The Danger Chamar

Ginni Mahi
Singing about the caste-system and pursuing a goal that one of India's legendary leader, Dr B R Ambedkar, dreamed of, teenager Ginni Mahi is a force to reckon with. Through her thoughtful music and her undaunted fight against inequality and the social malaise in the form of the caste system, Ginni remains one of the most enduring and empowering youth voices in India today. 

My name is Ginni Mahi, and I’m also known as Gurkanwal Bharti. I was born in Jalandhar, Punjab, in a region called Doaba, which is largely Dalit-dominated. My parents, Rakesh and Paramjeet Kaur Mahi have always encouraged me. I began singing when I was seven – my father had taken me to his friend, who then began to train me. I sang in several multi-artist albums, but have also done a bunch of solo albums, as well. I’ve also been sought at to perform at the cultural and religious congregations of the Dalit community, especially the Ravidassia community, which is a breakaway religion of the Dalit community from Sikhism.

I am from a middle-class family, and my parents have been my greatest support. My father, especially, has been one of the biggest factors in shaping my journey with music so far. My grandmother is also a fierce source of strength and support for me, because I get my strength from her. I never leave the house without her blessings.  

I began singing when I was quite young – having learned devotional and classical music at first. My intention was to begin by remembering my gurus and Gods, and then progress onward in the journey of music. I didn’t think of myself as an activist or as someone who was doing something beyond singing. It is only recently that I began speaking out about social issues that need attention, through my music. 

I sing in Punjabi. My song, Danger Chamar, has a story behind it. A classmate in school asked me
my caste, and I told her I belong to the SCs. She asked me which, and I told her I was a Chamar. She laughingly told me that she had to be careful because Chamars were “dangerous.” Although she was innocent, the casteism stung.  She is still my friend, though – but the song certainly was in aid of addressing a social malaise. On YouTube, the song has over 80,000 views,  and my sequel song, Danger 2, has crossed over 4,00,000 views. My songs hold reverence to the likes of Sant Ravidas and Dr B R Ambedkar.  

I began singing when I was quite young – having learned devotional and classical music at first. My intention was to begin by remembering my gurus and Gods, and then progress onward in the journey of music. I didn’t think of myself as an activist or as someone who was doing something beyond singing. It is only recently that I began speaking out about social issues that need attention, through my music. 

That said, I don’t say that I sing only caste-songs. I sing about equality – like Dr Ambedkar explained, the essence of it is non-discrimination and basic humanity. Sample these lyrics: (translated from Punjabi)

I am the daughter of Baba Sahib who wrote the constitution. We are earning our bread by what he wrote. I am such a fan of such thinking, I am a fan of such thinking who gave sacrifice for us. He was a lion who made his pen an arrow. He fought fir rights and truth and changed our destiny. He became an angel for the community. The whole world knows this.”

I don’t write my own songs – my songs are usually written by other lyricists. It is really important, though, for me, to sing these songs about the caste system, about equality and about the value of a free society because having been born in a family with many, many stories of caste oppression, I have learned a lot from my family and my grandparents.  



I am also a fierce supporter of gender empowerment. While it is definitely important to empower women, it is also important to acknowledge that there are other genders who are oppressed. In their interests, we must make all efforts to include them in any quest for equality. With that in mind, it is my dream and aspiration that everyone in society should study, and should work hard to get an education, especially girls. There are many parents who prevent their daughters from being educated, and I really want to tell them that in today’s world, especially, education is as vital as food, shelter and clothing. Don’t deprive your girls of it. I am a firm believer of Dr Ambedkar’s words – Educate, increase awareness and mobilise. People should educate themselves and understand what is happening around them, in the world immediately around them, and beyond.

Someday, I want to sing in Bollywood. I value Lata Mangeshkar a lot – listen to her voice over the years, and you’ll see it has remained the same. Someday, I want to be as great as her. I want to leave a legacy that people will remember me by, for years and years to come.

  
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