Rap Up: Baba Sehgal on tour
In the ’90s, Sehgal had built a loyal fanbase with his music. His most popular album, ‘Thanda Thanda Paani’, under the now-defunct Magnasound Records, had sold 5 million cassettes.
Before Honey Singh and Badshah, there was Baba Sehgal. The rapper pioneered the Indian hip-hop scene in the 1990s and introduced the country to the fast-talking style of music. Sehgal is beginning his five-city ‘No Bullshit’ tour on September 15, and will be travelling to Bengaluru (Sept 15), Hyderabad (Sept 22), Bhopal (Sept 23), Indore (Sept 24), and Pune (Sept 30). New dates and venues for northern India, including Delhi, will be added to the tour, scheduled to continue till the end of the year.
However, this is not a sudden re-emergence for Sehgal. Recently, one of the rapper’s most popular songs, Aaja Meri Gari Mein Baith Ja, played an integral role in the love story of Rocky and Rani in Karan Johar’s Rocky aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani. We asked the artist whether it was the renewed interest it created that paved the way for his comeback.
Sehgal says that he has not watched the film yet, but he is happy that his song features in the film, adding that he has heard that it has been used “in its original form, which makes me happier”. But he disagrees that this is what led to the tour. “It depends on what you call a comeback. I have been performing and creating for all these years. I have been working as a playback singer in the Telugu and the Tamil film industries,” he informs.
Is he nervous about performing on stage after all these years? While consecutive onstage shows have been rare for him, he states that “any nerves have been replaced with the thrill” of performing for his fans, both old and new.
In the ’90s, Sehgal had built a loyal fanbase with his music. His most popular album, ‘Thanda Thanda Paani’, under the now-defunct Magnasound Records, had sold 5 million cassettes. Not only his music but his fashion choices too, made waves amongst the country’s youth, making him an icon of the time. One of his long-time fans says that he brought a new genre to the Indian audience. “The obviously fun lyrics caught my fancy as a college student. Even his style and persona, the way he moved and talked were things that we had not encountered before. I thought that if I behaved like him, I would be able to impress people,” says Tanvir Ahmed (name changed on request).
Today’s young are not oblivious to the magic of Baba Sehgal. The rapper is active on various social media channels, like Instagram, YouTube and Twitter. A look at his YouTube account says that nothing is out of range for a Baba Sehgal rap. His songs are as diverse as a tribute to popstar Rihanna as well as a parody of Bella Ciao, titled Kela Khao, that came out in 2020 to entertain audiences and inform them about the need to build immunity to fight against the Coronavirus. Another one of his songs, Aloo Ka Paratha, has 1.7 million views on YouTube.
It seems that the transition from pre-digital entertainment to digital entertainment has been easy for Sehgal. He credits his ease with social media to his “free attitude. He is not very bothered about likes, comments or views. I like making music, so I make it and upload it. Whether it gets 10 likes or 10k likes does not concern me,” he says.
He also keeps tabs about the new rappers in the country. When asked who he would consider his favourite rapper in the now-booming industry, he says the artists he follows are not big names yet. “I attended the All About Music conference in Mumbai recently and I met so many new rappers and artists there. They are creating their own persona and have their very own style. I am hopeful that they will be big names in the future,” Sehgal says.
Is the first rapper of India being influenced by these new voices that will be featured on his tour? Sehgal answers that the music on his tour will be an interesting mix. “It will have all the elements of my music- the same music, the same beats, the same joy- but in a new package. It will be everything that my fans enjoy,” he says teasingly.
Sehgal also reveals he is a fan of Latin music and its beats. A collaboration with a Latin DJ might not be very far in the future. Some TV shows that he is working on are also in the pipeline. They will be announced in due time on his social media page, he assures. At the moment, he wants his fans to look forward to the ‘No Bullshit’ tour. “Just listening to my fans’ voices are enough to get me in the groove. That is all I need to perform,” he says.