Published: 17th September 2018
Periyar at 140: Casteless Collective's Arivarasu pays ode to our rebellious thanthai with new single
The Casteless Collective artist's song has been produced by OfRo and has been released by the YouTube channel 'Karuppar Koottam'
Today the name "Periyar" resonates more loudly than ever and it's not just with the older generations, he's become a part of our pop culture and is still leading revolutions 45 years after his death. So much so, that today on September 17, his 140th birth anniversary, a group of youngsters have chosen to celebrate him through rap!
The Casteless Collective's Arivarasu Kalainesan has written and sung the song "Kalagakkaran Periyar" or The Rebellious Periyar and it has been produced by OfRo for the YouTube channel, Karuppar Koottam. OfRo a.k.a Rohit Abraham said that he and Arivu were planning on doing something special for Periyar's birthday but when Karuppar Koottam approached them with the same idea, they decided to collaborate.
For the uninitiated, the Casteless Collective is a platform set up by renowned director Pa Ranjith and brings together hip-hop, rap artists and gaana singers from the Dalit community. Arivu and Rohit are both part of the Collective and were brainstorming ideas of what sort of music to put together for Periyar, when Karuppar Koottam approached them.
Rebellion Pitch: Arivarasu performing at the Casteless Collective concert in Chennai
The song is refreshing as it weaves together the music of the 40's and 50's with rap, even the video starts off with an image of a record player! "When we were deciding how to go about the song, we were looking through all the older songs written about Periyar and they were all in the old style. It was traditional music with traditional instruments like the paarai. So we decided to retain some of that essence to bring in that old world charm, we didn't want to make the song to "rap-y" so brought the two together," Rohit said.
The duo took only about 4-5 hours to write the song and the whole process was a hurried, last-minute one but it all turned out pretty well for the team. Arivu said he was focussed on celebrating all of Periyar's philosophies in the songs, "From his views of women upliftment to caste to Ambedkar to his belief in the importance of fraternity and the Tamil spirit, I've tried to cover as many aspects of his life as possible. His ideology is the heart of this song," Arivu said.
Two to hip-hop: Arivarasu and Rohit Abraham performing at a concert
Pa Ranjith released the song on Twitter this morning and it has already been garnering a lot of good feedback from the general audience. The video of the song is also particularly interesting, "We weren't involved in the video making, that was thoroughly looked after by Karuppar Koottam. That was what was interesting about this collaboration though, the music and the video team were working separately but we were all on the same page. It was a blank canvas and our creative decisions were independent because we trusted each other and our ideas, " Rohit said.
Like we mentioned at the beginning, Periyar is a name everyone recognises but there are still lots of young people who don't know or understand what he stood for and how his words continue to help people break the shackles that hold them back. For them, this song is a lesson in his ideology that preached equality and self-respect, for the ones who know him and his philosophy in and out, 'Kalagakkaran Periyar' is a reminder of how much his ideology matters today and why we should continue fighting. Like the lyrics in the song - The war you (Periyar) waged is still on.