Ode to Women: A Mother's Day Special
May 14, 2017

11 minute read


A decade ago South Asian Hip Hop artists Nimo, Swap, and KB collaborated on a song called Ode to Women. Ten years later they reunited along with gifted filmmaker, Ellie Walton, to bring it to life through a powerful music video. Filmed in India, motherland of their mothers, and bursting with the vibrant colors and traditions of that part of the world, the video includes three vignettes of everyday women and their extraordinary contributions. Dedicated to their mothers and to women of all generations across the globe, "Ode to Women" is the first bilingual song released by Empty Hands Music. Watch the video and read a special behind-the-scenes interview with the artists below.

Question: Where did the idea for this music video originate from?

Nimo Patel: I had always felt that this would be a beautiful video and message to share with our world. After the brutal incident in Delhi in 2012, emotions and awareness surged nationally and though the problem of violence against women has always existed, I felt a tipping point in my heart. There was an internal push and desire to share a message of love and respect for women, through this song and video.

The creative concept of the film was generated based on three constraints. We wanted to:

1) Show a celebration of love and respect for women 

2) Tell the daily stories of women and

3) Do it all within a low budget. 

These three aspects aligned in the idea of holding an art exhibition where the strength, courage and generosity of women of all generations could be displayed through art, making it festive -- by inviting the community to come and celebrate those paintings, and using post-production tricks to dive into some of the images (zoom in), and tell three unique stories of three different women (a mother, a wife and a grandmother).

Q: Are there any inspiring stories from the process of composing the bi-lingual lyrics or the shooting and editing stage that come to mind? 

Nimo: I really loved following Mooli Ba for the day(the grandmother who picks and recycles trash for her day to day job). Her spirit is so powerful. She has such a tough life, if you look at it from an outside perspective. Waking up at 3 or 4am everyday to go trash picking around the city to then get recycled – to then come back home after 5-6 hours of work and only earn about a dollar after all that work. Then to continue her day to make food and support her husband, children, and grandchildren who all live in her home, in the largest slum in Gujarat. And yet, after all of this, she has endless amounts of energy, smiles, positivity and confidence. When we were filming her, she was so effortless. She felt so comfortable in her slippers, just being and doing what she has always been doing (for the last 40 years!). She was proud to do what she did, on camera. And when others around us were staring at us filming at 5am in the morning, she was just happy to do what she was doing and to talk about why we were filming her. Her spirit is a great example of what we want this video to celebrate! She is pure Magic!

The other people we zoom into at different points in the video are Sangita Bhavsar and Samay Bhavsar, and Divyang Thakkar and Veronica Gautam. 

Sangita and Samay are a real-life mother and son duo, who were both thrilled to be in the part of the music video, that depicts a son processing his relationship with his mom and eventually realizing how grateful he is for her. Divyang and Veronica are a real-life married couple who are both well known Gujarati actors. They have been serving at Manav Sadhna for over 3 years in various capacities – with their latest offering being a short film telling the magical stories of the “Rag-Picking Women” in the Ahmedabad community.

Q: What is your aspiration for this special creation? What would you like it to seed in the listener's/viewer's minds and hearts? 

Nimo: The simple purpose of the video is to seed a further message of love and respect for the Women of our planet. They are our mothers, sisters, daughters, wives, aunties, grandmothers, nieces, friends, girlfriends and much more. They are the givers of life. They are the ambassadors of love, patience, sacrifice, courage and compassion. Music and even more so nowadays, Hip hop, is being absorbed by today’s youth. We hope this video plants seeds in the hearts of the youth as well as all of humanity, whoever may watch, to see the women of the planet, through a lens of deep gratitude and respect.

Q: Why were you compelled to write this song in Gujarati and English?

Swapnil Shah:  We love writing in different languages because it's the best way to directly connect with people. When you are a Gujarati speaking individual and you hear rapping in your own language, it makes an immediate impact and truly helps people understand the meaning of the song. Furthermore, it's my mother tongue and this song is about showing appreciation for those women who have paved the way for us to be here today. In my case, many of those women are Gujarati and deserve to hear a meaningful thank you in their language. 

Q: What does this song mean to you? Why an Ode to Women?

Kiran Belur: This song represents a very important truth for us as first generation South Asian American males.  We were all raised by strong women, with many other strong female role models around us.  But at the same time, we were raised in a culture that often times subjugates and marginalizes women.  So when the idea of this song came up -- I believe from Nimo -- we all jumped at the opportunity to pay homage to all of the special female role models in our lives and let them know how much we love them. It's always been a special song to me.

Q: We understand you volunteered your time and money to fly halfway across the world, for just 2 days to join Nimo and Ellie to shoot this music video. What moved you to do this?

Swap: We love making music together and following our vision to make a true impact in the world through our art. We realize we are lucky to have this opportunity and we want to pay respect to these types of chances that come along so infrequently in life. The best way to do that is by making time and space in our lives to pursue these goals. We have grown up together and continue to do so. There was never a doubt in our minds that we needed to make this video. Plus, Nimo and Ellie did all the hard work anyways:) 

KB: This was a no brainer for me.  I always wanted to make a special video for this song to release on Mother's day.  But I sort of let the idea die once Karmacy stopped performing together (~2009).  When Nimo decided to include the song on his album and told me he had an idea for a video, I was on board right away.  The cost and tight itinerary were an issue for sure, but easily outweighed by the opportunity to work with Nimo and Swap again and fulfill a dream of making this video, and doing some Karmacy work in India (this is something we had all talked about for a long time). On top of all that, I got the opportunity to experience first hand the type of work Nimo has been doing in the slum villages of Gujurat and Gandhi Ashram.  It was an incredible experience and one I wouldn't trade for anything. 

