Autism is a lifelong neurological condition that manifests during early childhood. In India, one in every 100 children under the age of 10 is autistic yet awareness on this topic is sorely lacking. For the same, World Autism Awareness Day is celebrated globally on April 2. People with intellectual disabilities have as much a right to a life of dignity and purpose as anybody else.
In fact, PwD (persons with disabilities) display remarkable traits and resilience in the face of challenges. Singer-composer Joi Barua's soon-to-release track 'Jugnu' celebrates this quality of differently-abled individuals. He has composed it as the theme song for the India Inclusion Summit (IIS). It is an annual event by the the volunteer-driven non-profit organisation called India Inclusion Foundation (IIF) that endorses inclusion of divyangjan in mainstream society.
“The song began as a series of discussions between photographer Vicky Roy, IIF Founder VR Ferose and myself in mid-2022,” Joi told FPJ. He was moved after reading Ferose's book 'The Invisible Majority' which deals with the issue of disabilities and how the perspectives needed changing.
He adds, “I had lost my father in 2021 after his fight with Parkinson and a fractured hip. Seeing him up close in that state in his last years had a devastating effect on me. I guess our conversations went further and deeper into understanding the spectrum, and how each one of us could affect change. This is how 'Jugnu' happened.”
Watch the promo of 'Jugnu' here:
“It talks about how some of the people who have overcomed traumatic incidents and did things way beyond human expectations. It's like they develop superhuman abilities and superhuman skills. It's fascinating,” says Joi whose music is inspired by folklore, mythology and the history of North East India.
He works in Hindi films as a singer and composer, having been part of the soundtracks of films such as Dev D, Udaan, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, and Laila Majnu.
He has lately been involved with the London Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra - London, in creating orchestral music around a story of Artificial Intelligence and futurism. Joi has also been an active voice in speaking up for the rainforests and the conservation of forest belts in the Northeast of India.
Ask him what his idea of a truly inclusive world is, and the Assamese musician says, “An equal world where everyone is treated equally and lives with dignity in spite of differences in religion, gender, sexual orientation, physical and intellectual disabilities etc. In that world, I would like 'Empathy' to be a subject taught in every school.”
Of late, Joi has also been involved with the Indian Army in developing anthems around critical wars and warzones of the last century. Recently, he wrote and composed the official Kargil anthem and the Rezang La anthem as a tribute to Indian Army veterans.
“As someone who grew up in the North East, I am rediscovering India, trying to understand the differences that have become our strength. From growing up in times of insurgency in Assam to traveling in Kargil and Ladakh to understand how our soldiers stand guarding the borders. How love for the land manifests in so many ways; that's what I am trying to understand, says the composer before he embarks on another journey mid-April.
“My next personal quest will go deep into my homeland of Assam for figuring out tribal histories and identities, and what they mean in this day and age,” he concludes.
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