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Watch Seattle Artist SYML Make an India Connection with Evocative Video ‘Flags’

In the video titled ‘The Journey of Hope,’ filmmaker Jorik Dozy sets the song to the story of a 10-year-old cancer patient from Malwa

Anurag Tagat Mar 16, 2020

Seattle artist-producer SYML aka Brian Fennell. Photo: Ana Sanchez

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When Seattle singer and producer Brian Fennell aka SYML wrote and began performing his song “Flags” to cope with the loss of a friend who succumbed to cancer, he began hearing stories of those who fought a similar fight.

His label Nettwerk Productions’ co-founder Terry McBride shared one with Fennell about how people in smaller towns of north-western India – usually Punjab, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan – take a train to Bikaner to undergo cancer treatment at a government hospital. Fennell says, “He [McBride] had watched a series published by The Truth About Cancer, which featured the train. It was a story that wasn’t often talked about here in the U.S., and I was moved to know more.”

In Amsterdam, Fennell found the perfect match in filmmaker Jarik Dozy, who’s part of Studio Birthplace (described on their website as a creative studio that covers “topics that benefit life on earth”) to create a conscious visual accompaniment to “Flags.” Simple and acoustic guitar-driven with Fennell’s vulnerable vocals, “Flags” is the soundtrack to The Journey of Hope, created by Dozy and centered around 10-year-old cancer patient Sapna, who is one amongst hundreds seen taking a train to Bikaner for treatment. In a press statement, Dozy said that when he heard about Sapna, he was told she’s a fighter. “This is something we witnessed many times during our journey with her. We hope that Sapna’s spirit can give people all over the world who are suffering from cancer the strength to keep fighting,” the filmmaker adds. The studio, which has previously worked with artists like Novo Amor and Noisia, also set up a fund to provide financial assistance to below poverty line cancer patients in India.

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Told with a sharp focus on Indian rural life and featuring commentary by Sapna’s father about his daughter staying positive throughout, there’s highly emotional content in the five-minute video. Fennell says he had full faith in how the video would accurate depict Indians, instead of applying any stereotypical lenses. The artist says, “Respect and honesty were at the center of this project for everyone involved. Respect for both Sapna and her family, and respect for the other patients who ride the train and receive treatment at the center in Bikaner. Honesty from a storytelling perspective when it came to sharing some of the facts surrounding the families affected by cancer in this region of India. Because of this, we were not anxious when it was time to share what we created.”

While he doesn’t comment on whether he’s received any offers to play in India, Fennell is glad he’s indirectly communicating with his fans in the country through this song’s video. “I’m so proud that this video is how I am interacting with my Indian fanbase for the first time. Music is all about telling stories and how we relate as humans. I can’t think of a better example of this than what this video represents.”

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Watch the video for “Flags” below. 

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