Speaking in rhythm

Speaking in rhythm

A rap artist, music producer, and songwriter from Bengaluru. A middle-class, South Indian boy who quit mechanical engineering to pursue his passion for hip-hop and rap music. Vighnesh Shivanand, better known as Brodha V (read as Brother V), is a self-taught musician who blends hip-hop, Hindustani, Carnatic and Indian folk music to create unique compositions. Over the last decade, he has garnered a loyal fan base with hit singles like 'On My Own', 'Aathma Raama', 'After Party', 'Aigiri Nandini', 'Let Em Talk', and his latest, 'Way Too Easy'.

Having started with writing 'text battles' on an online rap forum on Orkut (the hep social media network back in the day), today the 27-year-old is counted among the top rap singers and composers in the country. From producing music for and rapping in the viral song called 'Anu Aunty The Engineering Anthem' and featuring in documentary films about Indie artistes to organising the first Indian rap cypher and selling Brodha V merchandise, he has done it all. Excerpts from an interaction with the man who wants to get rap to the top of music charts:

What does it take to be a rapper?

Rap is speaking in rhythm. It's an art form that is inspired by early 90s' hip-hop, dealing with issues of racism and power. You have to be more than a good singer to be a good rapper. You have to write rhymes, say a story on a beat. I've been doing it for 10 years and am confident enough to rap in my sleep. The hard part is to make rap more mainstream. I want it to be as big as Bollywood music.

Haven't you made music for Bollywood?

We had this rap band called Machas With Attitude (MWA) that bagged a couple of Bollywood movies like
Chennai Express and Mujhse Fraaandship Karoge. Down south, we did more films; Kaaki Sattai (Tamil) was the most popular one. However, we disbanded in 2013 as I wanted to pursue music full-time, while the other two members had different career aspirations.

What if you are offered a Bollywood film today?

It is great money; I would do it. However, all Bollywood has today is party songs and songs remade with an electronic touch. Trust them to take any genre of music and make it all sound the same.

How important are the lyrics in rap?

Rap is called rhythm in poetry. The better you are at putting words together, the better you will sound. Given that it started out as a socio-political movement in the black community, the lyrics have always been powerful.

Do you find it sexist?

Every genre of music is sexist. It's a reflection of our society. We live in a sexist world. Although I believe that one should say what one has to, I try my best not to use expletives. It's possible to choose deferent words, without losing the meaning. You can ensure that the punch is still there, without cursing.

Do you enjoy musical collaborations?

Yes, if they are with like-minded
people who you vibe musically with. The single with Benny Dayal ('Round Round') was a lot of fun. My latest collaboration is with Raftaar (of Roadies and Dangal fame). The aspiration is to reach out to their fan base as well. The one person I would love to work with is AR Rahman. The first rap song I ever heard was by him - 'Pettai Rap' from the Tamil film Kadhalan.

How did you get into music
production?

Contrary to what many people think, music producer is not someone who finances the song. He's actually the one who puts music together. He chooses the kind of instruments to be used in the composition, arranges the track, beats, chorus, harmoniesInitially, I used to download the beats from the internet and rapped on top of it. However, I realised that people vibe more to the beat than my sound. I needed to carve out my own sound, but music producers were very expensive and they had huge egos. So, I learnt to produce music on my own. I also got a degree in audio engineering and filmmaking.

Are you a social media fan?

Absolutely! It helps me connect with fans and sell my music. Musicians don't need music labels anymore. Internet is everything. It eliminates the middlemen. YouTube is a great space to get perspective on what's happening in the world. Social media helps me stay relevant and reach out to the college kids.

What's your latest single, 'Way Too Easy', about?

People spread a lot of negativity, saying you can't follow your dreams. The song is my way of saying that not only should you do it, but also make it look 'way too easy'. Don't let people put you down. Prove them wrong. This is my response to all those who said that I couldn't make a career out of rap music.

Does your family like your music?

They haven't heard much of rap music before. So, it's still complex for them. My parents have to read the lyrics to know what I'm saying. But if mom and dad like my song, I know that it'll work.

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