Anti Racism Rap Video Makes Rounds After Ganapathy S Death
It came as no surprise to rap artist Saint TFC when his trilingual anti-racism song I'll Not Forget (Aku Tak Akan Lupa /Marakka Maten) started widely circulating last week.
A mix of smart hip-hop rhymes, and a sung upper register R&B inflected chorus, it switches back and forth between English, Malay and Tamil with powerful lyrics of a man questioning why he’s been oppressed because of the colour of his skin, before reminding us that we share the same blood and will return to the same earth after death.
“I actually released this song nine months ago, but to be honest, every time there is a racial stir in our nation, this song makes its round as a statement,” he told Malaysiakini.
The recent death of A Ganapathy who succumbed to injuries inflicted on his legs and shoulders has stirred emotions among Malaysian Indians, in particular with political leaders calling for an independent investigation after his mother S Thanaletchumy lodged a police report claiming that her son had been beaten while in custody.
So what prompted Saint to make this song in the first place?
“It all started with my dad talking about his experience growing up with an Indian name and why he gave us western names so we don't have to endure his negative experiences,” said Saint, whose real name is Samson Thomas.
“It got me thinking and all of that reached its peak during the Black Lives Matter movement. I started imploding and started asking myself regarding moments in my life when I was racially profiled.
“I realised there are a lot of incidents that I have buried. I decided to write about it and put my story out there,” he added.
He described the reaction to his song, which namechecks racial slurs such as "pariah", "keling" and "pendatang", like a rollercoaster ride.
“I've had 60-year-olds messaging me on social media sharing their story of being racially profiled. I was glad that my song got the reach I intended it to get but at the same time, I was sad and disappointed that a lot of people share the same experience I have and it made me open my eyes to my surroundings more.
“In a nutshell, a lot of them were glad that someone spoke up and started the conversation,” he said.
While he doesn’t release albums, Saint has 43 songs that he has featured in and has even performed alongside the legendary playback singer SP Bala on more than one occasion.
“My first Tamil song on air was called Ennavaley (2009) and until today that song has immense traction among Malaysian Tamil music fans.
“The title track I did for a Malayalam Indian movie called Ranam won the award for "Best Song of the Year 2018" in an award show that took place in Kerala, India. Besides that, Vedan Vandhachoo for the movie Mafia (2019) helped me break into the Tamil movie scene,” he added.
Rapper Saint TFC with legendary playback singer SP Bala (right)
The 34-year-old rapper from Sentul explained the origins of his artiste name: “The short form of Saint is ST which is the first 2 letters of my first and last name Samson Thomas.
“TFC stands for Thug Face Crew, a name that a friend and I came up with when we were 14. Growing up we always heard people relating our brown skin to gangsterism.
“So our idea was to show that we were not only born with 'the face of a thug', but we are talented and we can be successful too. That idea became my rap group's name when I started music and I kept it to remind myself why I do what I do,” he recalled.
Saint studied Broadcast Communication for a while but had to give up due to financial considerations and took a fortuitous detour into hosting events.
“I have been a professional master of ceremony (MC) for almost 16 years now and started hosted a couple of TV shows in recent months,” he said.
He chose to perform in three languages because he wanted to show the diversity of our nation.
“These are languages that I learnt and grew up with. I didn’t include Mandarin or Cantonese in the song for a very simple reason - I prefer writing my own songs. And unfortunately, I don’t speak those languages. Not for the lack of trying though.”
Like any other Malaysian of his time, he said he grew up inspired by the likes of Yogi B, Reshmonu, Reefa and Sasi The Don.
“Any Malaysian talent that says they were not inspired by these big guns are lying through their teeth. I grew up listening to them on the radio and watching their videoclips.
"Besides them, I was also inspired by the likes of Darkkey, Alleycats, Hervin and P Ramlee. And obviously, as an Indian boy, growing up the house was filled with (the music of) Illayaraja, AR Rahman, SP Bala and Mohd Rafi,” he added.
Interestingly, Saint doesn’t believe there is anything controversial about rapper Namewee who gained notoriety over tracks such as Like A Dog and Negarakuku, and lauded him for having the courage to tackle difficult subjects.
“I don’t think he is controversial. He always shares the thoughts and ideas that we all have but only share within four walls.
“When you remove the gimmicks and the drama that revolves around his releases, he actually makes a lot of sense,” Saint said. - Mkini
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