Introducing Amrit Kohli, Singer-Songwriter and Peace Activist

Amrit Kohli is more than an artist. He is also a longtime activist, advocating for issues such as LGBTQ rights and for the war and genocide to end in Palestine. He is also the creator of Queer Folk, Inc.

His album Crucify Me came out in 2002, just after Kohli got back from his first national tour. The album uses religious metaphors, like crucifixion, to shine light on the reality of the United States and the powers that be. He also discusses themes of love and freedom, expressing a sense of personal crucifixion by societal pressures, love, familial dynamics, and the challenges faced as an LGBTQ individual.

Crucify Me is ten tracks and just under an hour of listening. The album is folk album, or as Amrit likes to say “queer folk.” It is driven by acoustic guitars, with many songs having open tunnings to create a larger than life guitar sound. Amrit Kohli’s voice floats on top of the acoustic guitars while he sings with fortitude and complete sincerity.

The record starts off strongly with a 7-minute title track.  “Crucify Me” features quickly strummed acoustic guitars that demand the listeners’ attention. “Crucify Me” delves into the perspective of Jesus Christ, questioning the resurrection of crucifixion and pondering who seeks to crucify him anew. The lyrics directly address the motives behind actions, reminiscent of the betrayal Jesus experienced. Jesus challenges others to reveal their intentions, echoing the disillusionment with those who turned against him. The song also challenges the notion of salvation attributed to Jesus, asserting that individuals must save themselves. Jesus rejects the role of savior, emphasizing personal agency: “I don’t need nobody to save me; and I really don’t want to be saving you.” This anthem encapsulates the artist’s musical journey and faith, centered not on Jesus, but on self-belief and autonomy. Christianity can be a touchy subject within the LGBTQ community, who have faced so much religious-based trauma. This song is a step in the right direction for the queer community. It explores and challenges themes of Christianity safely. Crucify is one of the stand-out tracks on the record.

This theme continues on the next song, “Angels.” This time, Amrit Kohli sings from his own perceptive, retelling the story of Jesus as a man who strived for love above all else. The acoustic guitars dance throughout this beautiful song while Amrit sings with extreme emotion. We asked Amrit Kohli for more information about the songwriting inspiration and he said this:

“I wrote Angels to tell the story of my belief and faith that I am an Angel sent with a mission of love from the Gods and Goddesses. Calling myself an Angel and a Lion is a metaphor for the duty I feel compelled to exercise in my life as a guide and a leader to all of humanity. I am trying to retell the story of Jesus and reclaim it from Christians who have blasphemed his name by stringing images and sculptures of him up on a cross, permanently etching the synonym of the crucifix upon Jesus. Jesus did not die for our sins. He was murdered by humanity. So, Angels and Crucify Me together are both symbols of Jesus as if he was singing them himself.” – Amrit Kohli

We move on to another powerful song, “Gandhi’s Arms.” The acoustic guitars settle into a slower pace as Amrit Kohli softly sings this anti-war song. He wrote this song specifically about the “War on Terror” but the lyrics are very relatable to what is currently going on in Gaza. This is a protest song, it’s a pro-peace song, and an anti-war song.  He sings about the government instilling fear into the heads of Americans, to justify the war. He blames fear but the mass killings. “It’s our fear that arms our bombs…It’s our fear that, pilots our planes, so how could it be good for the Palestinian daughters?” Remember that this song was released in 2002, and the message still rings true today, 22 years later. Fear is often the biggest driver of hate. I agree that fear also motivates war while justifying it. “Gandhi’s Arms” is a protest song that everyone needs to hear.

