India’s first trans pop group is confronting the country’s prejudices one hit song at a time.
6 Pack Band have a story similar to many of today’s popular singing groups – they auditioned and came together on a talent show.
However, the group is revolutionizing India’s pop music scene more than any band that has come before them because 6 Pack Band is made up of six trans women.
Bhavika Patil, Fida Khan, Chandrika Suvarnakar, Asha Jagtap, Ravina Jagtap, and Komal Jagtap are bringing visibility to a community that has only just recently seen improvements to their way of life.
It has been two years since the Indian Supreme Court ruled that trans people had equal rights under the law, but most in the community still face an immense amount of stigma, alienation, and discrimination.
Many trans women, called hijras, are forced to begging or sex work to make money.
Komal Jagtap was making about 5,000 rupees (£52) working as a wedding singer when she heard about an audition for the trans pop group.
“When we walk on the streets, people call us names,” Jagtap said about her experiences before the band. “They warn children to stay away.”
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Now 6 Pack Band is featured in recent Bollywood film “Sultan” and their songs released earlier this year have millions of views on YouTube.
“This was an effort to get the community front and centre, and get people talking,” said Ashish Patil, head of Y-Films, who formed the band.
The group’s first song, “Hum Hain Happy”, is a cover of the Pharrell Williams’ hit “Happy”, and was released in January to coincide with India’s Republic Day.
Now Jagtap lives the life of a pop star, with fewer people throwing insults and more people recognizing and praising her for 6 Pack Band’s music.
But Japtap really hopes that the group can help young hijras live better lives.
“There will always be a child born in a house somewhere that is a hijra. But they deserve to live, too. Don’t hide them away.
“Don’t keep them in a cage. And if you can’t accept them, let them live with people who understand them. Set them free.”