Ginni Mahi — A Dalit Pop Sensation
This piece was first published in 2017 on DHM’s Social Media handles and is now being republished on Medium.com
Today in #DalitHistory, we celebrate Ginni Mahi, a 17-year-old singer from Jalandhar, Punjab who rose to fame in the last few years, through her hit song, Fan Babasaheb Di ( I’m a fan of Babasaheb B.R.Ambedkar ).
Punjabi film and music is dominated by singers from the dominant Jatt community who rarely miss a chance to shout out their caste name. This is evidenced by names of films like “Jatt and Juliet”, and violent lyrics like “Putt jattan de bulavan bakre”, which refers to the practice of physically assaulting anyone who challenges a Jatt’s hegemony then celebrating with alcohol and mutton.
In the context of the violence of caste in states like Punjab, where many Dalits are still trapped under feudal structures sustained by dominant castes, this kind of caste hegemonic singing gave rise to a protest form, what is known now as “Dalit pop.”
Even within Dalit pop, Ginni’s presence is unique. A teenage girl who sings about pride in her anti-caste heritage and the revolutionary social power of Ambedkarism.
Ginni sings about things she believes in and the things she has experienced. She sings about Sant Ravidass and Babasaheb Ambedkar — anti-caste icons. She sings about the teachings of the Gurus of Sikhism, and women’s empowerment. When she was in school, a fellow student had asked her what her caste was. When she said she was Chamar, the fellow had laughed about Chamars being “dangerous”. That experience spurred for Ginni, the song, “Danger Chamar”.
In her songs, she takes a hard stance. She physically postures assertion, and her voice swells with a round and deep quality. This, to Ginni, is as essential as it is intentional because she is representing the dissent, assertion, and resistance that saturate her history.
While Ginni pursues a degree in Music, she is also wary of being slotted as, only a “Dalit” artist. She is an artist. That’s all. “I work hard. I love music. You know, artists have no jaat (caste). All this jaat-paat is made by man.”, she says.