An energetic new band that melds hip hop rhythms with words, sounds and inflexions of the Tamil language…Prince Frederick on how Hiphop Tamizha creates its unique brand of music
Startled by the chirping of a cricket, music director Bobo Sashi instructed his driver to look for the insect in the car. But the sound was made by beat boxer Ibu, who was travelling with him.
Ibu is a master at mimicking the sounds of insects and other animal life, but his speciality lies elsewhere — in reproducing the sounds of various musical instruments from the South to perfection.
Scat singing to sound like instruments such as the kudu-kudupu, the mridangam and the vumudi play an important role in the music of Hiphop Tamizha, the energetic new band which melds the rhythms of hip hop with the language, images and inflexions of Tamil.
The loosely structured group of some 40 members — comprising B-boys (dancers that take the theme of a hip hop song forward), rappers, DJs and graffiti artists (who communicate a message in a hip hop song with deft touches of their brushes) — has created a unique fusion of sound and colour.
How it began
It all began on February 15, 2010, when professional hip hop artiste Adhi Wattabottles founded Hiphop Tamizha, encouraged by Yogi B (who lives in Malaysia and is the international face of Tamil hip hop) and music director Bobo Sashi. The group has succeeded in promoting the genre among youngsters and providing a platform for hip hop artistes in Tamil Nadu.
On its first anniversary next week, it will release online “Hiphop Tamizha Stars 2010”, a collection of songs from promising young artistes in the group. Most of its performers are college students and young professionals outside music, proving that the group has been a catalyst in the growth of Tamil hip hop among youngsters. “Our fan page — www.facebook.com/hiphoptamizha — demonstrates how we have fulfilled the craving for hip hop in Tamil Nadu,” says Adhi. “We are always called on to perform at some town or the other in the State.”
For Adhi, this recognition is the culmination of a long journey. It started in 2006, when he rolled out a mix-tape “Viswaroobam Arambam”. Back then, Tamil hip hop appeared to be the sole preserve of artistes in Malaysia and other countries with thriving Tamil Diasporas. This promising first attempt was followed by underground projects, including a quirky mix-tape that presented poet Bharatidasan's thoughts through the prism of hip hop. “At a Periyar anniversary gathering, we presented eight of Bharatidasan's poems in a rap format,” says Adhi. “Apart from the support of Yogi B and Bobo, such successful attempts encouraged us to take the plunge.”
Driven by a vision
With most of its performers still in college, Hiphop Tamizha does not perfectly fit the definition of a professional band. “We are more than a professional band. We are driven by a vision. Despite various other pursuits demanding their attention, the members do nothing that would make the group seem flippant.”
For rapper Bharadwaj Balaji, photography is both a passion and a profession. But he does not allow it to affect any work he may take up for Hiphop Tamizha. Ibu, a BBM student, planned well in advance for a music tour of Malaysia.
Another thing going for the group is its members' receptivity to new and challenging ideas. While they are hooked on the idea of Tamil as a vehicle for hip hop, they don't shut out the crosswinds of musical influence. B-boy Bravo is also part of Break Guruz, a national body of B-boys headed by B-boy Ryun from Kolkata. “We have had workshops in Delhi and Jalandhar,” says Bravo.
Ibu also goes up North in search of fresh sounds. “I am working on a few north Indian instruments. You can catch me making dhol sounds most times of the day,” he says.