“Khane ko nhi chawal dana par bank mai khata khulvaenge…”
Thus begins one of Dule Rocker’s rap songs. But Duleshwar Tandi’s lines are not about youth or rebellion but of the miseries of the migrants and their struggles following the nationwide lockdown.
The 27-year-old from Odisha’s Kalahandi district attained fame after his rap video, ‘Telling the Truth’, went viral, making even Bollywood sit up and take notice.
Tandi was among those who returned to his hometown. But soon he realised there would be little help coming his way from the government. That’s when he decided to voice his opinion in the form of rap.
“Who is the government helping? No one. Which is exactly why I am questioning them,” he says. His rap ‘Telling The Truth’ highlights the government’s apathy towards the poor, many of whom were left penniless and without means of livelihood.
“If the government wanted, they could have helped out those walking on foot. They could provide busses and food but they are not come forward to do any of this,” he adds.
Implemented on March 25, the nationwide lockdown left many migrant workers in limbo, forcing them to walk hundreds of kilometres to their native places. Only less than 10 per cent of them got to travel free by government transport, data shows.
Having closely experienced the crisis, the Dalit youth was compelled to write about it through powerful rap songs in English, Hindi and Kosli. “Since corona, our lives have been hampered in a lot of ways. Seeing the conditions, I decided to put my thoughts into words and that is what resonated with people,” Tandi told the indianexpress.com.
Citing the example of actor Sonu Sood, who has been working to help migrants return to their homes, Tandi says: “I commend the work he is doing, but this work is not his. Who is supposed to do this work? The government. And if they are not doing it then why are they even in power?”
However, for Tandi, fame and recognition came after almost 11 years of struggle. “I have been trying to be a rapper for a very long time. After I completed my college, I had decided to become a rapper. I did a lot of other work to earn money and in-between would find time to rap,” he says.
After graduating in BSc from a government college, Tandi tried several odd jobs to make ends meet and even shifted to Raipur in search of work.
Tandi developed an interest in music from an early age. “I have always been interested in dance, drama and music. It was a very common thing in our family. We children would watch the elders and get together, write scripts, assign roles and act them out.”
“Initially, I wrote poetry. I used to write for the college magazine and take part in annual day functions. Later, I developed a habit of writing rap. At that time, I did not know that what I am writing is called a rap,” he told the indianexpress.com.
With Bollywood actors such as Priyanka Chopra and Richa Chadda sharing his videos, Tandi was approached by music and film producers from Bollywood. However, he steered clear from commercial music as it didn’t sync with his thought process.
“There are people who have tonnes of money and then there are those who don’t even have a roof over their heads or have enough food to eat. This is not humanity. I write such content and this was not liked by those in the commercial world.”
With his raw videos and gritty lyrics attracting attention online, Tandi has quit his job to focus on rap. “Earlier, people did not listen to such rap, but these days people are listening to me and are liking it.”
Tandi feels the government should listen to the citizens, and that’s his main muse. “People are on the streets protesting against the government. They should analyse why this is happening and why people are unhappy.”