Gather round, feminists! It’s exhausting work raging against The Man, so how about you put these songs on your playlist for a much-needed musical pick-me-up? We asked you on Facebook and Twitter for a list of your favourite feminist songs, and compiled them into this short list. Regrettably, we couldn’t include all suggestions, but that’s what Part 2 will be for!
Play these feminist songs with your best girl friends!
1. Jaago Zara – Viva (2002)
Starting this list off with a major throwback! With the new millenium came Viva – the first girl band ever. We remember being in school when Viva had come out with its first album. They were such a rage, an inspiration for us girls going on to become at the turn of the millenium. Jaago Zara was asking us to wake up to the new millenium and face the change, take charge of our lives and not be bogged down by any negativity that surrounded us. You can always turn back to this song when you need some inspiration, it gives a sense of purpose when everything else seems to be crumbling down.
2. Badal Mein Paaon Hai – Hema Sardesai (Chak De! India, 2007)
We all have some aspirations right? We all want something from life, however small it maybe to others. How do you feel when you see your dreams being fulfilled? Ecstatic? On top of the world right? That’s what this song talks about. Having a bad day at work? Feeling left out or disappointed, turn on this song and feel good about yourself. We particularly like this song because it’s such a feel good song. In a country like India where women are constantly discouraged to work and pursue their goals, songs like these can lighten your mood and help you bounce back. And once we bounce back, there’s no stopping us.
3. Get On Ur Knees – Nicki Minaj ft. Ariana Grande (2016)
Hip-hop has long featured cringeworthy lyrics about owning women and “fucking bitches” – where respect for women and their sexual autonomy is a laughable concept. Nicki Minaj and Ariana Grande change this narrative in Get On Ur Knees, where they rap about granting permission for receiving oral sex after their partners “beg for it”. Ariana’s refrain “I don’t need a dozen roses/I don’t need to wine and dine/I don’t need a pretty poet/Getting all emotional/You gotta beg for it” made me go Yaas! Sometimes a girl just needs to get down – roses be damned! Nicki Minaj has always been a strong voice against sexism in the music industry, and has made a point to support other female artists. She said, “Women should be allowed to be as hardcore and sexual as they want because men do it all the time.” Preach!
4. Bedardi Raja – Sona Mohapatra (Delhi Belly, 2011)
Let’s take a moment and take a bow to this badass woman! Sona Mahapatra is badass personified and history has witnessed a fair number of incidents to prove this statement. In fact, this playlist could very well be an entire playlist of songs sung by her, but that won’t be really fair, hence we will stick only to some of her best work. Bedardi Raja (heartless lover) talks about the woman’s need for sex and how! The lyrics beautifully explain a woman’s desire for sex and how she longs for some action, but her partner is just a ‘bedard’ (heartless) and is depriving her of her share of pleasure. Sung in a quirky qawwali format, this song has its best effects when you’re feeling particularly low about how you look or even craving some good old sex for that matter. My favourite lines from the song are “Bedardi Raja, zara paas to aja/ ki main to phool jhhari hoon, machis to jala ja.”(Oh heartless lover, come close to me I’m like a fire-cracker come and light a match).
5. ***Flawless – Beyonce ft. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2014)
Did you really think this list wasn’t going to feature Queen Bey? This feminist anthem, with the iconic line “I woke up like this” reminds you that you are, indeed, fiercely flawless. Even better – the song features excerpts from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s amazing speech We Should All Be Feminists, including the most basic definition of feminism – “Feminism is the belief in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes”. Beyonce is said to have included this speech in her chart-topping single to demystify the word feminism and start a conversation around it – and she sure did. ***Flawless then, has Nigerian author Adichie’s slow, measured tone laying down the basics of feminist ideology, with Beyonce’s incredible vocals juxtaposed onto it. Name a more iconic duo, we’ll wait.
