Band of Lights
By Tamryn Spruill
Women are scary beings. We bleed for days on end without dying, and we have the
power to grow and deliver new life into the world. So I can see why men are threatened by us. No matter how hard they fight, control, and dominate, they will never possess the special powers reserved for women.
The world wasn’t always like this. At some distant time, the quieter, feminine powers of women were respected as sacred – important enough to keep the world in harmony with nature and, therefore, away from violence. But centuries of patriarchal rule nearly beat that out of us, steered us from our secret knowing.
New definition of feminist, my definition: A woman reclaiming her secret knowing… and, of course, demanding to be treated equally amongst humanity. See? Our special powers may have become muted, but they will never disappear. We, women, must tap into those powers and sing our unique songs loudly. Our songs are different, special. No song can rival that of a woman’s. I guess this is why adult men are so fearful of young women; I suppose this is why they try to cut the power to their amps (at the least) or kill them (at the worst).
Pragaash (translation: Band of Lights) is an all-girl band comprised of teenagers Noma Nazir Bhatt (vocals and guitar), Farah Deeba (drums), and Aneeka Khalid (guitar). Despite winning for “Best Performance” at a battle of the bands in December
2012, Pragaash is disbanding. See, they happen to live in the conflict-filled, Muslim extremism-dominated Kashmir region of India (which is also claimed by Pakistan and has been the cause of two wars).
As the only all-girl band in the region, Pragaash stands out. The members garner attention, much of it negative, for using their voices, for standing up on stage and singing: “I count; my story matters.” The cleric controlling the region believes that girls singing and playing instruments on stage amounts to “indecent behaviors.” So he has issued a fatwa* against them. Since that time, Noma, Farah, and Aneeka have received threats of death and rape on their cell phones and via social media. Thus, Pragaash is finished – because these intelligent young women know the deal.
They don’t want to end up like 15-year-old Malala Yousafzai, who was gunned down by the Taliban for speaking out for the rights of girls to go to school, or like members of punk band Pussy Riot, who were imprisoned in Russia for staging a public protest at a church against their country’s president. And let’s not forget the gang-rape and murder of the still unnamed young Indian woman, whose only crime was riding a bus while female. (If you’re reading this in the United States, please don’t brush these events off as problems in “other parts of the world.” Rape culture thrives worldwide. What other explanation is there for the 10-minute rape of a mentally disabled woman on a Los Angeles city bus last year – during early evening hours, on a weekday?)
Pragaash may be silenced for now, but their Band of Lights will never be dimmed. Noma, Farah, and Aneeka may never take their music to a Kashmiri stage again, but their message rings eternal – the message of young women having immeasurable courage in the face of threats from cowardly, ignorant men. Pragaash may have disbanded. But there is no denying their victory of daring to walk on stage in the first place.
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