CHENNAI: Have you ever listened to a rap song and wondered how you could make it appealing to old-timers like your parents or grandparents? Popular rap artist Blaaze, of movies like Baba, Rang De Basanti and Slumdog Millionaire fame, recently performed at a unique initiative of Sri Krishna Gana Sabha named Rap Bhakti Mala.
Blaaze incorporated Sanskrit slokas and verses with hip-hop and electronica music. His collaboration with fellow artists Paul Jacob, DJ Kave and veena player Rajhesh Vaidhya produced a fusion music that regaled both the youth and senior citizens alike who grooved to the catchy tunes. City Express caught up with Blaaze for a tete-a-tete after the event. So why did he create devotional rap? “About two years ago, I read Shyamala Dandakkam (written by poet Kalidasa). Ever since I heard the syllables and felt its energy, I wanted to share it with the world,” says Blaaze.
He spent a few months ‘absorbing’ it, and then took it to Paul J, who told him to try rapping it. “In the last two years, we have been working on improving and perfecting it, while giving due respect to the sanctity of the text,” he explains. “My brother-in-law said that it sounds like a ‘rap bhakti mala’ and that’s how the name was born!” Blaaze says that working with Sanskrit verses added a whole new dimension to the musical experience. “The syllables are phonetically placed to create an aura of positivity, so it’s more than just a language. It’s a great exercise for all kinds of singers and rappers,” he shares.
Having incorporated lines about the Prophet Mohammed and Jesus in the songs, Blaaze says that he wanted to stress on the unity of religions and their messages. “When you hear the bass line, or the scratching of the DJ or the masterful strokes of the veena, you know that music is beyond all language and religion. It’s just a great energy.”
Blaaze is all praise for his fellow performers and calls them “angels in disguise. Paul’s faith and belief in my ability surprised me; he gave me the freedom to express myself the way I think in my head,” he says. “Kave is popular in the club circuit and experiments with thumping, scratching and other things to keep up the momentum. Rajhesh is the coolest of all. We just asked him if he would like to join us in this experiment. Not only did he readily agree, he also showed us some of his coolest, funkiest and magical skills during rehearsals. It was amazing!”grins Blaaze.
This new quartet looks like the beginning of a successful venture, as Blaaze says he is looking forward to releasing a Rap Bhakti Mala album. “We did not expect this kind of opening. The doors have opened and we’re ready to perform more such concerts,” he adds.