Arivu and Rolling Stone India controversy: Music platform maajja responds

The music platform, co-founded by A.R Rahman, has come under criticism for sidelining Tamil rapper Arivu after the success of ‘Enjoy Enjaami,’ and not batting to promote him on a recent magazine cover

Updated - November 27, 2021 04:08 pm IST

Published - August 26, 2021 03:41 pm IST

Dhee and Arivu in the promotional poster for ‘Enjoy Enjaami’

Dhee and Arivu in the promotional poster for ‘Enjoy Enjaami’

Music platform maajja denied sidelining Tamil rapper Arivu from the success of ‘Enjoy Enjaami’ and ‘Neeye Oli’, the songs that he wrote and maajja produced. Composer AR Rahman is a co-founder of the music platform.

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The back story

Enjoy Enjaami , sung and performed by Arivu and Dhee, premiered this March and became a sensational hit. It has over 320 million views (and counting) on Youtube. The song, albeit catchy, isn’t merely a dance number; its lyrics talk about the oppression of a Tamil community — of which Valliamal, Arivu’s grandmother, was a part — in Ceylon during the Colonial era. This is also the reason why some people complained about the music video’s cover featuring Dhee seated on a throne, with Arivu standing beside her.

When French music producer DJ Snake remixed the song in June, it was advertised on the iconic Times Square billboard with photos of him and Dhee. There were objections on social media over Arivu’s exclusion (though his name was mentioned).

A picture of Times Square billboard promoting the ‘Enjoy Enjaami’ remix

A picture of Times Square billboard promoting the ‘Enjoy Enjaami’ remix

A fresh round of criticism began when the India edition of Rolling Stone published their August issue cover with photos of Dhee and Shan Vincent de Paul. The latter wrote the English lyrics in Neeye Oli — the theme song of Pa Ranjith’s film Sarpatta Parambarai —and sung and performed it with Toronto-based Tamil singer Navz-47. The cover read: “How the international Tamil artists are blurring local and music boundaries via record label and platform maajja.”

The cover story mentions and quotes Arivu. But people on social media, including prominent personalities like Pa. Ranjith and vocalist and activist TM Krishna, complained that he hasn’t received due credit. Ranjith, in his tweet, called out maajja and Rolling Stone .


Vincent de Paul, on Thursday, responded to Ranjith’s tweet via a note on social media . “My biggest issue is Ranjith’s tweet and the vitriolic responses it has generated. In his righteous demand for representation for his community, he irresponsibly fueled the fire of divide amongst Tamil Artists,” he wrote.

Maajja responds

Now, Noel Kirthiraj, the CEO and a co-founder of maajja, recently responded to the criticism via a media interaction. Excerpts from a conversation:

On the Rolling Stone India cover:

The August edition cover of ‘Rolling Stone India’

The August edition cover of ‘Rolling Stone India’

We were approached by Rolling Ston e India for a story on maajja and artists who are Tamil yet international; it wasn’t just about Enjoy Enjaami and Neeye Oli . They wanted to get inputs from different artists. They gave us questions, asked us for their images and so on.

Shan Vincent de Paul, Dhee, ARR (Rahman), SaNa (composer Santhosh Narayanan), Arivu, and Navz-47; these were the six artists they were incorporating into their story. So, what you see is just the beginning of a rollout. I think by the end of this month, we should see the rest of it unfold.

Also Read | Singer Dhee talks about collaborating with Arivu on 'Enjoy Enjaami'

On how Enjoy Enjaamiwas conceived:

When maajja started, we wanted 25 to 30 independent artists, including Arivu and Dhee, to do songs for us. Arivu did a song for us, which we are yet to release. But Enjoy Enjaami started as a Dhee song... Arivu is featured in it. Now, ‘featured’ doesn’t mean you are going to play a smaller role; it just means a lead artist initiates the project and they bring on others to work with them. Dhee suggested it would be awesome to have Arivu on board, as she was a big fan of his work. He was initially hesitant because he was in the middle of other projects. But we encouraged him because we felt his combination with Dhee would be good.


On the Enjoy Enjaami remix by DJ Snake:

Three of them — Arivu, Dhee, and Santhosh Narayanan (who is the producer of ‘Enjoy Enjaami’) — own the rights to the song. DJ Snake didn’t work with the original artists (for the remix by Spotify). He did what makes sense for him and his audience. That’s how remixes work.

On Arivu’s exclusion from the Times Square billboard feature:

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. The benefactors in this case are Arivu, Dhee, Santhosh Narayanan, and everyone involved in the independent music scene.

On Arivu’s payment controversy:

It wouldn’t be fair to talk about the specifics of our deals. But 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.

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