I came to hear the music in an unusual place. While watching Rajdeep Sardesai’s Tamilnadu election special episode on a news channel. A random guy standing there performed a song and the tune was so catchy.
Later while browsing Youtube on my TV, the cover of the song popped up again. It looked vibrant and Tamil. So I dived in and it was the same catchy music the guy had performed. I was hooked after hearing it once.
But as I heard it on repeat mode, I realized this music video with its meaning and visualization went far beyond just another song. There were layers of meaning, messaging, and culture in it.
Let’s start with the casting. Where do you see a group of dusky beauties in the opening scene of an Indian pop song these days? Most music videos, and especially from Bollywood, do not even use fair skinned Indians but straight away cast white people! Something I have started loathing.
The choice of models alone was so refreshing to see. The song had already made a statement. A powerful one, especially for Indians. The opening also starts with Parai beats — A traditional Tamil drum used since Sangam times more than two thousand years ago. And something going out of fashion fast.
Next comes the ululation sound of Kulavai. A sound that is ancient and practiced by select communities across the globe from Africa to Israel to Arabia to Kerala and Bengal. Telling us about the deep connections we humans have though we are now seperated.
Kulavai represents a mix of sorrow and celebration. It is used in the song specifically at places where they sing about oppression and nature’s destruction while giving a hope of rejuvenation and revival.
Oppari, a sad wailing, is also an ancient art form of Tamils which was featured and used. To bring out the generational oppression. In fact, the lead singer Arivu talks of Oppari as a “resistance art form of India”. He says, “it is a rebellion against the system of caste-oppression.”
In fact, the whole song is a rebellion against generational caste and class oppression which Arivu’s family and many others had to endure. The word Enjaami in the song denotes the way oppressed laborers like Arivu’s grandmother used to address their masters.
But the word as well as the entire oppressed community is being reclaimed in the song. We see landless laborers coming out and taking their stand. Dhee lends them her hand while in an earlier scene she grabs the soil they till. Sensitizing us to the vital nature of both.
The whole song is also about the importance and revival of nature. It talks about all the animals and plants that co-existed with us. The song also seems to use scenery to depict some of the landscapes from Kurunthogai — Kurinji, Mullai, Marutham, Neithal and Palai. But my friend Prabhu thinks that may not be intentional. He says “they concentrated on farmland and deforestation related issues. That’s why a brown shade is maintained throughout the song”.
In just a month after its release, Enjoy Enjaami is nearing 200 million views. And it has proved to be a hit not just among Tamils but also across India and the world. Children and adults have taken to singing it with such enthusiasm. My friend Aarthi says this is because of the range of vocabulary used.
True. It uses simple animal names to sophisticated words representing complex meanings. When you do listen, and if you understand Tamil, I request you to concentrate on the vocabulary used and research the meanings to the words. Each seem to be selected for adding depths to the meaning.
The song is surely a pokkisham or a treasure for Tamil culture in this digital age. Depicting, preserving, and reviving many aspects of it since 2000 years or more. It is also a rebellion against oppression, and paints a picture of liberation and hope for such communities.
The last scene ends with Arivu’s grandmother sitting on a traditionally woven chair surrounded by the laborers, all emancipated and independent. Enjoy Enjaami, for those who can see, is a mini digital museum of culture, arts, and natural history of Tamils.
This cultural masterpiece surely deserves a Kalaimamani award for the artists behind it.