They bring about a musical revolution

‘The Casteless Collective’ is known for its unapologetically political songs

A group of musical artistes from various genres and socio-economic backgrounds, The Casteless Collective (TCC), was recently in the city for a concert. 

The band is an initiative by activist and filmmaker Pa. Ranjith and music producer Tenma from Madras Records. With a focus on social equality, issues of the caste system, their songs are slowly gaining prominence among the masses. Their music lies in the genres of gaana (funeral music form originating in Tamil Nadu), hip hop and rock. 

TCC has worked in movies ‘Vada Chennai’ and ‘Kaala’. In a chat with Metrolife, members Arivu and Tenma talk about their music and ideology.

‘Our music advocates equality’ 


Tenma

Tenma is the bandleader, arranger, composer, bass player and producer. He talks to Metrolife about TCC’s journey.

About TCC’s journey.

We started to make music to advocate equality. It is good to know that it reached different parts of the world.

We are also looking to collaborate with other language artistes.

Have you received any criticism for your work?

We get criticism as much as we get compliments, sometimes even more. We are not socially accepted by everyone, as in a group like us shouldn’t be on the stage. We do have issues like that, but that doesn’t stop us; we are moving forward. We listen to the good and the bad comments depending on who and how they say it.

Why should people listen to you?

It is probably the first time where people from different socio-economic backgrounds have come together to sing songs about equality. Our music is for those who think equality is the way to go.

 

My experience is my inspiration, says Arivu


Arivu

Singer, songwriter and rapper Arivu is perhaps the most popular member of TCC. He is known for his strong lyrics. He rose to fame with ‘Anti-Indian’, a rap song addressing political and social issues in Tamil Nadu. ‘Therukural’ is his latest album with Ofro. ‘Anti-Indian’, ‘Kallamouni’, ‘Snowlin’ and ‘Thamizachi’ are the songs from the album gaining momentum on social media.

Though he had performed in Bengaluru before, it was his first time performing with TCC.

Performing in Bengaluru.

The crowd’s response was great; everybody knew the songs.

Bengaluru is a progressive city with a multi-cultured population. A lot of them follow what is happening in the country and they understand the issues we are addressing through our songs. In Chennai, it is different. They know the issues but they don’t understand our take on it; we have to explain.

Most of the songs in ‘Therukkural’ are political...

I don’t intend to be political. I am only writing about the problems that I have gone through in life and the things that I have witnessed and experienced.

As far as I know, Indian hip hop artistes don’t talk about the problems of the working-class people, the Dalit community and other oppressed sectors.

Rap or hip hop is more about the lyrics than the music. I tell my story of oppression in the style of hip hop as it reaches and is understood by more people that way.

Currently, Tamil hip hop is about taking pride in the language, race and gender. I am completely against that because when you are taking pride in your background, you are indirectly putting down other people. It is this inequality that we are trying to address in ‘Therukural’, and I see people accepting it.

You said in an interview that your raps are inspired by your grandmother’s stories. How do you write your lyrics?

I think the fascination to write about our imaginary or fantasy worlds has led to not talking about important issues.

My grandmother, who didn’t live the city life, had many stories to tell. She and her family were landless labourers, and I feel her story of oppression needs to be told.

I rap about them now and people applaud. Sadly, it is accepted when narrated in a fashionable way and rejected when it’s in its real form.

We listen to international artistes and worry about a faraway country’s problem, but fail to see what is happening next door.

About your musical interests.

I am not inclined to any genre of music. I grew up listening to gana songs about Dr B R Ambedkar. They used to play those songs in my locality on every occasion, which led me to learn about him and his work.

I also listen to hip hop. People assume that I am influenced by eminent rappers like Eminem and Kendrick Lamar. That’s not the case. I admire their work, but I am not influenced by them. My experience is my inspiration.

Any criticism for your political songs?

I speak and sing about social issues in an accepting social space and not to trigger someone.

People discuss my songs with me. They question me on why I didn’t talk about a particular issue. To be honest, things are not going to change just because I sing about them; the audience only clap and leave.

It should be understood that art can create only awareness and educate people. I am just glad that people are picking up these issues through my songs.

Do you have plans to collaborate with other artistes?

I am up for collaborating with other artistes along with TCC.

As an independent artiste, I am interested to work with hip hop artistes who talk about political issues. I don’t want to mix with the current hip hop scene in the South because they don’t seem to talk about crucial topics.

Your thoughts on the rap scene in India.

Rap has become a cool factor right now; I see many wanna-be artistes.

Many people have told me that I don’t look like a rapper. Wearing baggy pants, a cool hat and a pair of shoes and having many tattoos doesn’t make one a rapper. That’s stereotyping. I have come from a simple, and I will remain simple. It is all about the art and what I am trying to convey, not what I wear.

If rap is about telling stories, I am a rapper.

What’s in the pipeline?

I am working on my next album, in which I intend to speak about the new education policy among other things.

I am also writing songs for a couple of movies.

Popular songs

'Anti-Indian' and 'Kallamouni' are the most popular songs from 'Therukural'. Here is a look at a few lines from them.

From 'Kallamouni' 
- 'Eppo nadanthaalum appove nee sollu MeToo. Thappu pannavan thala mele naalu kottu'

Translation:  Shout MeToo as soon as it happens, the culprit will get 'kottu' on his head.

- 'Ola othu vote-u vaangi odu thozha, oru viralile puratchiye kaatu thozha. Kodi parandhadhum, naduviral kaatu thozha'

Translation: Nicely fool us for votes and show us the finger after winning. 

From 'Anti-Indian'

- 'Ondra iruppadhey yen aasai, ondrathirukavey un poosai. Yennai mozhiyaal madhathaal, inathaal, pirappaal, arivaalaal, kodunkolaal pirithaaye'

Translation: I wish to be united. You wish to keep us divided by language, religion, race, birth, education. 

 

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