Arivu is a popular name in the independent music industry and his songs on Dalit discrimination has made him an international brand. In the last one week, several film and music industry experts have lashed out at the American magazine Rolling Stone India, for featuring singer Dhee and Canadian rapper-songwriter Shan Vincent De Paul and excluding Arivu from their cover image.
Allegations have also surfaced that Maajja, the platform that released the massive hit Enjoy Enjaami, did not pay Arivu who has written and sung the song. The AR-Rahman founded platform, in a media interaction, has clarified that the primary credit for a song goes to the person initiating it and is left to the artist’s discretion, how Maajja has never tried to play down Arivu, and that they had little to do with the cover of Rolling Stone India.
‘Maajja Won’t Play Politics or Do Something to Please People'
Tamil filmmaker Pa Ranjith took to Twitter on 22 August to question why the magazine cover, titled 'Back to the Roots' had not featured Arivu on the cover and how the story only had a small quote of Arivu.
“Arivu, the lyricist of Neeye oli and Singer as well as lyricist of Enjoy Enjaami has once again been invisiblised. Rolling Stone India and Maajja, is it difficult to understand that the lyrics of both the songs challenges this erasure of public acknowledgement?,” read Ranjith’s tweet.
The CEO of Maajja, Noel Kirthiraj clarified that they were approached by Rolling Stone India for a story on the platform and the artists they were working with; and not just about Enjoy Enjaami and Neeye Oli.
“It was a digital rollout and not a physical magazine. Many people have drawn conclusions based on the first post; but the entire issue is not out yet,” he said.
Kirthiraj explained that this was just the beginning of the rollout and stories on Shan Vincent de Paul, Dhee, ARR (Rahman), SaNa (composer Santhosh Narayanan), Arivu, and Navz-47 will be published by the end of the month.
“The cover has nothing to do with the songs Enjoy Enjaami and Neeye Oli, but I understand the confusion as they were promoted along with it. When stories are written about Arivu and there is no mention of Dhee and Santhosh Narayanan, it is absolutely fine. Maajja’s intentions are quite clear and one thing Maajja won’t do is play politics or do something to please people.”
Incidentally, the American magazine released another cover on 27 August featuring Arivu.
“Wordsmith, composer and rapper Arivu (@therukural) appears on our August 2021 digital cover. Following acclaim for his album ‘Therukural’ with @ofrooooo, the Tamil artist has scorched a path out, raising his voice against systemic injustices,” read the caption of the Instagram post.
Kirthiraj added that Maajja did not see the preview of the earlier cover before it was published.
“However, I cannot pretend to understand Arivu’s pain. But one thing I can say is that I am a Tamil, born in Sri Lanka and I have faced oppression first hand. At a personal level, I have my own story and in it, inequality exists. One of the things AR Rahman sir talks about is that music is a tool to bring people together."Noel Kirthiraj, CEO of Maajja
Maajja against the ‘Work for Hire’ Model for Independent Artists
Explaining the payment model, Kirthiraj emphasised that all the rights of the original song lie with the artists involved - Dhee, Arivu and Santhosh Narayanan.
“The purpose of Maajja is to address some fundamental challenges we see in the industry, one of which is whether artists are compensated fairly for their intellectual property. We want artists to own the rights and have complete creative control. We don’t pay any artists. We are against the ‘work for hire’ model for an independent artist. What we ask the artists is to build their catalogue, put content, and own their catalogue. So, when one of their songs becomes a hit, it will lift their entire catalogue,” he said.
The Quint tried reaching Arivu and director Pa Ranjith but didn't receive any response. Sources close to Arivu told The Quint that they are in talks to iron out the confusion.
‘Creative Decision’ to Not Include Arivu on Times Square Billboard: Maajja
The music video of Enjoy Enjaami, released on 10 March 2021, gained more than 319 million views and 4.3 million likes (as of 24 August 2021), becoming the first Tamil independent single to do so. Through the song, rapper Arivu tells his grandmother’s story of forced migration to Sri Lanka and how many communities have been completely robbed off land and rights due to caste discrimination.
Interestingly, the YouTube video of Enjoy Enjaami does not mention credits for the lyrics, which was written by Arivu. The Times Square banner that Maajja proudly touted too had no picture of Arivu.
“That was just a creative decision [to have DJ Snake and Dhee’s photos on the billboard]. Arivu and Santhosh Narayanan’s pictures weren’t there, but their names were mentioned. We made sure they were duly credited everywhere. It’s the first time an independent Tamil song has been featured on the billboard and a prominent artist from the West had worked with a Tamil song. The benefactors in this case are Arivu, Dhee, Santhosh Narayanan, and everyone involved in the independent music scene. It is counterintuitive if we try to hide or cover any artist as we work as a company," Kirthiraj explained.
Many slammed top music platforms and Maajja for mentioning ‘Dhee ft. Arivu’ when it was Arivu who had sung and written the song.
"In the West, it’s a semantic thing, ‘featuring’ is used to indicate artists whom the lead artist has brought in to work on the song. From our perspective, we know the talent of Arivu and that’s why we’re working with him. With Enjoy Enjaami, there’s no question of Arivu putting in 200% and being a core part of the success of the song. But the song was a Dhee song," Kirthiraj said.
He added that stories on Arivu and other such artists who’ve fought oppression and inequality and are creating a revolution with music will be released soon.