Musician Fejo: “Good days are ahead for Malayalam rap”

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The rapper talks about his acting debut in ‘Naradan’ and the growing acceptance of Malayalam rap

The rapper talks about his acting debut in ‘Naradan’ and the growing acceptance of Malayalam rap

Malayalam rapper Fejo has a lot to be happy about after Aashiq Abu’s release Naradan. Tovino star Thomas-Anna Ben, a powerful critic on the news channels, not only gave him a prominent role, but also features his song, “Thannatthan.”

“The film has another rap track, ‘Neeyetha’, from rappers MC Couper and Marthyan. Perhaps for the first time in Malayalam cinema, instead of ‘lyricists’, ‘rappers’ appear in the credits of the film. Things have improved for Malayalam rappers in recent years and this movie came as a boost for us,” says Fejo.

He plays Mudiyan, a rapper, in the film. The character is opposed to Tovino’s character, Chandraprakash, the high-profile, cutthroat news anchor. “Share screen with Tovi chettan, Anna, Monsieur Indrans and others in my first film was not something I expected. It was an enriching and memorable experience,” says Fejo, who started his career as a rapper more than a decade ago.

Fejo with actor-DJ Sekhar Menon, who composed the tracks for 'Naradan'

Fejo with actor-DJ Sekhar Menon, who composed the tracks for ‘Naradan’ | Photo credit: special arrangement

He had met Aashiq during ‘Para’, a digital hip-hop festival featuring leading Kerala rap artists held last year. The show was directed by Aashiq and hosted by actor-DJ Sekhar Menon and actor-musician Sreenath Bhasi. “Aashiq chettan enjoyed my songs then. But I was surprised when I received a call from him saying that I had a role in his film and that I would also do a song. It was a godsend! he’s laughing.

Fejo with director Aashiq Abu

Fejo with director Aashiq Abu | Photo credit: special arrangement

Fejo adds that he was worried after doing the screen test for the role. “I only faced the camera for my music videos, so I wasn’t sure I had done enough to pass the audition. Even after I got on board, I had no idea what the character was. So, I had a pleasant surprise when I realized that I had such an important role!

Get into the groove

He adds that having Sekhar who understands rap/hip-hop culture as a composer of Naradan helped when creating the song. “I made fast songs. However, the director and composer told me that even if ‘Thannatthan’ had elements of rap, it should be a groovy track, staying in the rhythm of the film. Sekhar chettan tuned so that I could give exactly what he wanted for the track,” he explains.

Malayalam rapper Fejo

Malayalam rapper Fejo | Photo credit: special arrangement

Fejo mentions that while he doesn’t have any combined scenes with MC Couper and Marthayan in the film, he was there on set when their video was shot. The director tried to change the misconception that rappers are into drugs and lead a wayward life,” he adds.

Information folder

Fejo, originally from Kochi (from the first letters of his name Febin Joseph) was introduced to rap by his brother, Vipin Joseph. His first original song “Private aravushala” was about self-funded universities. He worked in a music video with rapper Raftaar and actor Varun Dhawan, to promote Breezer Vivid Shuffle, a hip-hop dance festival. Among his popular songs are ‘Avasaram tharu’, ‘Bhoomidevi’, ‘Malsaram ennodu thanne’ and ‘Theruvinte kalakaran’.

Fejo returns from the success of Mohanlal’s Arattu in which he sang the theme song (‘Thalayude vilayattu’) with MG Sreekumar. Composed by Rahul Raj, the song was on the trending list. “Using a rap song for big stars is not new in Malayalam cinema. The trend, however, is to use Tamil lyrics as in the case of Lucifer (“Kadavule pole”) or English as in Mammootty’s Abrahaminte Santhathikal. Rahul chettan said we would try with Malayalam lyrics,” says Fejo.

In the town of tinsel

Fejo’s film debut was with Maradona for Sushin Shyam and he did the most songs for Jakes Bejoy ( Ranam, Kalki and Java Operation). His other film projects are Athiran, Jeem Boom Bhaa, Under World, and Uriyadi.

“The acceptance of the film industry is linked to the extent to which the public appreciates our work. The best thing about working in films is that I have been able to experiment with the rap genre and thus give something new to the listeners,” he adds.

Fejo says it’s important for every rapper to have their own style. Meanwhile, he hopes good times are ahead for Malayalam rap. “It’s true that you have to go far compared to the scene in Tamil or Hindi. However, there is more acceptance for rap in the new generation and Malayalam rap will go in the next five or six years. At that time, we could get support from more music labels,” he concludes.

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