In addition to this, the nearby Kamarajar Port plans to convert more than 1,000 acres of wetlands into real estate. Social activists who’re dedicated to saving the creek allege that all this is possible only because the local authorities consistently overlook the issue and don’t take on the industrial offenders.
Reclaiming Poromboke to Reclaim Ennore Creek
The word poromboke itself is of great significance to the effort of rehabilitating this once-great natural resource. Poromboke is a colloquial Tamil insult, intended to demean a person or place but unknown to most people, it also refers to the shared common land and spaces that belong to entire communities. “It’s our marshlands, our wetlands, grazing spaces, our lakes. Unfortunately, the former meaning is what we identify with,” says Krishna on the campaign website. The song is an attempt to reclaim the original meaning of the word so that we can take pride in these shared places once again. As Krishna puts it, “It’s time art engaged with the environment.”
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Cover Image Courtesy: YouTube Screengrab