MUMBAI: Women’s day will be celebrated across the world. However, there are issues, big and small, that are still nagging the women community. Equal right is the basic most cause, which all advocates of gender equality fight for. Some fight through activism, some through art. One such artiste is renowned Sufi singer, Ustad Maa Zila Khan, who has raised her stunning voice against this cause.
Born to the legendary Sitar player of India, Ustad Vilayat Khan, Zila is the leading most names among in pure Sufi singers in our country. “I am privileged, but I am not going to speak from that point of view. I have faced a lot struggle and reached this position today. When I say struggle, it mainly involves fighting the system and fighting for my rights,” says Zila.
Recalling the recent Harvey Weinstein controversy, Zila asserts, “We have many organisers who have not sexually abused but exploited the artists in other ways. They (organisers) release our albums and accredit the compositions to themselves, which is really bad. Some music labels would have subservient clause like, intimation before you leave abroad for concerts. I have never succumbed to such clause. More than women rights, I have fought for human rights. I have lost lot of money and big concerts, as I stood up for my rights as an artiste.”
Zila Khan has curated a festival for the occasion of Women’s Day called Arré SIREN. She ecstatically shares, “The word Siren has so many connotations. It also means awakening and hence we named the fest as Siren.”
She continues explaining the need for this festival, “There are so many festivals happening across the globe, but you will see very few women headlining them. In fact, a recent survey claimed that only 12 per cent of recordings available are those of women. Considering this, we thought of having a platform only for women and generate a buzz about the talent available here too.”
The other unique thing apart from ‘Only Women headliners’, about the fest, is that it has music and comedy to be presented in span of two days. Zila explains, “If you ever meet any musician, you will come to know, humour is a big part of their character. All the great artistes will connect with their audience through wit, humour, sarcasm. That’s why it’s a great idea to incorporate comedy in the fest. Also, we wanted audience of every age group and genre to embrace this festival. Food, Humour and Music are great combination. And the fest and the venue will have all three.”
Being a Sufi singer and daughter of Ustad Vilayat Khan, one might be surprised at the inclusion of EDM, Hip Hop and other genres of music in the fest. To this Zila says, “I have grown up listening to all types of music. I knew Ella Ftizgerald’s songs by heart. As a musician, it comes naturally to me to accept all types of music.”
Drawing a parallel between Bob Marley and Allah Jilai, Zila makes an interesting observation, “Both the artiste brought the actual flavour of their respective hometown/country to the world. Allah Jilai popularised Kesariya Balama of Rajasthan. There is no other folk song, as popular Kesariya Balma. So, I think as artistes we have to be open for all kinds of music.”
On Women’s Day, she wants the new women in any field to know one basic thing, “Talent has no gender. So don’t be conscious of your gender and your work should speak for itself.”
One step the songstress has taken to mitigate the disparity in art field is curating an interesting event like Arré SIREN. The event will bring together renowned musicians, stand-up comics and role models to celebrate a year that has been seminal for women across the world. Some of the artists the festival will feature are Raja Kumari, Kaneez Surka, Maati Baani, Sumukhi Suresh, Richa Chadha, Mohini Dey, Zila Khan, Madboy/Mink to name a few. It will shine a spotlight on more than 15 artists, serving up an eclectic mix of exciting performances across genres like Hip Hop, Funk, Electronica, Jazz, and Indian Fusion, all of it served with a side dish of India’s best comedy.
For all those who are interested to catch the unique fest, the details are below:
Date: 10 and 11 March 2018
Venue: Razzberry Rhinoceros, Juhu
Time: 6.00 pm onwards