The unjoy in 'Enjoy Enjaami': What triggered a sour between 'Therukural' Arivu and Santhosh Narayanan?

(This article is authored by Alar) 

What has begun as a path of hope for independent musicians of the soil has now been taking a different turn with souring exchanges of words over earning the credit. Arivarasu Kalainesan, who is known for playback singing works in Kaala and Vada Chennai has attained global fame as Therukural Arivu through his blockbuster hit album 'Enjoy Enjaami'. 

Enjoy Enjaami was released on March 7, 2021, and besides etching a pinnacle, Tamil rapper and folk song artist Arivu, who penned lyrics for Enjoy Enjaami, has faced exclusion in some of the magazines including Rolling Stone, which credited Dhee, who also sung the song. Though Rolling Stone later featured Arivu in its new cover, its early rejection has benchmarked with a backlash. Following the exclusion, Arivu received overwhelming support from across Tamil Nadu as a sea of people stood with him. A year later, the rapper is now facing an exclusion akin to the previous one as the latest unjoy in Enjoy Enjaami has become the talk of the town. 

Last week, Chennai has organized the opening ceremony for the 44th Chess Olympiad, the global event that is being hosted by the city. The event has been held in the monumental Mahabalipuram, on the outskirts of Chennai. In the grand opening ceremony, the song 'Enjoy Enjaami' was performed before the audience including the chessers from 180 countries. While Arivu didn't turn up to the live performance, the song was performed by singers Dhee and Kidakuzhi Mariyammal. 

While Santhosh Narayanan, the composer who produced the album, was credited in the opening ceremony, there has been a public outcry when Arivu was not credited at the event. There has been criticism over the alleged exclusion of Arivu, who's a Dalit man, and responding to such exclusion, Arivu has said that he had composed, sung, and written lyrics for Enjoy Enjaami. While Santhosh Narayanan was regarded as the composer, Arivu said he composed, wrote, and performed the album.

Enjoy Enjaami which has grossed over 42 crore views on YouTube, featured vocals by Dhee, produced by composer Santosh Narayanan and promoted under AR Rahman’s music label Maajja. The original music video of Enjoy Enjaami released by Maaja on YouTube named Dhee as the principal artiste and added Arivu’s name only as the collaborator. The song's title reads “Dhee ft. Arivu - Enjoy Enjaami (Prod. Santhosh Narayanan).”

Notifying the exclusion at the opening ceremony of the Chess Olympiad, Arivu said, "Anyone can snatch away your treasure when you’re asleep. Never when you are awake. Jai Bhim. Truth will always win in the end", citing strongly that he composed the song. Taking to Instagram, Arivu, sharing a picture of the song, wrote, "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 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". 

He added, "Every song of mine will be having the scar mark 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 asleep. Never when you are awake. Jai Bhim. Truth will always win in the end #enjoyenjaami #appropriationart. Arivu". 

Response from Santhosh Narayanan

Hours after Arivu's statement, composer Santhosh Narayanan penned a letter in which he claimed the output of the song was teamwork. He wrote, "Hello my dearest followers, well-wishers and family! I hope you are keeping good health and pray for your prolonged happiness. I am very grateful and inspired by your continuous support for over a decade since my film debut in 2012. As I have started branching out to other languages and the 'indie' music space, I have mostly been occupied with delivering work that was released after the unfortunate pandemic." 

He further said, "I would like to speak about my journey with the song "Enjoy Enjaami"
In December 2020, Dhee came up with an 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." 

He penned, "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. Our team thanks director Manikandan (Kaaka Muttai, Kadaisi Vivasayi) for meticulously choosing the foundation of the lyrics for this song and for spending so many hours with Arivu to create a flow and script for the song lyrics and inspire him with so many real-life stories and cultural history. The very basis of Enjoy Enjaami is inspired from his amazing movie "Kadaisi Vivasayi". 

"The oppari (the funeral elegy) lyrics in the song is a contribution of the paatis (elderly women) and thaathas (elderly men) of Arakkonam and surrounding villages. Thanks to Arivu for being kind enough to honour their work. Pandhalula Paavakka is one of my most favourite traditional opparis of all time. As in the case of many of my songs like Rakita Rakita. Amma Naana. Ennadi Mayavi. usually have a reference word or phrase while composing the song and 'Enjoy Enjaami' was also one of them. I am so glad that Arivu built an amazing narrative around this otherwise irrelevant phrase of mine", he added. 

Santhosh Narayanan further said, "The entire process of ideation composition, arrangement, and recording the shoot version with all lyrics of Enjoy Enjaami was done in under 30 hours. As we had only a few hours to record Enjoy Enjaami before the shoot, our process was swift, fun and spontaneous. With regards to Dhee and Kidakkuzhi Mariyammal's Enjoy Enjaami performance at the Chess Olympiad 2022, Arivu's physical presence was sorely missed as he was out of the country and informed the event organisers that he would not be able to attend due to his ongoing US schedule. His recording was retained in the performance." 

He penned, "I have always felt that Arivu is an amazing artist. My most favourite work of Arivu is actually, the soon-to-be-released song "Keechey Keechey" from director/producer Vetrimaaran's movie 'Anel Mele Panithuli', where Vetri sir is the producer and I am the composer. It would be fitting to Arivu as an artist if he is given the same love for 'Keechey Keechey' as he was given for 'Enjoy Enjaami'. I have always utilised my platform to be a voice for the oppressed and both my personal life and art are a testament to it. The work ethic, culture and camaraderie that we follow in and outside my home is an open secret. I only have a love for art and all the amazing artists from our land and we will see an epic rise in many new Thamizh voices globally in the coming months!." 

"Thanks for reading through my long letter and once again, thank you all for being forthcoming and supportive for all these years. I am absolutely open to any public or private discussion with anyone involved in this special song. My goal is to create more art and bring people together! Vaango Vaango Onnagi !!! With Love Santhosh Narayanan C R", the composer added. Notably, fans have been pouring overwhelming support to Arivu for yet another time as they have backed Arivu for being special to this soil and culture.


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