Published: 16th January 2020
Why rapper Arivu's Sanda Seivom has become Chennai's protest anthem
Arivu first sang this at a protest and since it was such an easy catchy tune that people began to sing along to as well, he decided to release the song officially
Who am I? Who are you? Who is your grandfather?
NRC is coming to dig up all that.
Then why did we need Aadhaar and Voters ID?
Now you have to dig out your great-great-grandfather from his grave.
Do you have brains? You halfwit?
These are some of the translated lines from Tamil rapper Arivu's latest song 'Sanda Seivom' (We Will Fight) and he doesn't hold back on his feelings in this one too. Arivu says that images of students bleeding for the cause of secularism made him feel that they were fighting for him as well. So with this song, he was fighting for them and the idea of India as dreamed of by his idols, Dr BR Ambedkar and Periyar.
The first time Arivu sang 'Sanda Seivom' was at a protest, "There were many political leaders at the protest too and they all praised the song including MP Kanimozhi Karunanidhi too. The students there started singing too, so I thought it might be a good idea to compose it properly and release it." So he approached composer Quazi Mode to compose music for the song that he had written in just a day.
The content for the song though had been forming in Arivu's head ever since the Assam NRC was in the news. "India is a union of states. We have a hundred ways in which we can be divided but that's not the India that was envisioned for us. We are a secular country. That's why students are standing at the front line, getting beaten up and are fighting. I was a student just a little while ago, so I'm still in that phase and so can completely relate to them," he tells us. He says the lyrics of the song are pretty direct and didn't involve any metaphors or complex, "Because the issue is pretty direct too. So I just said it like it is."
'Feeding fanaticism in the name of religion or language
Is none other than a foolish act.
All Indians are not Hindus,
And Muslims are not the enemies of Hindus,'
"First they will divide us on the basis of religion, then it'll become linguistic divisions and then regional and what not. From what we eat, to the colour of our skin we are made to feel ashamed. Now we want to discriminate against migrants, even though they bring so much to our economy and culture," Arivu says. Even in his lyrics, the young artist mentions — All of us are immigrants in this earth, Whoever inciting this war is a businessman!!....Who is minority here? Working-class is the majority all around the world, But, the reality is that we stay divided!!
The young rapper questions in his song if a baby that is yet to be born has a religion assigned to it.
Arivu also called out those who grabbed 'our lands, exploited our resources'. Generation after generation, they refused to touch us' — "We have reservation because we needed some sort of equality. Because of the constitution, we are able to wear clothes on our back and even though we came from landless families, we have reached so far in our lives," he points out.
The Casteless Collective member, however, believes that these protests are not a result of just NRC-CAA. He feels they are a culmination of several policies in the past that have bit by bit caused discrimination and division. "Take the NEP, for example, discrimination is not new," he cites.
In his song, Arivu also talks about how our grandfathers needed to be dug out of their graves to show their papers, "I myself don't know the names of my relatives from two generations ago. There is no way to keep track so where do people like us?" he asks.
As a young citizen, we ask Arivu if he thinks anything will come of the protests since so far, it has yielded no positive response from the government. "On our festivals, these days we're celebrating by protesting. Even our kolams speak politics today. We are reacting, we are protesting as families. But yes, we need more people to become aware. So we need more artists, singers, writers to make the movement grown bigger. We have to keep the conversation going. Even if not right now, we are going to find justice," the rapper believes.
But to keep this momentum going, Arivu hurried to get the video out as soon as the song became popular at the protest rallies. "I met Quazi Mode, who is one of the best that we had and he gave me a beat. So with that, we finished up the song. And our video also was only half a day's shoot. We could have made a really high budget video in a couple of months but that was not the point, we needed to bring it out as soon as possible because of the situation in the country right now," he explained.
So the video was shot on a zero budget and in Arivu's very own bedroom. "Since we didn't have any money, I figured why not shoot in my room itself. The director, Akshay Sundher and cinematographer, Raghav Aditya did an absolutely brilliant job of the entire video. I just wore my own clothes and they captured me doing the most random things like eating mixture!" he laughs. Arivu decided to release this song independently and registered the YouTube channel 'Therukural' just a few days ago, "We finished writing, composing and shooting in the video in two days but the mixing and editing took a few days." The video released two days ago but already has 20,000 views on the channel, Arivu says he's gotten great feedback from north Indian states as well.
Arivu begins his song by saying that equality is his dream and that his rap is a product of the rationality of Ambedkar and Periyar. He also ends the video with the quote — 'We are Indian firstly and lastly' by Ambedkar. "It is because of the Constitution that the landless and the oppressed have managed to have some access to basic rights, which is why now more than ever, we have to protect our constitution. And what better way, than art to do so?" the rapper says.