Roger Waters and India

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Chandrima Banerjee, March 10, 2020: The Times of India

If protests don’t rise in our varsities, we are finished: Roger Waters Recently, Pink Floyd Co-Founder Roger Waters Quoted The Poetry Of Aamir Aziz. He Tells TOI Why He Did So “I am not really interested in music.” It seems like an odd thing for the co-founder and former frontman of Pink Floyd to say. But that’s Roger Waters, the non-conformist.

Last month, when Waters read out a protest poem about the Citizenship Amendment Act by the Indian poet Aamir Aziz called ‘Sab Yaad Rakha Jayega’ (Everything will be remembered), he meant to make a point about the common threads of resistance across the world.

“It came as an enormous surprise to me that there was such a big response — the fact that I spoke for 30 seconds on this problem at a political gathering in Parliament Square in London, thousands of miles away,” Waters told TOI over the phone from New York in an exclusive interview.

Waters, a leading member of one of the most iconic bands the world has seen, knew not just about Aziz, but CAA and the recent Delhi riots. “I have been following this,” he said. “A few years ago, I wrote a song called ‘Déjà Vu’. There is a verse in that song that’s not on record: If you were a Muslim, and I were a Jew/And if I were a Mennonite, and you a Hindu/Would it then change the weight of these chains/ Chains of belief and the carnage of trains/To turn over a new leaf?”

The singer-song writers’s friend (Marxist intellectual) Vijay Prashad sent him the poem by Aziz, “which I recognise has been a heartfelt and poetic outpouring of his outrage at what is happening to his country…If protest does not rise up in our universities, we are finished”.

In a way, it reflects the trajectory of Waters’s own music — from a deeply personal to a highly political space. The most important word in the English language, he said, was not ‘freedom’ but ‘empathy’. But to say that his art and politics coalesce at any point would be wrong — his art is his politics. He asked Jon Bon Jovi, Robbie Williams, Radiohead and Dionne Warwick to not perform in Israel, lashed out at Richard Branson for organising a concert to “raise aid” for Venezuela and got nearly blacklisted by American and British media for his support of Julian Assange.

If he were to play at a CAA protest, what would be the lineup? “I would sing those verses from ‘Déjà Vu’ that got cut. And I would finally learn to play ‘The Right to Live in Peace’ by Victor Harris,” he said, after a small pause. He remembers India — he had performed in Bengaluru in 2002 and Mumbai in 2007 and has named his daughter after the country (India Rose Waters) — with obvious fondness. Is he coming back anytime soon then? “I would do it for nothing in a heartbeat,” he replied.

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