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It was a whirlwind tour for Tamil rap-musician Arivu, who visited the Bay Area during his first tour of the USA earlier this year.

In an event hosted by the Center for South Asia on Aug. 11, 2022, Arivu spoke at Stanford University on “Cultures & Vultures,” a lecture moderated by Stanford Professors Usha Iyer and Sharika Thiranagama. He also performed and participated in a Q&A meet and greet session at the Cupertino Odd Fellows Lodge for the Ambedkar King Study Circle USA, on Aug. 12, 2022.

The Beauty of Tamil

Arivu told the Stanford audience how the Tamilian oppari, a rhythmic lament eulogizing death, was featured in the hit song Enjoy Enjaami, and came “from the lineage of all traditions that have survived hundreds of generations.”

“The reason for my recognition as an artist is because of the beauty of my mother tongue Tamil.”

Arivu also spoke of the struggle for equality and how Tamil literature mentioned that all things were equal and that “everyone was equal by birth.”

The Loss of Culture

“As Nina Simone said, I believe it’s an artist’s duty to reflect the time in which we live. That’s why most of my artistic efforts focus on reflecting the socio political paradoxes we live in one of the deepest paradox that affects millions of my brothers and sisters is caste, but the story of ancestors does not carry the scourge of caste.”

“We have lost the essence of our culture,” said Arivu. “The culture has become a commodity nowadays.”

Inspired by his visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., Arivu told the Stanford University audience, “I feel like our culture, our pain, our struggle, needs to be needs to be preserved like that understory should be passed to the next generations through many more songs to come.”

Preserving culture is not only in the hands of artists said Arivu, but also in the hands of all the people who are part of society.

Tamil rapper and musician Arivu accepts a Stanford hoodie, instead of the traditional scarf honoring a guest, from Stanford professor Usha Iyer, upon his visit to Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif. where he spoke on Aug. 11, 2022. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.
Tamil rapper and musician Arivu greets audience members after his talk “Cultures & Vultures,” sponsored by Stanford University’s Center for South Asia department in Palo Alto, Calif. on Aug. 11, 2022. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.
Tamil rapper and musician Arivu addresses fans at a meet and greet at the Odd Fellows Lodge in Cupertino, Calif. on Aug. 12, 2022. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.
Tamil rapper and musician Arivu enjoys a Bharatanatyam performance at a meet and greet at the Odd Fellows Lodge in Cupertino, Calif. on Aug. 12, 2022. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.
Tamil rapper and musician Arivu hugs the young performers who danced to his hit song “Enjoy Enjaami” at a meet and greet at the Odd Fellows Lodge in Cupertino, Calif. on Aug. 12, 2022. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.
Tamil rapper and musician Arivu engages in conversations with fans at a meet and greet at the Odd Fellows Lodge in Cupertino, Calif. on Aug. 12, 2022. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.
Tamil rapper and musician Arivu performs at a meet and greet with local resident Rajkumar (left) and Adhiyaman (right) providing a beat at the Odd Fellows Lodge in Cupertino, Calif. on Aug. 12, 2022. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.
Jesu Sundaramaran (center row), who hosted a rapid fire Q&A with Arivu at the Odd Fellows Lodge in Cupertino, CA enjoys the rapper’s performance on Aug. 12, 2022. Photo: Sree Sripathy for India Currents/CatchLight Local.

Sree Sripathy

Sree Sripathy joined India Currents as a photojournalist and CatchLight Local Fellow as part of CatchLight's California Local Visual Desk program in June 2022. Reach out with story ideas or comments at...