Arivu, the massively popular and groundbreaking Indian rapper, will play an intimate outdoor show at the University of California, Santa Cruz’s Quarry Amphitheater, presented by the UCSC South Asian Studies CenterCenter For South Asian Studies, on Oct. 7.
Arivu, born Arivarasu Kalainesan, rose to international fame with his hit Tamil song “Enjoy Enjaami,” a collaboration with the singer Dhee that has amassed half a billion views on YouTube. The Wire, an online magazine, described the single as “one step closer to annihilating caste” in India.
Through his rebellious singles such as ‘Anti-Indian,’ ‘Kalla Mouni,’ and ‘Sanda Seivom,’ Arivu is known as a prodigal talent with the guts to speak truth to power.
Doors for the free concern open that evening an hour before the show at 7 p.m. Advance registration is required for concert attendees, according to a news release.
In its cover story on Arivu, which ran in the August 2021 issue, Rolling Stone described him as “the voice of socio-political hip hop, smashing records and defying social norms.”
The magazine also called him “the Tamil artist (who) has scorched a path out, raising his voice against systemic injustices.”
At the UCSC concert, Arivu will lead members of his Ambassa band, an experiment in bringing together the western elements of hip-hop, beat boxing and rock with the native sounds of Folk, Gaana, and Oppari.
“Ambassa’s mission is to showcase the need for justice in an increasingly divided India, through the transformative as well as rousing powers of music,” said UCSC Professor of Feminist Studies Anjali Arondekar, founding director for the Center For South Asian Studies.
Arondekar said Arivu’s strong anti-caste discrimination message is especially important in light of the fact that the California State Legislature passed a landmark bill this month, SB 403, banning discrimination based on caste.
If it is signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom, California will be the first state in the US to ban caste-based discrimination.
“Our faculty are at the forefront of new scholarship on caste injustice, secularism, and feminist struggles, and regularly participate in broader public facing projects on such issues,” Arondekar noted.
“We also have established connections with the extensive network of NGOs and public initiatives focused on justice in South Asia in the Bay Area.”
For Arondekar, the Arivu concert is a way for the CSAS to highlight its commitment to justice in a high-profile way, with a special appeal to UCSC’s undergraduate population, which includes a large number of students of South Asian descent.
“The CSAS wanted to do something out of the box,” she said, “not just a talk and a lecture but an event that brought a special energy and excitement to campus. My hope is that this concert will draw in folks from across campus and our broader Santa Cruz community who care about issues of justice. We want everyone to join us as we educate, agitate, and organize through the rousing music of Arivu and the Ambassa Band.”
The Arivu concert is made possible by the generosity of donors Kamil and Talat Hasan, who have provided foundational support for the CSAS, and the Anuradha Luther Maitra and Thomas Kailath Program Endowment for the CSAS, which is also contributing to the concert. Kamil Hasan and Anuradha Luther Maitra are UC Santa Cruz Foundation Trustees, according to the release.