Speaking truth to power with Arivu and ofRO

Arivu and ofRO at Error 404 in Chennai on August 3   | Photo Credit: Ravi Balineni

Just over a month ago, rapper and producer duo Arivu and ofRO released their debut album, Therukural. While Arivu had already established himself as part of filmmaker Pa Ranjith’s Casteless Collective, his identity as a rapper who unflinchingly delivers caustic bars was cemented when he teamed up with ofRO (Rohith Abraham) to release songs like ‘Anti Indian’, ‘Snowlin’ and ‘Kalla Mouni’. They bring these hits to the stage at the Error 404 show slated for tonight, at Chaos Entertainment in Adyar.

ofRO says even songs like the blip beat-heavy ‘Ok Sir’ that didn’t get the hype and focused promotional push on Therukural have been surprisingly well-received. The beat-maker and composer says, “Every song on the album has really reached a lot of people. But it’s probably because hip-hop listeners have a tendency to listen to albums than just singles. I think if it was any other style (of music), it may not have worked.”

It might surprise hip-hop fans and seasoned listeners alike to know that Arivu only heard other rappers very recently, and it’s not at all a formative influence. “I started following Kendrick Lamar and Stormzy, artistes who are always speaking about people’s problems. I admire them, but I haven’t started following it really. What I’m doing here is enough to spread the message,” he says.

Once into writing sessions and studio recordings, ofRO says he didn’t have to direct the rapper too much. “He didn’t know it was common for hip-hop artists to sing in an unabashed way. I had to tell him, ‘What we’re doing right now is telling the world your story’. He said, ‘But my story is not that interesting’. But it actually is, and more interesting than any hero in any film,” ofRO says.

The result is not just slick production and a sculpted sound that matches every cue, but Arivu’s use of irony, wit and most importantly, rage, at everything he sees around him. The double standards are there to see, as he points out on ‘Kalla Mouni’; armchair activism and on political discourse with the menacing ‘Anti Indian’. You can hear his grief and poignant rage on ‘Snowlin’, dedicated to the victim of the Sterlite protests, as well as the brutal rape and murder of Asifa Bano in Kathua, Jammu and Kashmir. There’s the more light-hearted EDM-leaning ‘Thamizhachi’ in the vein of Avicii and the trap-infused ‘Middle Class’, that deliberately subverts the hedonism of American artistes such as Lil Pump and Migos.

Although ofRO says there’s a second album which has lyrics and vocals set to go, he’s still waiting to finesse the sound. Meanwhile, there’s been press but the shows have still been difficult to lock down, according to the producer. On their upcoming show, he says, “Error Studio supports the indie scene quite a bit and they’ve been with our team for a year and a half, since last year’s Madras Medai festival.”

Error 404 ft Arivu and ofRO takes place on August 3, 7 pm onward at Chaos Entertainment, Adyar. Tickets at ₹200 on

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2022 4:42:36 AM |

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