Head Held High : A Song Dedicated to the Queer Community

It was December 2013 when we – Friends of Linger – first took stage with the only original song we had – Head Held High. This was a poem I wrote months earlier that was turned into song with one of the paras being repeated to create a chorus. The interpretation and imagination of this poem into song, was entirely in the hands of Adhir Ghosh and Smiti Malik – both professional musicians highly respected for their art. The song went through a series of rough cuts to become what it is now.

Even before the song went into the studio to be recorded, we had a date with Hard Rock Cafe here in Delhi. As it happened, a few days prior to our gig, the Supreme Court re-criminalised gay sex, accordingly Head Held High and our first night on stage (played up by the press) played far greater importance than it would normally have got. We had over 200 people in front of us singing along and seeking an encore of our only track in the midst of so many covers we did that night. The frustration and anger against the SC order was palpable.

Since that night, the song went through a long period of polishing, record, mixing and finally mastering – all under the guidance of Adhir, Smiti and Anindo (who played the keyboards and recorded the track at his studio – Plug N Play). Finally, by end 2014 we had the track and months later, we had a video which had a different context and interpretation.

The remake of the music video, though, was not exactly a planned action. It was impulsive and just a sense that one wanted something fresh and from today’s standpoint. The challenges, of course, is always about getting protagonists who are willing to put themselves out there in a video that is sensitive and real in terms of affection and love. This challenge led me to look around, seek people out and find ways of generating content.

This resulted in the video becoming a collaborative effort with Neil Singh and Eli Pew offering access to their wedding video; Dimple Chowdhury sharing photos of herself with her partner; Queer Azaadi Mumbai and QGraphy providing access to their library just like Gaylaxy Magazine. Similarly, a South Korean contact passed on royalty free footage from a film and so did Sujoy Correa out of Bengaluru giving us material on Alex Mathew – Maya The Drag Queen. We also had our own visual content ultimately leaving me with the task of writing out an edit second by second, working closely with Kolitha Dissanayake in Sri Lanka who handled post production.

While the video is now there to be seen on YouTube and our Facebook page, the song is available on iTunes, Amazon Music, Spotify etc. The track has been remastered at Sound Lab through the global music distribution leader CD Baby out of the USA. In fact, we are using CD Baby to distribute the song globally and Ok Listen in India.

Sharif D Rangnekar