Enna kora, enna kora
En seeni karumbukku enna kora
....asks Valliammal of her chella peraandi (dear grandson), seen straddling the world between celebration and lament in Dhee and Arivu’s indie child Enjoy Enjaami. For the millions of people who have been turning up on streaming platforms for the song and have yet to keep it from playing in a loop, there’s no kora in sight. With Santhosh Narayanan’s hypnotic beats, Arivu’s anthem-like lyrics and Dhee bringing her own magic to the mix, this song continues to be generous with every viewing (or hearing).
Launched as the first release from the house of maajja (a technology-enabled label alternative spearheaded by three Canadian entrepreneurs and AR Rahman), the single has garnered over eight million views on YouTube alone. And the two artistes are thrilled with the reception so far.
“I didn’t expect maajja to release this first. And I haven’t worked with a label before; so, I had no idea about how things will work. But, they have been wellorganised and know how to launch an artiste. I suppose it’s this particular song (its theme) that led them to decide this would go first. I had been wanting to work on a song like this for long. Given the scale of the project, I knew it would work well,” recounts Arivu.
The song, designed to be a celebration of our roots, harks back to the ways of a time when humankind was a fledgeling civilisation, living in harmony with the turns of the earth and the many lives that shared it with them. And inspiration came from several places, they say. Both Arivu and Dhee point to director Manikandan for steering the discourse this way. “I got to know him while working for his next movie, Kadaisi Vivasaayi. When this song came up, we discussed a lot about this and he had many inputs. For me, I have been writing political songs under the Casteless Collective banner; they are filled with anger and it’s not something that everyone would listen to. But, we do it knowing that it’s not a commercial space; athu makkalukaana kural. But, we wanted this song to reach everyone and yet have a political depth to it. That’s when this idea — ulagam naaikum, narikum, punaikum, elikum, pooranukum sontham dhan — came up. So, we decided to talk about this,” narrates Arivu.
The device of delivery turned up from Arivu’s childhood — from his grandmother Valliammal, whose stories and songs of oppari he had grown up listening to. Enjaami too comes from her way of addressing her grandson. “This (song) can be seen as a celebration but we also wanted some lament in it. And oppari is our root art form for lament. Another side to this is, society still views oppari as an “untouchable” art form; because the people who do it are from oppressed sections. But, if you listen to an oppari song and a hip-hop song from the US in the 90s, both have the same lyrics. Naan Nina Simone paadrathayum kekaren, enga oorla paadra Baagiyammalayum kekaren; rendum onna dhan theriyuthu. Both are questioning the authority, through tears, through music. So, there was this connection. I wanted to mix oppari and rap in this song but with a tribal beat,” he elaborates.
“Naan anju maram valarthen
Azhagana thottam vechchen…
Thottam sezhithaalum, en thonda nanaiyalaye…”
This piece of the song has found particular favour among repeat listeners, it looks like. And this, perhaps, embodies the truth of the song in form and substance. “There was Paavalar Mugil in Tamilnadu Murpokku Ezhuthalar Kalaignargal Sangam. He was a brilliant singer. He retired from BHEL, in Ranipet. Even though he was in such a high post, he would take a parai instrument and sing in villages, at every protest. It was he who sang this verse for me. Itha vaai vazhiya, thalaimurai thalamuraya vantha sorkattu (verse).
So, I see this as a tribute to him too,” he shares. “Musically, we went through so many changes,” begins Dhee. “At first, my dad produced a beat. It sounded very cool for a week and then I was just “arggh”. Then, he did something completely different. Even for that, Arivu wrote lyrics and we sang tunes; it was almost like a finished product. Then, we scratched it out. Then, this beat happened. And I loved it. We didn’t get bored of it, no matter how many times we heard it. Arivu wrote so many lyrics and everything was beautiful. But, we were trying to find that space of celebration. And it just happened like that,” she narrates.
“Amma yi ambaari,
Indha indha mummaari”
“The song really connected to me, to all of us. It felt like me, and Arivu, and Santhosh appa. It felt like all of us. It was the most perfect, harmonious collaboration. The version that you’re hearing now was recorded in 20 minutes the day before the video shoot. So, it was the most natural process,” she shares. The video, which has garnered plenty of praise for its production value and already being reckoned as the first of its kind in Tamil indie music, was not without its share of care.
“A video can look really nice but the main thing is life; it has to represent the song. That was what we kept looking for. We went to Arivu’s village; that’s where we filmed the people in the song and many other scenes too. That was the best part of the shoot — everybody was lovely, it felt like a Thiruvizha. And Amith (Krishnan of Studio MOCA, the director) has done a brilliant job,” she says.
“Paadu patta makka
Enjoy Enjaami is just the beginning of maajja’s ambitious plans to offer a viable platform with a global reach to indie musicians. It’s certainly a turning point for the Tamil independent music culture, suggests Arivu. He points to the importance of Pa Ranjith’s Casteless Collective in a space where many artistes voice out about several pertinent issues.
“It was Casteless Collective that did this in a strong, extensive way. But, even before this, there are thousands of artistes in Tamil Nadu Inkulab ayya, Dalit Subbaiah, K Gunasekaran ayya; it’s just that they didn’t get such an international platform. It was with Casteless Collective that I entered this space. There are so many artistes who journey along with me who are political and talk about people’s problems,” he remarks.
That pertinent issues of the day find a place in an artiste’s work is only natural, points out Dhee. “What is happening currently is always going to be part of music and art; we’re always going to be talking about what’s happening around us. It’s a great thing. But I think it should come from an honest place we shouldn’t talk about things because we think we should. If you really feel for it, then why not?” she reasons.
And Enjoy Enjaami boils down to just that something pertinent that the two artistes wanted to talk about. Despite the deeply political bent of the song with its musings and declarations of possession, inheritance and coexistence, they decided to go the celebratory way because why not? “There would be a lot of force and anger in my other songs. What is reflected in those songs is the anger of ‘naan evlo dhan solrathu?’ But, with this song, I went back to the early times of Buddhism and even earlier times of matrilineal societies. Then, people would have been happy without these pressures, right? But, this song too talks about the same politics as Urimayai Meetpom and Enga Nilam Enga. But, why should I always be angry? Why shouldn’t I celebrate it? That’s why we went Enjoy Enjaami. Enjaami has its roots in slavery but it’s also what our mothers call us. And ‘enjoy’ has the “Don’t worry, be happy” kind o f s ent iment , ” he elaborates.
Both Dhee and Arivu have plenty in the works. maajja will be producing Dhee’s debut album, which is set to have a dose of contemporary jazz with very local influences. Arivu is working on several film projects, besides his own work where he wants to talk more about the people. With so much of their work to look forward to, Enna kora, enna kora, en seeni karumbukku enna kora?