Malayalam Rap, Protest Songs and Nucleya

I started writing this blog post as a review for the Malayalam podcast Kaecawdo’s 7th episode. That got delayed as I had to travel to Mehkar this Tuesday to attend to some work. But, the delay led to listening to a series of podcasts that when I look back seemed to be linked together. And led me to re-write the whole blog post.

I was searching for a Malayalam podcast to listen to. I found Kaecawdo (listen you!) during my search. The Season 3 Episode 7 was on Malayalam Rap. Earlier episodes had him speaking about cars, genetic editing done in China etc. In short, the podcast does not cover a single topic. For a change, he did a focused episode of 60 minutes on Malayalam rap, unlike his usual episodes which last 20-25 minutes.

He speaks about Malayalam rap, the groups, the popularity it is gaining similar to other musical efforts like Agam, Thaikkadum Bridge etc. He spoke about the role of television earlier in surfacing these artists and their later success playing on YouTube. He picks and speaks about 3 rappers – AbuX, ThirumaLi and FeJo and plays some of their tracks on the episode. I shared the episode with friends and relatives asking them to play and listen to the songs that were played in the episode.

I, personally, have not heard Malayalam rap before and my exposure to rap in other languages has been quite limited. However, I still enjoyed the Malayalam word-play and music of the suggested artists. I found ThirumaLi on Amazon Music and listened to that for a bit. My favorite from the list was Malayali Da.

The protest songs which have accompanied the CAA/NRC/NPR protests made me want to understand where they came from. The Ganatantra Podcast had covered how the University had become a political space with Jean Thomas Martelli. It covered the coming together of the philosophies and pamphleteering but did not go all the way upto protest songs.

The Wire has an interview/story with Arivu who rapped Sendai Saivom in Tamil in protest against the CAA/NRC/NPR. I heard of the song when Srini raised a banner in the Mumbai Marathon with lyrics of the song at the finish line of the Full Marathon also in protest. I think that reading about the singer adds a layer of understanding and context to that song.

While I have appreciated Wire’s science coverage, this was only the second culture story I read from them. The other one was on the Women in Tamil Mahabharatas. I hope they also do more culture stories on The Wire.

Following Arivu’s interview, I wanted to learn more about the protest songs. Supriya Nair and Deepanjana Pal also explored some of the protest songs on their new podcast, The Lit Pickers. After listening to the podcast, if you want notes, lyrics, videos, discussed on the episode these are at Deepanjana’s blog post.

Laxmi Krishnan on her LitNama podcast speaks to Rahul Sinha, who manages artistes for a living. He talks about managing artistes as a career option, how he got into the profession, what he learnt from interacting with fans, some of the experiences of managing the artistes he does among other things. I think the episode to me told about how indie artists are surfaced to the public and the struggle to go mainstream. I think this is a struggle shared by the protest poets and singers.

One of the artists Rahul Sinha manages is Nucleya. When I read his Wikipedia page, I found that I had heard his song before when he was part of the Bandish Projekt. I re-listened the Bandish Projekt song, Bhor. Also, ended up watching a 28 minute documentary on Nucleya.

I loved how insanely looped and interconnected the things I read and listened to have been over the past week or so. I am also happy that I waited this long before I post this blog post so that I could stitch them all together.

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