‘Namma Stories’: An Insight Into Arivu’s Tamizh Rap

‘Namma Stories’ is a coalition of four South Indian talents employing their voices to promote unity in diversity. The song follows an easy to understand lyric representing the heart of the South — the common people. With music composed by Kartik Shah and mixed by Devang Rachh, this song is produced by Supari Studios for Netflix. Netflix India calls it a celebration of stories from the South commemorating the launch of Netflix South India’s Twitter handle.

The song begins with Arivu rapping in Tamizh, followed by Siri in Kannada, Arivu back in Telugu and ending with Hanumankind and NJ in Malayalam. Having garnered more than three million streams across YouTube and Spotify within one week of its release, ‘Namma Stories’ is a people’s favourite.

Arivu’s section of the song involves elements of nostalgia, ancient literature and praises of the artist or kalaignar. He emphasises the stories rather than the stars of these stories. The video features the parai and salangai and manifests that there is a story behind the story — the artist. This pertains from legends to upcoming performers, thus staying true to the theme of ‘Namma Stories’, meaning ‘Our Stories’. A scroll through the comments shows how Indians from all over the world are treasuring this culture.

The story of paati or grandmother making vadai is a tale every child in Tamizh Nadu grows up hearing. Agara mudhala is an excerpt from Thirukkural, an aphoristic classical text. There is an extensive range of tales that live in a culture; stories our ancestors tell us, the ones legendary writers tell us, and the stories we tell today. The mode of hearing these tales may be different and the stories themselves may vary. Nevertheless, they are our stories and we wear them as our identities.

Within a few lines, Arivu brings to life the milieu of a film theatre. I watch movies in Pushpanjali Theatre in Bengaluru away from the sophistication of the malls. The ambience in Pushpanjali is elemental. From the opening scene to the final — it’s fierce whistles and fans giving their hearts to their leaders, their Thalaivars. Even so much as the action of drawing the curtains or the screens switching on is bound to elicit colossal love and enthusiasm from the fans. It’s one of those experiences everyone should have at least once in their lifetime.

The music is classic Tamizh ethos infused with modern beats, bringing out the theme and feel of the song. We must acknowledge that Tamizh is a vast language with several dialects and ethnicities. In such vastness, we lose some voices in the symphonies we create, but this felt inclusive of all Tamizh communities. The lyrics, the sounds and the inherent theme bonds everyone calling themselves Tamizh. This unity flourishes when considering the other languages featured, bringing alive the South Indian spirit.

The settings shift from a forest to a library, to a bonfire between houses with paraiattam dancers. This throws insight into how our stories have been alive since the first civilisations emerged. Our stories are inscribed on walls and stones, as well as in books and scriptures. Above all, these stories are told and retold in our homes amidst families, and in tea stalls amidst friends allowing them to thrive in our bones. The shift in scenes into the library reminded me of the biblioclasm of the Jaffna Public Library. Although it isn’t an Indian library, it does not do to neglect the fact that there were Tamizh books inside. The annihilation of language cannot occur by burning our books and scriptures since it is alive in our every inhalation and exhalation.

The commonality between all the artists is their patriotism and how they carry themselves with esteem. All the languages represented in ‘Namma Stories’ feature an indie beat with vernacular street rhythms. The influence of American and European pop is evident thus making the song popular among the masses. It promotes Southern Indian culture without promoting a split with the North. It is the best approach to unification and celebration. Any cultural celebration must not promote itself by undermining another.

‘Namma Stories’ focuses on one’s native language. This hence becomes relevant to people of every community. With the influx of foreign cultures, it becomes easier to lose one’s identity. This is often worsened with Imposition or the need for Westernisation. Learning languages is not wrong, but doing so at the cost of your native language is.

Suchita Senthil Kumar is an aspiring writer from Bengaluru, India.

Featured image: Netflix