Order of the Phoenix
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In December '12, everybody in India was thinking of women— the aftermath of a horrifying gang rape in Delhi. As the angst and anger exploded, a Mumbai-based vocalist, Sarosh Nanavaty, was commissioned to create an anthem for the Indian chapter of One Billion Rising, a global initiative for women's empowerment started by Eve Ensler, a feminist activist and writer of Vagina Monologues. "The gang rape brought to the fore issues of violence against women that had been going on for years. I had never written or composed a song before but the words just flowed, and Phoenix was born," says Sarosh Nanavaty.
Nanavaty, 22, is a graduate from University of Mumbai, and has sung with several bands. A regular in the city's music and theatre circuit, she was commissioned to create the song by Poor Box Productions (PBP), which stages Vagina Monologues in India. "Poor Box and I have a history of commissioning works but so far that has been in the theatre space. This is the first time that we have commissioned a song," says Kaizaad Kotwal of PBP.
The title of the anthem refers to the mythical bird that is reborn from its own ashes, and salutes the undying spirit of women in general and Ensler, an abuse and cancer survivor, in particular. The lyrics are simple and pack a punch — I'll rise/ from the ashes/you once burnt me down to. I'll fly/only gold/no black or blue. I'll rise/ like the Phoenix/I'm meant to be. I'll rise/like the Phoenix/you can't touch me. The song is being mixed and mastered at present but Nanavaty has performed live in Mumbai and Delhi — with Ensler among the audience both times.
Nanavaty's vocals are powerful, so it comes as a surprise when she says that she has not trained in music. "I'm a Parsi, we have a lot of music in us," she adds with a laugh. She has enrolled in a music course in London where she hopes to create an album of her own. But before that, on February 14, she will sing Phoenix in Mumbai when One Billion Rising is officially launched in India.