Song to belong

“Growing up in Puri, I felt so confused/ Why do I look like no one else in school?

I mean I got small eyes and also a flat nose, which is why all guys happen to crack jokes.”

After this first rap
One Kid with a dream
in 2017 that got him nearly three lakh views online, Samir Rishu Mohanty, aka ‘Big Deal’ has released
Mu Heli Odia
(I am Odia), this time a tribute to his home Odisha, which has a record million views. “Its popularity enabled me re-discover my true identity,” says Big Deal-Samir “My large set of fans ‘connected’ with the song as I did. His subsequent song about mothers —‘Bou’ — is also popular.

Samir has made it to lists like ‘Verve Magazine Fresh List 2018’ and ‘Radio City Freedom Best Hip Hop artist 2016’. Big Deal-Samir speaks to
The Hindu
about his music and journey so far.

Your latest video ‘Are You Indian’ deals with sensitive issues.

I have been facing racism my entire life because of the way I look. I have a Japanese mother and my father is Odia, so I have mongoloid features, hence I was made fun of when I was growing up in Puri where I was born.

My school in Darjeeling, where I studied till Class XII, was divided in groups of Northeast Indians and mainland Indians. Even though I look like the ‘Northeasterners’, people there never included me in their community, and took me to be a mainlander. But I was also discriminated by the people who looked like me. I have experienced both sides of the story.

What is the song about and how long did you take to compose it?

The song relates to mainlanders and Northeasterners. I aim at building unity by telling them that we are all victims to our pride and fighting just to prove who is right. Innocents who have nothing to do with the fight are ‘feeling the pain’. I took a week to research and collate everything for my lyrics, and just two days to compose, tune and put them into rhymes for the rap genre.

What is the kind of music employed and what are the rare instruments you’ve used in the music?

The music employed hip hop with heavy 808 bassline, but there are orchestral elements too. You will hear a lot of strings that bring forth emotions, and there are horns and Indian vocal samples to add more flavour to the whole sound. The piano provides the main tune and sets the mood for the whole song. Finally, an aggressive and well cadenced delivery for the rap finishes the job. I made the music, wrote the lyrics and performed it in the studio.

How did Big Deal get its musical influence?

Initially I was a huge fan of Bollywood, but all that changed when I watched the Eminem-starring movie
8 Mile
for the first time, and decided to become a rapper and express feelings through melody. ‘Big Deal’ sounded trendy and catchy.

I also thought Odisha needed more representation in Indian pop culture. When mainstream rap artists, do it in English, I present the ‘rap revolution’ a little differently.

You have also produced tunes for well-known consumer products?

I make more music than I write raps. I get to make music for various brands, movies and other rappers/singers. It is a great feeling to able to contribute to someone else’s vision by being behind the scene. When it comes to my rap, I am always the face. But, with music production, I take a back seat and help the client’s vision come to life and there is immense happiness in that.

‘Are You Indian’ articulates a conversation that many think but nobody speaks about

– Samir


Mohanty, based out of Bengaluru, has

come out with his latest anti-racism

rap video ‘Are You Indian’, that delves into the sensitive relationship between the Northeast and mainland India,

and has gone viral

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