The cover of Rolling Stone India’s August issue, featuring singers Dhee and Shan Vincent de Paul for their songs Enjoy Enjaami and Neeye Oli, drew a lot of backlash on social media for ignoring lyricist Arivu despite his contribution to the songs.
In its tweet sharing the cover story on Friday, Rolling Stone India referred to Dhee and de Paul as “triumphant South Asian artists” who have been at the “front of erasing border lines with songs like Enjoy Enjaami and Neeye Oli respectively, released via platform and label maajja.”
However, Arivu, the independent singer and rapper who wrote the lyrics of Enjoy Enjaami and performed it with Dhee and co-wrote the lyrics of Neeye Oli with Shan, is not featured in the cover photo nor was he mentioned in the tweet.
Also, while the cover story features multiple quotes from both Dhee and Shan and is peppered with stills from their photoshoot, it includes only one quote from Arivu and no photographs of the rapper.
It is important to note that Enjoy Enjaami, which was released in March and became a milestone in Tamil indie music, is based on Arivu’s grandmother, Valliammal. The song includes lines that talk about someone not getting credit for their work. It is produced by music composer Santhosh Narayanan, who also composed Neeya Oli.
Many on social media called out the magazine for ignoring Arivu. Among these was filmmaker Pa Ranjith, whose film Sarpatta Parambarai features Neeye Oli. He wrote: “Arivu, the lyricist of Neeya Oli and singer as well as lyricist of Enjoy Enjaami has once again been invisiblised.” He further said, “Rolling Stone India and maajja, is it so difficult to understand that the lyrics of both songs challenges this erasure of public acknowledgement?”
The music label maajja, founded by AR Rahman, released both songs.
Filmmaker-lyricist CS Amudhan stated that Dhee, Santhosh Narayanan, and Rahman should speak up if Arivu’s “erasure wasn’t a deliberate and blatant move.” He continued, “Otherwise, it will go down as a historical injustice. These are people we believe are on the right side of the good fight, I really hope they do the right thing.”
Calling the incident “textbook intellectual theft and blatant brahminism,” filmmaker Leena Manimekalai also criticised the move and wrote, “It is really ironic that the very songs stolen from Arivu provide a response to and challenge the caste system that is at the root of such sidelining of the artist and exploitation of his work.”
Singer Chinmayi Sripada wrote, “The discussion on Arivu’s treatment isn’t a triviality, nor ‘taking it away from music.’ I truly hope Arivu at least had a contract in place, got paid his due as a creator and is getting the royalties for the insane hits on Enjoy Enjaami and Neeye Oli.”
This is not the first time Arivu has been sidelined. In June, DJ Snake remixed Enjoy Enjaami and it became the first Tamil indie song to be featured on a billboard on Times Square. While the billboard featured both Dhee and DJ Snake, Arivu’s photo was missing.
Dhee and de Paul have not commented on the issue.
(Translation inputs from Ramya Ashok Kumar)