Those who grew up in the 90s are sure to remember music director and composer AR Rahman’s 1996 hit song ‘Mustafa Mustafa’ from the film Kadhal Desam. Recently, the track became the inspiration for a new song called ‘Best Friend’ added by Toronto-based Sri Lankan Tamil rapper and director Shan Vincent de Paul. Shan collaborated with ‘Mrithangam Raps’ co-creator Yanchan to create the song, which is the lead single from the duo’s collaborative album IYAAA that releases on March 27.
The original song’s video has two friends expressing unconditional love for each other. The duo believes there is a stigma around men openly showing love for each other, and that’s why the original ‘Mustafa’ video was so beautiful and ahead of its time. “We thought it would be a great time to bring that energy back. The idea was to create a similar vibe and make an anthem for best friends,” says Shan.
While the idea to pay homage to Rahman had always been on their minds, it was just a matter of timing and making sure that the song made sense. When Yanchan sent Shan the beat with the sample in it, he immediately knew it was the one. “I’m a huge fan of the 90s classics such as ‘Urvasi Urvasi’, ‘Anbe’, ‘Chinna Chinna Aasai’. A lot of it is just pure nostalgia and reminds me of hanging out with my brothers when we first arrived in Canada,” says Shan.
This is Shan’s first collaborative music album, for which Yanchan is handling most of the production. The camaraderie has been inspiring, and has got both artists to get out of their comfort zones. “It’s a lot more fun, melodic and not as heavy-hearted as my solo projects. So many of us grew up listening to classic South Asian songs and now are connected to modern-day hip-hop/RnB. We wanted to make a project that would tastefully merge those two worlds,” he explains.
Shan is known to have supposedly created ‘Carnatic rap’—an entirely new fusion of classical eastern instruments laced with western-influenced rap. He says there are so many similarities between rap and Carnatic music that can help two worlds can exist naturally with each other. “It’s up to us artistes to figure out how to keep it interesting while challenging ourselves,” he says.
Shan’s upcoming album Made in Jaffna is his third studio album and his most autobiographical work till date. He calls it a project for his Tamil and South Asian audience. He says that with his previous albums, he was hesitant to fully tell his story because he felt it would fall on deaf ears. “Now that I have a bit of a platform, I feel comfortable enough to share my origin story and let them in on my journey. Musically, it’s my best writing till date. I feel I’ve matured so much as a lyricist and rapper, and the album is a testament to my growth,” he says.
Shan recently concluded his first solo India tour called ‘OH GAWD’ across five cities. “India has been supporting me unlike any other place in the world, and to finally connect with my audience there is very special. I think Indian fans gravitate towards my fusion songs, so I’m going to be exploring more of that,” he concludes.