Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Udham Singh/Frank Brazil, Amritsar: Ska-Vengers, Fun'Da'Mental, Asian Dub Foundation

On July 31 The Guardian reported on the release of the song "Frank Brazil," by the Indian ska group Ska-Vengers.

Frank Brazil is the alias of Udham Singh, who was an eyewitness to the notorious Amritsar massacre of April 13, 1919, when British soldiers killed over 1000 Indian civilians at Jallianwalla Bagh. In 1940 Singh took his people’s revenge in London when he assassinated Michael O’Dwyer, former Lieutenant-Governor of the Punjab and the purported architect of the massacre. After he was arrested by police, Singh reportedly signed his name Ram Mohammed Singh Azad, signifying the joint Muslim-Sikh-Hindu participation in the anti-colonial freedom struggle (“Azad” means freedom in Punjabi; Ram is a Hindu god, hero of the Ramayana epic). By doing so, and by asking Heer of Waris Shah rather than a religious text, Udham Singh underscored that his vision of revolutionary politics was secular and anti-imperialist and not sectarian.

Singh was subsequently convicted and hanged for his crime.

The tale of Udham Singh, sometimes known as Shaheed-i-Azam Udham Singh or the “great martyr,” has been retold in numerous bhangra tracks since the early seventies as well as by Asian Dub Foundation in the song “Assassin” (on Rafi's Revenge, 1998), and he is the subject of at least three films.

Below are the opening lyrics to ADF's "Assassin."

Mohammed Singh Azad
No apologies
Not a shot in the dark
This is a warning
The sleeping tiger awakes each and every morning
The time is now right to burst the imperial bubble
And my act of revenge is just a part of the struggle
A bullet to his head won't bring back the dead
But it will lift the spirits of my people

We'll keep on fighting
We've been a nation abused
Your stiff upper lip will bleed
And your pride will bruised

Fun'Da'Mental also do a verse about Udham Singh on the song "Electro G-had," off their controversial 2006 album All Is War: The Benefits of G-had. The song celebrates the memory of the so-called “terrorists” who fought the British in India during the colonial period. It was composed and sung by then-19-year old British-Asian musician Subiag Singh Kandola, a Punjabi folk song put to electronic beats. It is in the vein of a BrAsian tradition of "revolutionary’ poetry recitations” held periodically to commemorate the heroes of India’s anti-colonial struggle.

Fun'Da'Mental provide this translation of the Udham Singh verse:

On the day of Vaisakhi, Udham Singh made this solemn prayer:
"Oh my Guru, may I take revenge on those who murdered my people at Jallianwalla Bagh. I ask for your blessings in this task."
After 20 long years, the hero Udham Singh tracked down the main culprit, Sir Michael O’ Dwyer and exacted his revenge in the home country of his oppressor.

The evil regime was knocked into place by his back handed stroke.

In conclusion, it should be noted that Mahatma Gandhi condemned Singh's assassination of Dwyer.

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