Chennai: In a divisive and fractured Tamil Nadu election season, a hip-hop song Enjoy Enjaami is acting as a unifier across class, age and geography in the state. With over 68 million views on YouTube, it has everyone humming cuckoo cuckoo.
Produced by A.R. Rahman’s Maajja — a platform for South Asian independent musicians — and sung by Dhee and Arivu, Enjoy Enjaami has even got Netflix giving it a meme status and celebrities cooing. Move over Kolaveri Di.
The song is played everywhere — in local markets, malls, cafes, cars, households. Not just younger people, even pattis (grandmothers) are humming the main tune — cuckoo cuckoo.
Shobana Subramanian, a 23-year-old student in Chennai said, “At first I didn’t like it, but now I can’t stop playing it. It’s played every morning in my house and is my patti’s (grandmother) favorite song. She keeps singing cuckoo cuckoo.”
The song, whose catchphrase is Enjoy enjaami, vaango vaango onnaagi (Enjoy, my dear. Let’s come together as one) is all set to dethrone Kolaveri Di’s cult status. Actor Siddharth has called it the “song of the year” and Dulquer Salmaan listens to it on loop.
SONG OF THE YEAR ALERT!
My prodigious baby sister @talktodhee burns it up with the once in a generation rapper poet @TherukuralArivu in #EnjoyEnjaami. Love you @Music_Santhosh. This track is ear fire. 🔥https://t.co/tf3utIuXOb
Our future is speaking to us. Let's listen. ❤️
— Siddharth (@Actor_Siddharth) March 11, 2021
The most epic track and an equally awesome video ! Listening on loop the past few days & I’m still discovering new sounds and feels !! Hats off to you sir, and @talktodhee her voice her style and attitude so insanely cool. @TherukuralArivu what a rockstar #obsession #enjoyenjami https://t.co/OXVh8IK1QK
— dulquer salmaan (@dulQuer) March 16, 2021
Me, after listening to Enjoy Enjaami: pic.twitter.com/K2v8pi884T
— Netflix India (@NetflixIndia) March 18, 2021
26-year-old Chella, who works in a call centre in Chennai said, “I listen to it every day. When I am stressed, I get energised automatically listening to the song. I also really like the lyrics.”
Perhaps, what sets it apart from Kolaveri Di is that Enjoy Enjaami, beyond its glamorous production, speaks about the oppression of the feudal system, landless farmers and the caste system.
‘Wanted to create discussion around caste, but not in a preachy way’
Arivu, the lyricist-singer of the song explained that Enjoy Enjaami is the story of his grandmother Valliamma, who was a tea plantation worker and had her land taken away from her. “I even used her name in the song and the last shot is of her. All the elderly people dancing in the video are from my village.”
He explained, “This is a song about unity and celebration, but one can only be united if you understand the pain of the oppressed. If you don’t, then it’s not unity and just a gathering.”
Arivu explained each song of his speaks about equality, annihilation of caste and land. Enjaami means my dear, but was also used in the master-slave context, when the landless farmers referred to the feudal lord as Enjaami (My Lord) for their salaries.
“I didn’t decide my caste. It is a mindset which makes people think others are not equal to you. My aim was to speak to young people about it through this song because they are the future. I want to create a discussion around it because everything is connected with caste. But I didn’t want to do it in a preachy way, no one will listen then”, he said.
However, not everyone has welcomed his political commentary. He is often told to not focus on such loaded topics and instead write about love and friendship. “But how can I do that when there’s a manual scavenger in front of me cleaning the drain. How will they understand my story?”
27-year-old Arivu, also a member of the Casteless Collective, a band started by progressive Kabali director P.A. Ranjith, has no time to breathe now. He is working on movies, on the next album for the band and conducting Oppari events as well, to promote the folk song tradition.
Oppari is an ancient form of lament, which historically people from lower castes perform at funerals. “To me Oppari is the actual hip-hop of India, it is the resistance art form of the country. Oppari artists never call themselves political, it is just a way of life.”
Oppari also made an appearance in Enjoy Enjaami. “If people are noticing Oppari and think twice when they hear the lyrics — I planted five trees, nurtured a beautiful garden, my garden is flourishing, yet my throat remains dry. And question why so. Then my job is done.”
This report has been updated to reflect that the name of the band is Casteless Collective, not Caste Collective. The error is regretted.