Kids Corner


A Ballad In Honour Of
Frank Brazil -
Udham Singh







A heroic life. Many musical tributes. A new ballad.

From Kuldeep Singh Manak to Jaspinder Kaur Narula, musical tributes to Udham Singh have come easy, but 'Frank Brazil' falls in a different league.

It is Delhi-based reggae and ska band Ska Vengers’ tribute to the man who avenged the Jallianwala Bagh massacre by shooting down Michael O'Dwyer in London in 1940.

Vocal about the political scenario of the country, propaganda, censorship and manipulation of the Indian media, the band's ballad carries on in the same vein and tells the story of the revolutionary.

The seeds of the song 'Frank Brazil' -- which is one of the many aliases adopted by Udham Singh -- were sown when vocalist Delhi Sultanate aka Taru Dalmiya first learnt of him as a student at a university in London in 2005 and then through a 1998 song named 'Assassin' on his life.

He says he was amazed to hear the remarkable story, which he realized not many had heard of both on the subcontinent and outside of it.

"He was the first person from any European colony to travel back to the metropolis and assassinate a colonial official," he says and adds that though he had been researching Udham Singh for long, the idea of doing this video in the revolutionary's death anniversary year came up at a jam session earlier this year.

Band member Begam X aka Samara C, who is Taru's wife, has also lent her vocals to the song. She says they were fascinated by the genre of ‘murder’  ballads and the song is their tribute to it.

"A murder ballad is a traditional form of poetry where the lyrics form a narrative describing the events of a murder, often including the lead-up and the aftermath. The chorus of the song is adapted from Bessie Smith's song -- ‘Send me to the 'lectric chair'," she says.

The track -- a typical Ska Vengers production -- features a curious mix of different styles and instruments. Alongside ska staples like the bass guitar, piano, drums and strings, one can hear Punjabi folk instruments like the one-string tumbi and percussion-heavy dhol and dholaks and even the comb.

The video has been conceptualized by animators Tisha Deb Pilla and Kunal Sen. The duo says it had two starting points, the song and Udham Singh's life.

"The narrative and animation style developed organically along the way as we joined the dots between the two. We were keen on adopting a slightly different route from the conventional "textbook" representations of our freedom fighters. We wanted to humanize Udham Singh -- a real man on a real journey," they say.

'Frank Brazil' releases on July 31, 2015, the 75th anniversary of the execution of the revolutionary hero.


This is not the first time that Taru is working on a Punjabi hero. He collaborated with Dalit singer Bant Singh on Word Sound Power project.

"Punjab has a remarkable history of revolutionary song and poetry as well as political struggle. Punjab is the land of Bhagat Singh, of Pash, Sant Ram Udasi and many more unconventional and inspiring thinkers, how could that not be inspiring," he says.

Ask him how will the Punjabi generation -- high on Yo-Yo's rap and Jazzy's dhols -- respond to 'Frank Brazil' and he says they imagine their music to always be outside of the mainstream.

"On the other hand though, in the past five years, we have found that reggae and ska music have a universal appeal. We've seen young and old, rich and poor enjoy our performances. That gives us some hope."


Samara says the band was inspired by Udham Singh's last words.

"The lyrics of our murder ballad are from the point of view of Shaheed Udham Singh and are inspired by his words as transcribed in his court hearing. When he was asked why he killed Michael O'Dwyer, he said: O’Dwyer was the real culprit. He wanted to crush the spirit of my people -- For full 21 years, I have been trying to wreak vengeance -- I am not scared of death. I am dying for my country. It was my duty. What greater honour could be bestowed on me than death for the sake of my motherland?'"

These words set prelude to the video.

[Courtesy: Times of India. Edited for]
July 29, 2015

Conversation about this article

1: G Singh (Scottsdale. Arizona, USA), July 30, 2015, 4:39 PM.

Link to the song itself -

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Frank Brazil -
Udham Singh"

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