“Ceasefire in Gaza! If you are an Israeli, then you cannot be a Jew. No Jew would participate in the genocide of the Palestinians or any people, for that matter. Therefore, Israelis cannot be Jews anymore because Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinian people, and Jews know better than to participate in such an atrocity.” – Amrit Kohli

Things turn to a more hopeful vibe on “Beauty Is…”. This is a song about recognizing beauty in the everyday, this recognition of beauty has the power to set us free. This is a beautiful song with quickly strummed guitars and a slowly paced vocal with lots of reverb. It is hard to keep hope alive during times like these, but it is very important. Let this song give you a bit of hope today.

Next we hear a song about an ended romance centered around the theme of unrequited love. “Chasing Rainbows” is a queer love song about the lows in a relationship. Amrit Kohli explains the meaning of the song that is titled after the catchy refrain:

No matter how much I loved him, he loved me that much less. So, chasing rainbows is exactly that: a futile endeavor that you will never succeed at because one can never catch a rainbow. – Amrit Kohli

“Love & Liberty” follows the previous song perfectly. This song is about letting go of love and the relationship. It’s about taking a different path and letting the person you are in a relationship go, giving them the freedom to exist differently and separately.  This song features guitars that are a bit higher in register, giving the album a breath of fresh air.

“Travelin’ Man” is a poignant reflection on a personal journey and societal struggle, born from the artist’s experiences during their very first national music tour in 2002 alongside their boyfriend, Jack. The song initially delves into the intimate dynamics of their relationship before unfurling into a narrative of migration and displacement. Set against the backdrop of coming to America as a refugee from Kenya at the age of 5 in the 1970s, the lyrics resonate with the refrain, “I’ve been traveling all of my life.” However, beneath the surface lies a searing indictment of the American promise of freedom, with the artist lamenting, “I came of age in the land of the free, I wanna know why there’s none for me.” Through raw honesty, the song exposes the disillusionment of finding oneself constrained within a nation that proclaims liberty yet perpetuates oppression. “Travelin’ Man” emerges as a soul-stirring anthem, echoing the artist’s defiance and resilience in the face of systemic barriers. The next song “Untitled” follows “Travelin’ Man” very well, as Kohli sings about his experiences dealing with American’s contradictions, and being an immigrant child, who is getting bullied in school, and being told to go back to Africa. Eventually, Amrit Kohli has been bullied so much that he misses his home country and does want to go back from Africa.

America sold my family and millions of other families on this idea that America is a free country. Nothing could be further from the truth. America is not a free country for me. America oppresses me. – Amrit Kohli

“Shine-Beauty” is an anthem about letting your beautify shine despite being trapped in unfortunate circumstances that feeling oppressing. This song could serve as inspiration and motivation for many. It’s a healing force that begs to be listened to. The overall message is a call for people to practice self-love and not hide their inner beauty.

“Only with hope can there be forgiveness and healing.” – Amrit Kohli

“Another Boy” serves as a deeply personal testament to Amrit’s journey, stemming from the heart-wrenching moment of being disowned by his father at the tender age of 19 for embracing their queer identity. Through its poignant lyrics, the song sheds light on the harsh realities faced by countless individuals—regardless of gender identity—who are shunned by their families upon coming out, subsequently finding themselves thrust into the unforgiving streets in a battle for survival. Evocatively capturing the struggle, the song portrays the narrative of seeking solace along the bustling boulevards of LA, where the warmth of the west offers a fleeting sense of respite amidst the challenges of homelessness.

“Queer liberation is a journey that began with the Stonewall Riots, the assassination of Harvey Milk, the AIDS epidemic, and sexual liberation and freedom in the 1960’s. Music, poetry, and art are integral components of our liberation movement. We must stand up for ourselves and each other. We must bring our queer brothers and sisters off the streets and into our homes and hearts. We must build our own families where our biological families were lost to homophobia and hatred. If we intend to be free, we must liberate ourselves from the bondage of heterosexuality.” – Amrit Kohli

Listen to Crucify Me on Spotify now:

Written by Ryan Cassata

The post Introducing Amrit Kohli, Singer-Songwriter and Peace Activist appeared first on ROCK THE PIGEON.

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