Meet Akhilesh and Thavasi, Aarey’s children in Mumbai whose Tamil rap has gone viral
Activist-musician Elijah Emmanuel, along with musician Shedwin, has been leading hip-hop lessons for Aarey’s children under a banyan tree since the start of the pandemic.
This is how Thavasi Kannan and Akhilesh, nine, spend their time after school hours: they wander the streets of Aarey Forest, nestled in the heart of Mumbai, and dance and listen to music. music with other neighborhood children. November 20 of this year was no different when they broke into an impromptu Tamil rap performance at a local restaurant in the area. But that day, someone at the restaurant recorded the performance of the two Tamils ââin Mumbai. And they had no idea that their rap would go viral in the following days and that social media users across the country would indeed be listening to the âChinna Pasangaâ (young boys) – as they call themselves – in the video. .
“Naa inga maatuven, kuruka vandha udaipen. Bad kudukadha trips. Panni varadha drinks. Amma pechu kekala, Appa pechu kekala, adu periya thappu illa. Chinna payan solran nu nenaikada. Nee periya manishana inga nadakaveila (I’ll bring change, if you stand in between I’ll kick you off. Don’t take bad trips, don’t come to our neighborhood. We don’t listen to our mom and dad but it doesn’t matter because we are Don’t think I’m just a little kid asking these questions because you haven’t acted like adults) â, Akhilesh is heard rapping, while Thavasi is seen beatboxing in the viral video.
After the video went viral, the comment sections were inundated with praise and enthusiastic questions, the most common being, “How did kids learn to rap and beatbox?” Thavasi and Akhilesh attended hip-hop lessons led by activist and musician Elijah Emmanuel, with his friend and musician Shedwin. Elijah and Shedwin are both part of the âSave Aareyâ movement. They have been giving hip-hop lessons in Marathi, Tamil, Hindi and English for children in the Aarey area since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The lyrics Akhilesh is heard rapping in the viral video were written by Elijah and centered around the need to protect the Aarey Forest.
During a video call with TNM, an excited Akhilesh shared that his friends and parents were happy the video was going viral. When asked what he thought of the lyrics, the grade 5 student, with his effervescent eyes and a broad smile, spoke about the need to save the trees and protect the Aarey Forest. He even read an excerpt from the rap song. “Maari vaa junior gang enga rap song style kula swag. Underground cypher, mundhiri maaram, ala maaram. Apna gang seyyum yellam rightu. Apna hood tree plant, save Aarey, sollum Kadhai ellam ketu paaru (Make the change. We’re the junior gang and there’s swag in our style. We have our own underground cipher. We gather around the cashew trees and banyan trees in our neighborhood to do freestyle rap. Our gang is right. Tell us about the plants and the preservation of the Aarey forest. Listen to the stories we tell). ”
His friend Thavasi, who casually beats as Akhilesh changes the rhythm of rap in the video, said, “Going to the Aala Maram (Banyan) is my favorite part of the day.” His eyes light up whenever he says they spend hours raping in different languages, singing and learning new things every day.
The banyan tree that Thavasi fondly recounted is the “secret” place – a lush environment, tucked away from a bustling megalopolis like Mumbai. This is where the children of the neighborhood gather to spend their evenings, learning the music of Elijah and Shedwin Selvaraj, two natives of Tamil Nadu.
Elijah Emmanuel, underground artist and active participant in the Save Aarey movement, quit his full-time job as a musician in 2020, and reunited neighborhood children during confinement to teach them music. His students call themselves ârap thugsâ.
– Saradha U (@saradha_u) December 9, 2021
âThere are many people involved in the Save Aarey movement who are contributing to the cause in their own ways. Since my mother is a teacher and I am from Aarey, I chose teaching as my path. We started lessons during the pandemic because most of the children who attend public schools did not have access to online lessons, âElijah Emmanuel told TNM.
The children’s “secret corner”, or rather their classroom, is only five to ten minutes from their home, but since it is deeper in the forest, they only go there with the accompanying adults. ‘adults. âLearning music alongside the sounds of the forest is a holistic and rewarding experience,â said Elijah, who travels to Aarey and other parts of Mumbai teaching hundreds of children of different age groups, from four to five years.
The lyrics to all of their songs speak of everything from forest and wildlife conservation to inequality and discrimination. Elijah said he believes teaching music will sow the seeds of social change that children will later reap when they understand its true meaning and purpose. âHip-hop also embodies the sharing of knowledge. I think the music will help these children realize the importance of protecting nature or the need to promote harmony among all communities including Maharashtrians, Tamils, indigenous peoples like Warlis and Katkaris, among others. . They would then choose their trip and make their way later, âhe said.
– Saradha U (@saradha_u) December 9, 2021
In addition to learning hip-hop, underground artists, educators and activists from the âSave Aareyâ movement organized a number of workshops and courses such as planting activities, craft classes and a permaculture training, where children learn about wildlife, understand native varieties of plants, their natural habitat, sustainable way of life and much more.
Unlike traditional classrooms, classes under the banyan tree are not structured. Some took lessons in Capoeira (a Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance, music and acrobatics) when a martial arts practitioner from Hungary was staying in Aarey. âSome also learn to play guitar and percussion. We observe the behavior of the children who join us for the classes at Banyan Tree and try to channel their energy and shape them in the right direction, âElijah said.
Celebrities like Vishal Dadlani, Hip Hop Tamizha’s Aadhi and other mainstream music industry bigwigs also shared positive responses after the video went viral.
Now that they are mini-celebrities, what future for these rap thugs? While observing that Akhilesh and Thavasi, as well as other children training under him, are free to choose which route they want to take, Elijah told TNM that he is focusing on not letting their art gets commercialized along the way. âWe can’t wait to take part in street performances and officially record a few songs. I would really like these children to grow up nourishing this cycle of learning and use their art to connect or reconnect with nature, âhe said.