India’s “Original Rapstar” Baba Sehgal
India’s “Original Rapstar” (His words, not mine) Baba Sehgal has always looked as if he had just been privy to a place where unbounded joy is granted to the chosen few. He has the mannerism of someone who has had a deeply satisfying dip in a pool of self-love. All those are necessary features for anyone seeking a life of celebrity.
His latest outing is a rap song celebrating what he thinks is mania about Donald Trump. As compositions for such songs go, it is catchy enough for about 12 seconds, which is the longest possible attention span in this day and age, I suppose. However, it is the politics of his lyrics which is illustrative of what happens when someone clueless about the consequences of the rise of a figure like Trump that interests me.
In Sehgal’s uncritically celebratory world, “Trump Ka Mania” (Trump Mania—the title of the single) reflects the way the Republican nominee has captured some attention beyond the U.S. He speaks of Trump Mania “From Mumbai to Kenya” in a fraught reference, which may be throwing some shade to President Barack Obama. He also describes Trump’s attitude in this gushing line: “Shoulder se dust ko yunh hi jhad de, comments to aise marey pant utar de (Shakes dust off shoulder like this, Makes comments that strip you off your pants).
It is hard to say whether Sehgal is being tongue-in-cheek or reveals genuine admiration for someone who provokes significant scorn and disgust here in America. I suspect though that Sehgal has genuine admiration, especially the aspect of Trump’s life to compulsively grab public attention mostly at the cost of sense and even decency. Sehgal has no pretensions of being literary in his song writing. His style is more of quick versifying and luckily for him there is more than enough in Trump’s crass antics to write about in rhyme. Sample this, for instance. “Hillary se uski patati nahi, Usi se uski nazar hatati nahi” (He can’t get along with Hillary, He can’t take his eyes off her.)” True enough but it is the way he uses “patati nahi” which is a very street way saying you can’t stand someone. Or this: “Kuchh na kuchh karta hai drama, upset hai Donald se thoda Obama’ (He keeps creating some drama, With Donald somewhat upset is Obama).” “Thoda upset” is a huge understatement.
In a way, Sehgal is taking a leaf from Trump’s book on how to grab and stay in the limelight as long as possible. I am sure he knew that a song about Trump by India’s “Original Rapstar” would give him some traction and it has. It has gone viral. He is honest enough to admit to Dipanjan Sinha of the Mumbai-based Mid-Day newspaper, “I did not want to become a has-been.” Actually, I quite like the construct “I did not want to become a has-been”. There is something deeply paradoxical about in a quantum physics sort of way. Imagine someone consciously trying “not to become a has-been.”
It is not my case that it is Sehgal’s responsibility to weigh the implications of Trump’s vulgar politics that frequently flirts with racism and bigotry, not to mention strongman delusions. Sehgal is not a politically astute rapper because his life does not seem to have been informed by the dark social experiences that great rappers have had to confront. However, there is the unintended consequence of normalizing a weird kind of insidious force that Trump represents via such songs.
Sehgal, of course, is a joyous performer who manages to capture some attention from time to time because he does not want to “become a has-been.”
(The link to the video is attached to the picture above.)