Readers Write In #345: Enjoy Enjaami: Independent Music in the age of Farmer Protests

Posted on March 13, 2021


(by Macaulay Perapulla)

No matter how intractable and frustrating the debate around Farm Laws may seem, one of the fascinating side effects of this deadlock is the resurgence of cultural identity that has been happening in the wake of farmer protests.

Who would have thunk that punjabi music scene – with all its misogynist lyrics and feet-thumping-music- would find a new cultural renaissance with the ongoing farmer protests in Punjab?

Listen to Bir Singh here

Or Listen to Ranjit Bawa here:

These words, I am told by my enthusiastic punjabi friends, speak of the cultural ethos of the land, and have received tremendous response from the next generation with its life affirming lyrics.

Closer home, I sat up when I first stumbled upon Enjoy Enjaami in my Youtube music feed

How do you tell the story of your roots?

For Arivarasu Kalainesan, more commonly known as Rapper Arivu, it is a story of his grandmother Valliammal and his ancestors who once migrated during the British Colonial times (19th century) to Sri Lanka. It was their bloodied efforts with humongous human costs that resulted in the establishment of tea, coffee, and coconut plantations.

When they had to return back to their home country after working there for two generations, they returned home to the sad realization that all they knew is to pluck tea leaves. And so they migrated towards the hill regions in Tamizhnadu – Ooty, Koodaluar, Kodaikanal- and toiled their way to earn a livelihood.

“Enjoy Enjaami” is a watershed moment in Tamizh independent music. As a musician who runs a non-profit on discovering your roots, besides working on agriculture, I am thrilled on all fronts.

It tells the painful story of one’s roots, the struggles of landless laborers whose plantations burst out in abundance while keeping their throats starved (My rudimentary translation barely does justice to words like these “தோட்டம் செழித்தாலும்.. என் தொண்டை நெனயலயே…”)

It is a painful-and-celebratory marriage of dirge folk music (oppari) and rap.

Perhaps, you may call me a rose-eyed optimist. Are we witnessing the resurgence of independent music that beautifully marries the timeless ethos of the land with timely forms of the times we live in?

Are we witnessing the birth of original indie music that is both ancient and new?

I dearly wish it were the case.