6. Mann Ke Manjeere – Shubha Mudgal, (Breakthrough TV, 2000)
This is the only song in this list which probably was actually created as part of a campaign to raise awareness for women’s causes. Breakthrough India in 2000 released this video as a part of their Mann Ke Manjeere project, against domestic violence. Sung by Subha Mudgal, the video depicts a woman being sick and tired of the violence that is meted out to her by her husband, and deciding to leave him and take her daughter along with her. The video featuring the very talented Meeta Vashisht, talks about sisterhood and breaking away from shackles. Our favourite lines from the song?
Khole jo darwaze to dekha har shai thi nahayi/ Ujli ujli si thi meri tanhayee re/ Badli badli si badri mere angna mein thi chayi/ Virani rani ban ke mere paas aayi. (When I opened the doors, the saw how all my griefs were tangled up, the clouds which had gathered in my courtyard had a different look about them and I realised that courage had come to visit me disguised as a queen).
Courage tiptoes up to you when you least realise it, and then you have the confidence to fight back. This song always has an empowered lasting effect courtesy the powerful voice of Subha Mudgal and the beautiful lyrics.
7. Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves – Eurythmics & Aretha Franklin (1985)
“Now this is a song to celebrate/ The conscious liberation of the female state!” Dialling it way back to 1985, this blues-pop number belts out an anthem of sisterhood and solidarity. The powerful vocals of Aretha Franklin and Eurythmics lay claim on independence and empowerment with the refrain, “Sisters are doing it for themselves”. There’s something incredibly powerful about women singing to other women – when a song is aimed not at a man and heartbreak and love, but to your gals! And that’s exactly what this song does. ”Woman to woman, We’re singin’ with you.” Sing it to your squad!
8. Bad Girls – Anushka Manchanda (Chak De! India, 2007)
This song is very, very useful when you are either feeling particularly angry or are preparing to kick some patriarchal ass. Funky music and Anushka Manchanda’s peppy voice, makes this song stand out from the rest. Once you step aside from the electronic funky music and the rap and focus on the lyrics, it talks about the stereotypes that women in India are expected to abide by and how we don’t want to follow those absurd rules. Let’s be ‘bad bad girls’ who don’t give a damn about what the world thinks about us!
9. Try – Colbie Caillat (2014)
This acoustic ballad by American singer-songwriter Colbie Caillat is a gentle entreaty to fellow women to not feel constrained by society’s oppressive beauty standards. “Wait a second/ Why, should you care, what they think of you?/ When you’re all alone, by yourself, do you like you?” asks the song. While beauty ought to be a matter of personal opinion, and the decision to wear make-up or not a personal choice – it often isn’t; and we’ve all felt the lofty weight of log kya kahenge in our sartorial decisions. The video too features a liberating cast of women shedding their society-ordained make-up, hair and body images and just being themselves.
10. Bekhauff – Sona Mohapatra (Satyamev Jayate, 2014)
Yes it’s her again! After helping us feel positive about our sexuality and our bodies, Sona Mahapatra is back to talk about things which are needed, things which we want and which inspire us. As a part of actor Aamir Khan’s talk show Satyamev Jayate, Sona Mahapatra and composer Ram Sampath came up with this beautiful song, penned by Svati Chakraborty. The episode was based on increasing violence against women and featured Suzette Jordan, the rape survivor from the infamous Park Street rape case in Kolkata. Bekahuff talks about a world which women dream and aspire of. ‘Bekahuff azad hai jeena mujhe’ refers to a world where we can talk about things which we want to talk about, where we can do things which we want to, without being afraid of the repercussions. The powerful lyrics of the song are sure to give you goosebumps. A world where we as women are not scared to step outside and do things that we want to is one of our deepest desires, and Sona Mohapatra’s vocalisation of this desire will be sure to pull at your heartstrings.
So there you have it! Ten feminist songs to blast when the patriarchy has got you down. Tell us in the comments other songs you think should be on this list!