Arivu, Dhee, and the ‘Enjoy Enjaami’ controversy explained

The independent track has been the centre of an ongoing controversy over singer-songwriter Arivu’s absence during a recent performance and his latest post on social media

August 02, 2022 04:55 pm | Updated August 03, 2022 03:34 pm IST

A still from the music video of ‘Enjoy Enjaami’

A still from the music video of ‘Enjoy Enjaami’ | Photo Credit: Maajja

Independent music label Maajja’s last year’s release Enjoy Enjaami was aimed at bringing people together through music, and celebrating the ancestors who strived to propagate life. It is also a personal tribute from singer-songwriter Arivu to his grandmother Valliyamma, who is a descendant of the labourers forcibly taken to Sri Lanka to work on the tea plantations.

It didn’t take much time for the track to rise to the top, garnering millions of views on YouTube within days of its release. Now, more than a year after its release, the song continues to be one of the top Indie Tamil songs ever released. However, is also at the centre of a controversy involving singer-songwriter Arivu, music producer Santhosh Narayanan, and singer Dhee.

Post its release, the music video of Enjoy Enjaami drew criticism from some quarters for Arivu’s costumes — which some felt were appropriation of African culture — and for how Dhee took the centre-stage in the visuals, sidelining Arivu. The issue grew bigger when Arivu was excluded from the cover of DJ Snake’s remix version and from the cover of Rolling Stone India’s August 2021 cover. The Rolling Stone cover, which featured Dhee and Neeye Oli singer Shan Vincent de Paul, drew flak from all over, with even Tamil film director Pa. Ranjith voicing out his support for Arivu. The magazine later released a new digital cover on the cover of their issue, featuring Arivu.

However, the people involved in the controversy, except Shan Vincent, have stayed silent over the controversy, until yesterday.

Enjoy Enjaami was recently performed by Dhee and Kidakuzhi Mariyammal at the opening ceremony of the 44th Chess Olympiad in Chennai. Santhosh Narayanan was credited as the composer, and Arivu, who is currently touring in the US, was credited as singer along with Dhee. Arivu came out with a statement on social media stating that he “composed, written, sung and performed” Enjoy Enjaami.

“I Composed ,Written ,sung & Performed Enjoy Enjaami. Nobody gave me a Tune, Melody or a Single word to write this one. Spent almost 6 months of sleepless and stressful nights and days for everything it is right now. No doubt it’s a great teamwork. No doubt it calls everyone together. But it doesn’t mean that’s not the history of Valliammal or the landless Tea plantation slave ancestors of mine. Every song of mine will be having the scarmark of this generational oppression. Like this Just One. There are 10000 songs of folk in this land. The Songs that carry the breath of ancestors, their pain, their Life, Love, Their Resistance and all about their existence. It’s all speaking to you in beautiful songs. Because we are a generation of blood and sweat turned into melodies of liberating arts. We carry the legacy through songs. Anyone can snatch away your treasure when You’re alseep. Never when you are awake. Jaibhim. Truth will always win in the end (sic),” he wrote.

Soon after Arivu’s post, composer Santosh reacted to the same with a statement detailing the creative process behind the song. Santosh claimed that it was he who composed the tune of the song and that the entire creative process was done under 30 hours, contrary to Arivu’s statement that the song took six months.

“In December 2020, Dhee came up with the idea of creating a Tamil song which glorified our roots and celebrated nature. I then composed, arranged, programmed, recorded and co-sang “Enjoy Enjaami”. The above said work of mine is often referred to as “Producer” globally as many already know in the independent space. Dhee, Arivu and myself came together with a lot of love for each other and for the love of independent art. We decided to not have any artist just perform(sing) on Enjoy Enjaami and agreed that each one would either co-compose tunes or write verses in the song. While Dhee and Arivu agreed to sing the song, Both Dhee and Arivu were involved in the creative process. Dhee co-composed the tunes of many of her lines, while Arivu agreed to write the lyrics. I composed the rest of the tune and also composed the tune of Arivu’s portions (sic),” wrote Santhosh.

Later in the evening, Dhee too reacted to Arivu’s statement and said that she has always credited Arivu as writer/singer and Santhosh Narayanan as composer/producer of the track.

“I only wanted Arivu’s voice to be heard the loudest. As I believe what he has to say is important and it deserves front and centre. All revenues and ownership of our song are shared equally amongst the three of us. I’ve only ever to wanted to experience every milestone surrounding enjoy enjaami with Arivu and Santhosh Narayanan and if or when an opportunity feels ill-intended, unjust, or condones any form of inequality, I will not be a part of it. (sic),” read Dhee’s statement.

“I’m ready and I have always been ready to sit down and have a conversation about this with all parties involved either publicly or privately, with or without media with an unbiased mediator,” she added.

There hasn’t been any update or responses from the artists involved in the controversy.

An earlier version of this article stated that Arivu was not credited for the song at the opening ceremony of the 44th Chess Olympiad. The error is regretted

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