Indian American singer Zeshan Bagewadi from Chicago has repurposed George Perkins’s 1970 song “Cryin’ in the Streets” as a song for today’s civil rights struggles.
The original song was based on an observation of the Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral, but Bagewadi echoed it as the reflection of his own experiences as a Muslim and Indian American.
“I see somebody marching in the street. I see somebody crying in the street. I see somebody dying in the street.’ [I was] struck… how simple it was, how poignant it was,” Bagewadi told Public Radio International (PRI).
“What needs to be done here is simple. Muslims need to ally ourselves with those who have paved a path for us and who has been on the front line of the struggles. So we need to appropriate their struggle. We need to appropriate the pain,” Bagewadi said.
“Cryin’ in the Streets” also resonated with Bagewadi’s own experiences growing up as a Muslim, an Indian American and a Chicago native. He grew up listening to his father’s extensive collection of blues, soul and gospel: “Otis Redding, Sam Cooke, Curtis Mayfield, James Brown … that was sort of the soundtrack of my childhood.”
His father was a freelance journalist, living in India, and from there followed the civil rights movement in America, reported PRI.
“He wrote editorials on black expression in literature,” says Bagewadi. “My father was always drawn to the black artistic expression and read Langston Hughes, Zora [Neale] Hurston.”
That made a huge impression on Bagewadi, who has aligned himself with the Black Lives Matter movement.
“What needs to be done here is simple. Us Muslims need to ally ourselves with those who have paved a path for us and who has been on the front line of the struggle. So we need to appropriate their struggle. We need to appropriate their pain.”
Music has more power than mere words, he adds. “You listen to Curtis Mayfield sing ‘people get ready, there’s a train a comin.’ You listen to Mahalia Jackson singing ‘Joshua Fit The Battle of Jericho.’ If that doesn’t galvanize you, I don’t know what will.”
Watch Zeshan Bagewadi’s song on YouTube: