Music composer Santhosh Narayanan put out a two-page statement on Monday, August 1, via his Twitter account, seemingly responding to a post made earlier today by Arivu regarding the credits for the hit song Enjoy Enjaami. “In December 2020, Dhee came up with an idea of a song that glorified our roots and celebrated nature. I then composed, arranged, programmed, recorded and co-sang Enjoy Enjaami,” he says in the statement. Earlier on Monday, singer-songwriter and rapper Arivu, who sang the song along with Dhee, had taken to social media to state that he “composed, wrote, and performed” Enjoy Enjaami.
The statements come days after the hit song was performed by Dhee (who is also the stepdaughter of Santhosh Narayanan) along with Kidakuzhi Mariyammal at the inauguration of the 44th Chess Olympiad in Chennai. Arivu was not part of the performance, and the composition of the song was credited to Santhosh Narayanan by the Emcee. There has been a lot of discussion about appropriation around the song, whose lyrics were written by Arivu, who’s a Dalit man, but was only given a ‘featuring’ credit in the song.
In his statement, Santhosh thanked director Manikandan, known for Kaaka Muttai and Kadaisi Vivasayi, “for meticulously choosing the foundation of the lyrics for this song and for spending so many hours with Arivu to create a flow and script for the song lyrics." The composer also says that Enjoy Enjaami was based on Manikandan’s recent movie Kadaisi Vivasayi.
Arivu’s Instagram post came days after Santosh Narayanan was credited for composing Enjoy Enjaami at a live performance at the inaugural ceremony of the 44th Chess Olympiad being held in Chennai. The live version of the song was performed by singers Dhee and Kidakuzhi Mariyammal. Many social media users had expressed their disappointment that Arivu was not credited or even mentioned during the event.
Arivu took to Instagram to share that he took six months to write and compose the song. He also shared in his Instagram post that the song speaks about his background, culture and heritage and that though producing the song was a team effort, this does not give the label or other collaborators the right to invisibilize the struggles of his ancestors which he addresses in the track. “Anyone can snatch away your treasure when You’re alseep. Never when you are awake. Jaibhim. Truth will always win in the end.#enjoyenjaami #appropriationart,” Arivu wrote.
“No doubt it (the song) calls everyone together,” he added in the post. “But it doesn’t mean that’s not the history of Valliammal or the landless Tea plantation slave ancestors of mine. Every song of mine will be having the scarmark of this generational oppression. Like this Just One..There are 10000 songs of folk in this land. The songs that carry the breath of ancestors ,their pain ,their life, love, their resistance and all about their existence. It’s all speaking to you in beautiful songs. Because we are a generation of blood and sweat turned into melodies of liberating arts. We carry the legacy through songs,” Arivu wrote in his Instagram post on Monday.
This is not the first time where there has been a discussion over Arivu’s exclusion from being credited for Enjoy Enjaami. Last year, Rolling Stone magazine had done a cover story on Dhee and Sri Lanka-born Tamil rapper San Vincent de Paul. The article had featured two songs that both artists had sung and were highly popular at the time: Neeye Oli and Enjoy Enjaami, both songs which Arivu had written lyrics for. Neeye Oli was aslo one of the songs in the soundtrack of director Pa Ranjtih’s Sarapetta Parambarai.
Later, an EDM version of Enjoy Enjaami was released by singer Dhee and DJ Snake on Spotify — which was also streamed on the Times Square Billboard last year — and here too, Arivu was excluded from the video. This was again condemned by many, who argued that Arivu’s erasure from his own tracks was ‘appropriative’. Frequent collaborators and Arivu’s colleagues from the industry, including director. Pa Ranjith took to social media to question why Arivu was not given due credit.