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Documentary Featuring Rapper Delhi Sultanate To Screen At Berlinale Next Month

Blood Earth Project is a combination of film, music and political commentary on conflict zones in Odisha, an EP remix by Asian Dub Foundation’s Dr Das also out in Feb

Anurag Tagat Jan 20, 2014
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(far left) Taru Dalmia with The Ska Vengers. Photo: Asif Khan

(far left) Taru Dalmia aka Delhi Sultanate with The Ska Vengers. Photo: Asif Khan

There’s a political slant in some of Delhi reggae band The Ska Vengers’s music, led by vocalist Delhi Sultanate aka Taru Dalmia’s rap parts on songs such as “Ban Intifada” and “Gunshot.” Dalmia’s organization Word Sound Power, founded in 2010 by the rapper and New York producer Chris McGuiness, is his main outlet for his socio-politically charged rhymes. In February, Blood Earth, a project began by Word Sound Power in 2011 to document and remix protest songs by tribals in Odisha, will be screened at the German film festival Berlinale.

Dalmia, McGuiness and Indo-Australian filmmaker Kush Badhwar traveled to the tribal village of Kucheipadar in southern Odisha twice over a two-year span to work on Blood Earth. Says Dalmia, “When we went in 2011, it was tough to get access and even communicate properly with the people there. We just didn’t want to get bytes and create a documentary, but also have an honest piece of art that reflects the sentiment of those people.” Armed with Midi controllers, mics and recorders, Blood Earth includes four dub-meets-Oriya-tribal-folk songs titled “Back Against the Wall,” “Unity,” “Poison” and “Go Away.” Says Badhwar, “We did exhibit the first version in Delhi in 2011, but the second time around, we were becoming more adept at understanding the subject.”

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The documentary was reworked in 2012 and once again before it was scheduled to screen at Max Mueller Bhavan in Mumbai last year, but unfortunately, the screening was called off. Word Sound Power found their next chance to screen the documentary in October 2013, at the Experimenta Film Festival in Bengaluru, where it won the Adolfas Mekas award. Says Badhwar, “One of the folks from the Berlinale were there at Experimenta and she asked us what we wanted to do this film next. That’s how we got this opportunity [to screen the film at Berlinale].” Blood Earth will screen as part of the Forum Expanded section of the festival, which Badhwar says is informally competitive to gain an award. After Berlinale, Blood Earth will be released online in its entirety.

It’s been two years since Blood Earth first released, but Word Sound Power isn’t quite done with it yet. Electronica group Asian Dub Foundation’s Aniruddha Das aka Dr. Das has remixed the four tracks from Blood Earth for an EP, which will also release in February. Blood Earth was Word Sound Power’s second project, following a nine-track collaboration with Dalit Sikh Bant Singh titled The Bant Singh Project in 2010. McGuiness and Dalmia have already got Badhwar on board for the next Word Sound Power project, a yet-to-be-titled documentary/collaboration featuring Telangana Naxal activist and poet Gaddar. Says Dalmia,“We’ve got two songs written right now. He’s got a real fighting spirit about him.” 

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Watch “Poison” from Blood Earth below

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