British producer Vast and singer-composer James Harker are a duo known for their edgy, yet delicate electronic sounds. Together with UK-vocalist Rita Morar they released their latest track “Nirbhaya”. The title of this track is referring to the young woman brutally raped on a New Delhi bus two years ago. The song is dedicated to women empowering themselves in India and everywhere else. On December 15th “Nirbhaya” will be available on iTunes, with 25 percent of the sales revenue going to women’s rights charity BREAKTHROUGH.
Intense, at times somewhat dark, but never without a spark of hope. Not many words can fully capture “Nirbhaya”; a song about a loaded subject that still manages to be subtle. “It all started in 2013 with a dark riff”, says Harker. “All we knew was that the song was about a building force rising into something big”. Drawing on ingredients ranging from Nitin Sawhney to Lorn, Nirbhaya is intense, haunting and epic, and yet leavened with cathartic melodies and hopeful lyrics. Despite its dark subject, Nirbhaya is ultimately a positive rallying cry for women, Indian and worldwide.
They worked on the track in the aftermath of the now infamous Indian rape tragedy in December 2012, where six men joyriding a private bus attacked a young woman and her male friend. They eventually raped her and threw her and her friend out of the bus leaving them for dead. The young woman initially survived and the incident sparked outrage and nationwide protests, with the press nicknaming her “Nirbhaya” or “The Fearless One”. Vast and Harker soon shifted the song’s focus into a rallying cry for Indian women standing up for themselves after the New Delhi rape.
“We experimented with different instruments such as the sitar”, Vast explains. “Now each element of the song has a deeper meaning to it. The heavy drops, the violence of the beat; they all stand for emotion and pain. Near to the end, the strings represent light and hope.“
Still, during the process it remained difficult to write and compose a song in the wake of a rape. “We wanted to be quite direct about the message of the song, but at the same time not be to graphic. We had to be careful, “says Vast.
With vocalist Rita Morar the song became complete. Working on the song was at times highly emotional for her. “It’s horrible to think what women in India are going through. When you sing a song like this, you therefore have to be in touch with your feelings,” she says. “For me, it was being fragile yet passionate and powerful at the same time.”
And while music cannot wipe out violence or injustice against women, the three of them still feel they can make a difference. “If we can change the way people think and I can even reach one women that is in a difficult position, I hope that the message is clear: nobody is alone, you can get help”, says Morar.
Vast and Harker also feel music is a powerful way to reach people. “Obviously we know we cannot change the world, but with this song we just want to keep the dialogue on women’s rights after the New Delhi rape alive”, shares Harker. “There has been a lot of public debate about it in the media and politics, but we want to translate it even more also into the arts”.
According to Vast, “In India there is a general problem with how women are treated, but even in the UK gender roles are still being forced upon men and women in society.“ But Vast and Harker are hopeful, with their work they want to reach out to people beyond the Indian borders. Changing the society begins with awareness and “Nirbhaya” embodies this change. The last music album that reflected on the social status of women in India was “Mann je Manjeeré” (2000), which received much appreciation in India at that time.
For more information on the group: www.vastandharker.com
And for more information on the track Nirbhaya: http://vastandharker.bandcamp.com/album/nirbhaya
by Stefanie Amirkhan