Chennai-based singer-rapper-lyricist Arivu is thrilled with the immense appreciation coming his way for his latest song — Enjoy Enjaami, a collaboration with singer Dhee and composer Santhosh Narayanan. But he’s also mildly worried, he says, about the responsibility that follows with the popularity. He’s humbly basking in the success of the song which has clocked 19 million views on YouTube in just over a week — a major achievement for independent Tamil music.
Enjoy Enjaami is produced by Santosh Narayanan under the label of AR Rahman’s Maajja, which was formed to promote independent musicians. Besides singing, Arivu has written the lyrics for the song which has turned out to be a major earworm. “My conversations with my grandmother Valliamma formed the basis of the song,” Arivu says, attributing his success to Valliamma, in an interview to TNM.
The song, which is fused with Oppari (lament song sung during a mourning) is a celebration of the ancestors who toiled in the forests and led to human civilization.
“I have been working as an independent artist for a long time, and this song definitely has emerged as a breakthrough to my career,” Arivu says. Thanking Dhee and Santosh Narayanan for the song’s huge success, he says, “Santosh sir has always been a good support to me and helped me out. I see this collaboration with him as a historic one. So I have to thank him. Similarly, I was very eager to work with Dhee. I am glad that we worked together.”
Arivu who is also part of The Casteless Collective (TCC) — an anti-caste music band — is surprised with the reception of Enjoy Enjaami. Arivu has written Jai Bhim Anthem and several other independent songs which have been criticised for being ‘politically loaded’, but Enjoy Enjaami hasn’t faced the same criticism. “Although it’s no exception (in being political),” Arivu says.
“Usually all my songs are political and I get a lot of criticism but somehow this song has earned an universal acceptance. But this song too is ‘politically loaded’. I talk about people’s issues through the song. Maybe because I talk about the origins of civilization, before caste and other discriminatory practices came into existence, everyone could connect to it. But I am very happy with the song’s wide reception. My ultimate aim is to bring people together and fight against inequality.” Arivu says.
Arivu also credits Director Manikandan for helping him with the lyrics of the song. “I spent a lot of time discussing with Director Manikandan for this song. Besides, I used all my years of experience listening to Oppari and Gaana paatu to write the lines. The Oppari bit is also borrowed from there.”
“Naan anju maram valarthen… Azhagana thottam vachchen… Thottam sezhithaalum en thonda nanaiyalaye,” the lyrics go. Translation: I planted five trees and nurtured a beautiful garden. Though my garden is flourishing, my throat remains dry.
Though the song was written in just a week, for the song to be released, it took three months, Arivu discloses.
While there is a universal theme of celebrating the ancestors in the song, Arivu clarifies that his celebration of ancestors is not about ‘pride’, ‘supremacy’ and ‘jingoism’ — but a tribute to his ancestors who belong to marginalised communities — who are deprived of land.
Speaking about his grandmother Valliamma, who was taken from Tamil Nadu as a bonded labourer to Sri Lanka to work in the Tea estates there, he says, “My grandmother was taken to Sri Lanka as a bonded labourer, and when she returned, nothing had changed. We continued to live landless. She educated my mother by doing dishes in several houses.”
“Because of her, my mother became an educationist, and as a result I am an artist. She struggled throughout her life and made several sacrifices to make our lives better. So, of course I wanted to make a mention of her. I will continue to write many more songs about her if given an opportunity,” he says.
Before becoming a music artist, Arivu was an engineering student and completed his MBA too. His parents Kalainesan and Thenmozhi — both educationists — are happy about his career, but want him to pursue further education. And Arivu, too, is keen to do a PhD in Oppari music in the near future. But for now he is occupied with several film projects like Jagame Thandhiram, Kadaisi Vivasayi and Sarpatta Parambarai.
Watch the song here: