Published: 02nd July 2019
From Anti-Indian to Asifa, how Therukural has changed the face of Tamil hip hop forever
The album produced by Pa Ranjith and the Casteless Collective released on June 26 and is getting rave reviews from musicians and the general public
When I interviewed Arivu and OfRo while they were still working on the now released and viral Therukural album, they said some really fantastic things about music, art and social structures. But there was one thing that really stood out, they said at the end of the day they just want to create a pure hip-hop album and they wanted it to be a complete entertainer. "Only if it's entertaining, will people pay attention to the lyrics too," OfRo said.
Now that it's out, we know that the duo has kept their word. And HOW! Therukural is unlike anything that India has seen before let alone Tamil Nadu. It is at par with international standards, entertaining, groovy, stylish and the lyrics are just....well, ironically I can't seem to find the right words. The only ones I can come up with are — heartbreaking, snarky, sarcastic, empowering and it does exactly what art is supposed to do — move you. Also, it does something that many rap artists in India have failed to do so far, appeal to the women too!
We sat down with Arivu and asked him to tell the story behind each of the seven songs on the album
OK Sir — This is the first song that Arivu wrote. "I had just met Tenma and OfRo and we wrote this song. We were wondering what the song could be about and then they told me that I should write about how my journey had been up to that point in my life," Arivu said. Which is why Arivu made it a point to mention director Pa Ranjith and a clip from an interview he gave about him too. He recalls how he got the call from Ranjith's office and how his dream took birth right then.
Anti-Indian — This song went viral when it released. "We had to perform for the Madras Medai so we quickly wrote this song but we had no idea it would become as big as it did," Arivu said. The singer says that the song was written to address the situation at the time and made it a point to question those in power. "I wanted to make a point about how humanity is above all," Arivu said. The song became such a huge hit because Arivu and OfRo went to the streets and performed in front of ordinary crowds.
Kallamouni — "This song is political satire," Arivu says. It protests the hypocrisy of people, "I talk about how people will keep on complaining about corporates but if they are offered on-site then they immediately go stand and grin." Even when things are going to the dogs, but nobody wants to care and how they maintain silence for certain and shout their throats hoarse for others. "We were wondering what are some of the subjects we haven't touched in the album and so we decided to write this," he said.
Tamilachi — Arivu says Tamilachi was written to ridicule and question the stereotypes that are thrust on women. "When we write about women we usually praise them for their softness, for their Mahalakshmi-like demure. Or we talk about how they've betrayed us or ridicule them for their straightforwardness or their modern thinking. So I wanted to write a song to praise women for wanting to be exactly who they are," Arivu explained. He said he wanted to write a love song to their 'thimiru'. "It's easy to get famous with a song criticising women. I didn't want that sort of easy fame, I want to write for women as well and talk about how they don't need anyone to determine their freedom. Whether they want to go to a pub, drink or smoke, they cannot be criticised," the young artist said.
Middle Class — This song was sort of autobiographical for Arivu, "Basically I wanted to write about how young boys from the middle class. How we have fun and what our lifestyle is like. It's basically my lived experiences," Arivu said. Love letter, leave letter, EMI — Arivu sings but then he also talks about how everyone dreams of Selena Gomez!
Snowlin — This song is preceded by a recording of all the voices from the Thoothukudi massacre, from victims to news reporters to activists to finally, the voice of Snowlin's mother talking about how she felt she had given up her child as a sacrifice. Soon after we hear Arivu saying, "Naan Snowlin pesuraen, is it falling on your ears? My sister Asifa is here with me."The duo wrote the song after the shooting and the Kathua rape, "We wanted to show how women are being treated from Kashmir to Kanniyakumari. Then I thought what they would say if they could write us a letter," Arivu said.
While the album has already been released on YouTube, Spotify, Saavn and Apple. The videos are releasing one by one, the latest one for Kallamouni quickly reached 30,000 views and is on a steady rise. Arivu tells me this only the third Tamil Hip Hop album and the second one in nearly a decade. The last one being Hip Hop Thamizha's album. But that's just one of the reasons why Therukural is historic. The fact that it is political and thoroughly entertaining is pathbreaking for Tamil hip hop genre and the duo has made one thing clear — they are here to stay!
However, the album seemed to have received some criticism for 'using' the cases of Asifa and Snowlin to 'gain publicity' but rap originated from pain, from the Black community wanting to talk about their problems and their empowerment. Thank God, that at least through art we're reminded of Asifa and Snowlin. May we never forget them and may the music never die.