Kolkata Soundscapes

Conversation with Md. Akram and Irfan


(Work song)

(Time- 1:49)

-How long have you been working here?

– It has been ten years.

– Where is your home?

– Bihar.

– Where in Bihar?

– (… )

-Where did you learn the song that you were chanting while working?

-We sing. If we don’t sing we can’t work.

-But where did you learn it from?

– The Malaysian engineers came and they taught us the forma.

– Okay.

-When metro was being built in Delhi, we learned it there from those Malaysians.

– The thing you were chanting while working, you learned it from them?

– Yes, from them only.

– But you speak in Hindi; they do not.

– They do speak in Hindi. They know it as they have travelled a lot.

– Okay. Are you all from the same place?

– Yes.

– Okay. Where did you work before this project?

– Assam.

– Did you not learn this work song back in your village?

– No. Where is this song in our village? It is here only as we work in this place. (1st worker)

(Work noise)

– The Malaysian people who deal with train work, they taught us the work songs. (2nd worker)

– So you are saying that they are the actual people you learned it from?

– Yes.

– Isn’t there any song that you might have learned back home and you sing that while working?

– No no. We sing this song only. We can’t push and work if we don’t sing.

– Is there no such work to be done in your village? Maybe in the fields or something?

– No. There are no fields to be cultivated, no factories or anything.

– So you have learnt this song during work times?

– Yes.

– Does work gets done faster if you sing?

– Yes we work faster if we sing. Being silent won’t help us to do the heavy work.

– Do you listen to songs on radio or mobile while working?

–  No.

– Other than this work song, do you ever sing in your free times?

– No. This is the only thing we chant.

– Who knows this song? One of you or all?

– Everyone knows it.

– How do you know what one is chanting?

– We just know it. If he starts chanting, I will know slowly and I will start chanting it with him. And when I’m gone someone else will take over my part and it goes on.

– Has it ever happened that someone who doesn’t understand your language or Hindi has come here?                

– No nothing like that has happened.  They all know the language.

– What is your name?

– Md. Akram.

– And yours?

– Irfan.

(Work song)