Meet The Creative Force Behind The Tamil Protest Rap Song, ‘Anti-Indian’.

Meet The Creative Force Behind The Tamil Protest Rap Song, ‘Anti-Indian’.
(image credit : Rohith Abraham)

Elections are here.

There is no doubt that with 2019 we have seen politics rear its ugly head in strange ways. Different forms of political dialogue have forced itself into the various walks of our domestic lives. Regardless of where you are and who you vote for, we can unanimously agree that the political climate this year has caused nothing but fatigue and sheer confusion. But things need to be said and voices need to be heard. And art is probably the best platform for that.

Arivarasu Kalainesan and Rohith Abraham are the rapper-producer duo behind the viral hit, ‘Anti-Indian’. They go by the stage name of Arivu and ofRo and are the creative duo who wrote the Tamil rap banger which takes a stab at the governing bodies and the recent misuse of the word ‘anti-Indian’. Arivu is also part of The Casteless Collective, so exploring political subjects is not new to him. Shot in a laser-red filter with a life size cut out Kendrick Lamar in the background, Arivu tirelessly spits bars about societal hypocrisy and political class over ofRo’s industrial production.

We had the pleasure to talk to the duo about politics, art and everything in between. Here’s what they had to say.

What according to you makes someone truly ‘anti-Indian’?

‘Anti Indian’ is a word that has been trending in the political dialogue in Tamil Nadu for the past few years. This word has been strategically used to silence anybody who questions the government. I don’t wish to name the politician who made this word famous. It has become a label to suppress the voice of protesters, activists, writers and the common man. The word in itself is harmless, however the context with which it is being spewed further curbs a healthy dialogue in a state where freedom of expression is already at risk.

Who is the real anti Indian, you ask? When I was 19, I was a college student, with no idea about politics. I appeared at the polling booth for the first time, only to find out that someone else has already cast my vote. Whoever was responsible for that fuck up, that person is the real anti Indian. The people against secularism and sovereignty of India, they are the real anti Indians.

You wrote this song over a year ago. How do you think our country’s political climate change, especially during this election season?

When ofRo and I were in the studio writing what was the beginning of our album, the word “anti Indian” once again began trending. At the time, we wrote and performed it for Madras Medai, the music festival. I wrote this keeping in mind the minorities, who are always the victims of bad governance.

Fast forward to a year later, nothing has changed. The people around me continue to be victims, while the political candidates who appeared during their campaigns, disappeared the very next day after the elections. Last week, there was a violent caste based attack on the Election Day in Chidambaram district in TN where children and old women were assaulted. The same politicians who fell on their feet asking for votes, did not even make a comment about this violence.

To answer your question, the political climate of this country has always favoured the ruling classes and always ignored the oppressed. Nothing new.

You gave a touching speech during your Madras Medai performance about the importance of humanity. Could you expand on that?

I felt the need to stress on the importance of humanity that day because it was a stage of inclusion, where people from all parts of life took part. There was an important message to deliver to everyone present.

The same day, 9 years earlier, was a dark day for humanity when lakhs of Tamils were killed in a genocide in Sri Lanka. I wanted to remind the audience that this dark history could repeat itself if we are not mindful of loving and caring for each other. Following this, ofRO and I have written our album, #Therukural to further spread the message that restoring human dignity is far more important than communalism. The album is all set for release on May 1.

Why is it important for you to write protest songs? Do you think other artists too should use their art to express their political views?

Yes, it is important for me to write songs with politico-social messaging, because every artist has a story about where they’re from, who they are, and how they got there. Within this journey are many stories of love, anger, angst and if you really pay attention to what they’re saying, there will always be a political message within it.

You don’t need to be a political artist to raise your voice against issues in society. I wish all creatives would get involved in shaping the way society think and react to such issues, but I cannot make a decision for other artists. Our songs and our stories inspire other people to boldly share their stories with the world. I get messages every day from strangers who follow me. They send me their songs and poetry and they’re filled with stories of their truth.

How important is music and art in bringing people together and reflecting the reality of the society?

Art has the power to unite and divide. To nurture and destroy. It is the responsibility of every artist to be aware of the impact that they have on the society around them. Bob Marley is an excellent example of music uniting people. Poems have changed governments. Songs have mobilised protests. Art movements have led revolutions. Art is a double edged sword wielded by the artist. The artist is a reflection of the society around them. So we must take care in building a society that nurtures and develops more artists to speak their truth.

(image credit : Rohith Abraham)

Arivu are ofRo also releasing their debut 6 track EP called ‘Therukural’ on May 1st across all major streaming platforms.

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