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`Rap is rhythm 'n' poetry'

With melody in their veins and rhythm in their souls, Tanvi and Blaaze talk in the universal language of music

YOUNG GUNS She's into world music and he's into rap, but together Tanvi and Blaaze represent India's new-age musicians PHOTO: R. SHIVAJI RAO

Rapper Blaaze, India's first big-time rap boy, hit the music scene with Tamil numbers and then hit Bollywood. The man who's trying to disassociate this form of music from just plain gangsta rap and elevate it to poetry has made a mark with his musical adventures in films like Bunty Aur Babli and Rang De Basanti.

Tanvi, the woman with the versatile voice can croon in Arabic, Latin or Spanish and sings an unbelievable range of music with her band, Zahrra. She struck gold in Bollywood singing for A.R. Rahman in Yuva (remember the "Fanaa" number?).

As Blaaze waits for Tanvi who is stuck at a recording with Yuvan Shankar Raja, the rapper settles down to tell us all — from the origin of the legendary "B-to-the-A to the B-to-the-A" rap that caught the superstar's fancy to his latest album, Zambezi Funki. He also tells Tanvi over phone that we from MetroPlus had left because she was late. Tanvi scurries in, all nervous and apologises profusely.

Sudhish Kamath settles down to watch the fun.

Tanvi: Blaaze, what's your real name?

Blaaze: Lakshminarasimha-



Tanvi: Dude, I thought your name was Rajesh.

Blaaze: Yeah, see that's the thing. A lot of people think that just because you wear a bandanna, you rap and you talk differently, you must be from another planet. But no, I was born in Chennai and my grandfather gave me this complete list of names and now I'm proud of it. Blaaze is like my rap name. Blaaze also means `do your own thing'. What's your full name?

Tanvi: Tanvi Shah... no actually, it's Tanvi Yogesh Amritlal Devraj Something Shah... (laughs) but I use only Tanvi.

Blaaze: Fair enough. I use Blaaze.

Tanvi: Me, I'm gonna change it to Vitamin T... anyway...

Blaaze: Blaaze featuring Vitamin T... Actually, we should collaborate. I saw you guys performing with your band...

Tanvi: Zahrra...

Blaaze: It's deep and it's real. The way you guys performed, it showed that everybody had something to offer. It wasn't about a record deal. It wasn't about being on TV. It was just about doing real music. I think that's amazing.

Tanvi: We've worked really hard at bringing out world music, Latin music, Afro-Cuban, Salsa, Rumba... I'm not saying Indi-pop or that kind of music is bad but there are other genres too.

Blaaze: It's not to disrespect Indi-pop or anything but some of that is really bad stuff. Because it's all manufactured, and it's all like somebody writes the stuff, somebody does the music and somebody's father has a lot of money and they put out a video... and you see a new face everyday on TV. But that's not real music. Real music is playing live and having people who want to offer something different to the world.

Tanvi: Thank you. Do you write your own lyrics?

Blaaze: Absolutely. I think it's important to always write your own lyrics. Especially for rap. Because it's what you have in your head, what you want to say. I think it's more than just trying to say something that people want to hear as opposed to something that you want to say. It's poetry. Rap is rhythm and poetry... R-A-P.

Tanvi: You prefer rapping in English?

Blaaze: I think in English, so it's more natural for me to rap in English. But A. R. Rahman definitely brought out the Tamil angle. I've always understood and spoken Tamil but never thought I could rap in it. So I'm blessed to have him take it out from me. But, your stuff is not even in English.

Tanvi: No, not in English. It is difficult for me because I have to learn the right accent. I don't want to make a fool of myself. Like, if there's a Spanish guy sitting in the audience, he shouldn't say `she has a bad accent'. But I've had people come up to me and say: "Your accent is pretty good. It's almost there." So we have to practise a lot — not just Spanish, but also African, Swahili, Lebanese and Turkish. Singing Cheb Mami and Samira Syed is not easy and the Arabic language is all like Uffffff!

Blaaze: Tamil is not an easy language either, but definitely one of the most phonetically hip-hop equivalent languages. Many a time, a lot of people do criticise my accent when I talk in Tamil but at least I'm trying.

Tanvi: It's the same thing for me. Being a Gujarati, it is difficult though I have been in Chennai all my life.

Blaaze: I heard you are going off to Spain to learn some stuff...

Tanvi: I'm going to attend these workshops in Madrid where I get to learn percussion, Flamenco singing and belly dancing.

Blaaze: Wow, that's a package!

Tanvi: I've been learning from percussionist Shiva of Radio Mirchi. He's awesome...

Blaaze: He's phenomenal.

Tanvi: So, he's been teaching me the darboukah. I'm happy that I found an authentic darboukah. So I just want to make use of it. Might as well learn different techniques and come back. I heard you had a little baby boy.

Blaaze: Yeah, he's four weeks old. His name is Mrishal Neelakantan Raman. My daughter is two and her name is Mrishti Vaishnavi Raman. I think everybody should have kids because you'll learn to respect your parents. It's only after you have kids, you'll know how much they have done for you when you didn't even know. Mrishti, you better read this one day and you'll know what I'm talking about. And all you boys out there trying to hit on my daughter, you better watch out, rapper Blaaze will be after you.

Tanvi: Where do you see yourself five or ten years from now?

Blaaze: I don't see beyond the moment. But what I'm going to seriously try and do with my rap is see that young people in the country actually care about things and do stuff that makes a difference... to talk about issues. We have to get everybody angry about things that are not okay. And you?

Tanvi: Hopefully, I'll have a huge Zahrra school of music.

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