Q: Ellie, what moved you to volunteer your time to take a short trip in India to offer your love and amazing talent to shoot this video, with this message.

Ellie Walton: The root of why I make films is to reveal the beauty and strength of people who may be overlooked or misrepresented. I seek to honor the everyday heroes, misfits and underdogs as a way of cultivating mutual understanding and common ground. Right now, the amount of violence and darkness in our world can feel overwhelming. For me, I find a way through by continuing to see the beauty, by collaborating with artists to bring that beauty (the strength and struggles) to platforms that can reach and connect with people. Nimo shared this song with me in the first weeks of me living in Ahmedabad in 2013. The poetry and power of the words, combined with the shoulder-bopping musicality, simply struck a chord and we immediately began brainstorming visual imagery and storylines. At the same time, I was filming with a group of courageous, feisty, young women who decided to go back to school to follow their dreams. I played this song for them, and I vividly remember watching their eyes grow wide, their lips stretch into smiles, as they heard men from the US rapping in Gujarati about the value of women. As we danced together, I had this gut stirring feeling that this song was not just an ode to them, but an ode to all of us.  The seed was planted then, and although I returned to the US and years passed, when Nimo reached out about coming back, it was a simple “hell yeah!” The decision to shoot the video was easy. (Also, any opportunity to collaborate and play with Nimo. Even though I flew half way across the world for this one, my spirit was refueled for months)

Q: How does having been a mother, impact your connection to this video, song and message.

Ellie: Being a mom has simply deepened my understanding, respect and admiration for the three mothers whose story we captured in the video, who wake up before the sun, who juggle work and family, who laugh and sweat and love.  I feel like my heart muscle is in a constant state of practice, waking up at 5 am for morning cuddles, balancing his little body on my left hip as I crack eggs with one hand for our breakfast, cultivating patience as he sits in the middle of the sidewalk and watches ants marching, and being reminded that his innate wonder at all the small things is way more important then getting to his grandma’s on time so that I can shoot another video. And so I’ve learned to simply to sit down with him and watch bugs and listen for woodpeckers, and edit films late at night or early weekend mornings or in windows when friends and family can play with him, because I simply cherish these moments. There can be a lot of judgment about moms, about their decision to stay at home or go back to work, or about the lack of a decision to be made and how they just have to make it work. Moms often have to wear two hats, they often have impossible and endless jobs to do, and they can often feel like they’re doing a bad job at both. This video honors all of those decisions and non-decisions, honors the strength and love and joy that mothers have in the face of impossible and endless tasks, and inspires us all to be a bit more like the amazing mothers that we all know.

Q: Can you share a story about how you've been inspired by your own mother?  

Ellie: One week ago, at my son’s second birthday party, my mom anointed every toddler on their foreheads with imagination potion as they filed one by one out the back door into our garden. Even though it was drizzling and the ground was soaked, and most parents would probably cancel the outdoor games, she led the toddlers into an imaginary world, transforming a giant wet parachute into an ocean, swimming around like fish and dolphins, with waves made my smiling, incredulous parents. As my mom rolled onto her back, throwing her legs into the air as neighborhood parents watched their kiddos get wet, I felt a hint of my teenage self returning, slightly embarrassed by her wackiness (although grandmas always have permission). But then I remembered my 4 year old self, and how much I loved these magical worlds she created for us, where our living rooms turned into stories unfolding, castles and remote islands and mythic underworlds formed out of furniture and sheets, elaborate creative spaces that cultivated our sense of play and fantasy. We often let these worlds stay up for days. It wasn’t practical to climb over these obstacle courses as we left the house, just like it wasn’t practical to get soaking wet at a toddler’s birthday party, but watching those kids laugh and smile with a glint of fascination and intrigue in their eyes reminded me of how my mom constantly cultivated joy and wonder in me, even if things weren't going well, even if it was a bad day. She always encouraged my imagination, my creativity, my ability to be present in whatever I was doing or wherever I was, and I'm grateful for those gifts all the time, especially now that I’m a mother. Especially now that she's doing it for my son, too. It is the most amazing gift.

Nimo: Mother’s are just unconditional in nature. 9 months of bodily sacrifice and embrace, giving birth to a new life, and then give of herself, physically, her time, and all possible resources to nourish this child of hers and cultivate an environment that allows for this young soul to flourish. What’s amazing is seeing the similarities of the mother’s spirit in all species. Its just one of the most beautiful miracles and magic of Life that we get to observe and be a part of. Almost every being gets to experience a little if not a lot of this Motherly magic. The beautiful thing is to see how my mom’s spirit doesn’t change now that I’m older. She still sees and treats me like her little child. And it's that purity in her eyes and heart that is just eternal. I am forever grateful for that spirit in her that inspires us to try to share with others.

Q: What do you hope this video offers to the world?

Ellie: This video asks us to stop, reflect, and appreciate the incredible women that are foundational to who we are and to everything we have. Women give so much to society and yet we aren't very good at recognizing or valuing them -- their love and kindness, grit and tenacity, curiosity and wonder, forgiveness and acceptance, joy and laughter. This video is an invitation into different space, a transformational space, one of admiration and gratitude.


For the past 5 and half years Nimo has been serving and working with the underprivileged communities in the Gandhi Ashram in India.Visit EmptyHandsMusic for more inspiring videos by Nimo and friends. To learn more about Ellie Walton and her work check out her website.

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