Indian rapper Sofia Ashraf’s “Kodaikanal Won't” takes corporate polluters to task in the most danceable way possible.
image via youtube screen capture
Kodaikanal is a small city in India’s Tamil Nadu state. For years it was the home of a thermometer assembly factory owned by the Unilever corporation. That factory, locals allege, dumped toxic levels of mercury into the ground, resulting in everything from neurological and reproductive complications to death for the former factory’s employees. For over a decade, residents have been pushing Unilever to directly address their role in the mercury contamination, which has, to date, reportedly left 45 former employees dead, as well as 12 children. Recently, former employees staged a protest outside a shareholder meeting at the company’s regional headquarters in Mumbai, where they handed out pamphlets to passers-by, detailing their medical struggles as a result of having worked in the now-shuttered Kodaikanal plant.
But while pamphlets and marching are one way to draw attention to the cause, Indian rapper Sofia Ashraf has another way to highlight Kodaikanal’s environmental crisis: Rework one of the hottest dance tracks of the year into a fiery protest song.
This is not Ashraf’s first foray into activist anthems. In 2009, her track “Don’t Work For Dow” took aim at the international chemical company in light of the 1984 Bhopal disaster (Union Carbide Corporation, the company which owned the chemical plant at the time of the disaster, was purchased by Dow in 2001).
“Kodaikanal Won’t,” which reworks rapper Nicki Minaj’s hit “Anaconda,” is part of a larger campaign by Indian social justice NGO Jhatkaa to call attention to Kodaikanal’s efforts to elicit action from Unilever. As the New York Times points out, Hindustan Unilever (the company’s local subsidiary) closed the Kodaikanal factory in 2001 after environmental groups raised the issue of mercury contamination with the company. However, the company rejects the health-related accusations of former employees. To that end, Jhatkaa has set up an online petition calling for Unilever to both clean up any remaining toxic contamination on site, as well as compensate former employees who are suffering from the effects of mercury exposure.