Sollisai Sistah’s, Tamil Nadu’s first all-women Tamil rap band, is all set to groove you to their beats

The four member band includes rappers Raaga Kaatralai, B-Sha, Neya and beatboxer Kavi Chikki
(Clockwise L-R): Raaga Kaatralai, Abisha, Kavi Chikki and Neya
(Clockwise L-R): Raaga Kaatralai, Abisha, Kavi Chikki and Neya

The fourth edition of LangFest is here and this time, the focus is on biographies, autobiographies and memoirs as cultural narratives. With a huge line-up of artistes looking at history to bring relevant stories and an ongoing Typeface competition, the two-day event promises to take you back in time. “The focus is on how does one learn, engage, get inspired by history because what we usually see about the creative world is the final works. However, there is a process by which artistic choices are taken and what they’ve created. So, we thought that’s a very important and interesting layer to understanding how culture is formed, and how it influences. We also wanted this edition to be fairly broad because the personal always feeds into the professional. Personal life experiences and journeys are what dictate what we decide to build up as an institution. So, we wanted a mix of voices to talk,” says Anitha Pottamkulam, curator of LangFest.

As a part of the festival, Sollisai Sistah’s, Shankara TPK and Akalaiva will be performing Oral History Through Rap. We speak to rapper Raaga Kaatralai from Sollisai Sistah’s, the first and only all-women rap group in Tamil Nadu.

Formed in December last year, Sollisai Sistah’s is a four-member all-women Tamil rap band, who met by chance. “I had just met Abisha (B-Sha) at one of the events and the others through Instagram. Abisha and I started performing together, and then we came across Neha, who was only 16 years old, but was very interested in rapping. So, one fine day, we all met and before we knew, we were a band! That’s how it all started,” shares Raaga.

We ask her how she got into rapping, and Raaga says, “Oh! It’s a long story.’ Cutting it short, she shares, “I am a hip hop dancer and choreographer too and was invited to dance in a music video by a Shankara TPK, who is a rapper. That was my introduction to rap. I didn’t know about any rap artiste in Tamil Nadu or in Chennai. I am from Salem, but knew very little about this art form. So, when I heard Shankara, I kept playing his song on loop. He and Madurai Souljour’s were my inspirations. They impacted my life in a big way. I found their songs very relatable, and eventually, I got introduced to more rap artistes and was inspired by their lyrics. That got me to write my own songs and rap.” She adds, “I believe my compositions are different, they follow no grammar.”

Raaga took her time to pen lyrics straight from her heart and completed her first song in a year’s time, after which she started performing  at open mics. She has no inhibitions about performing anywhere as she sees it as a platform to hone her skills. “I go to every talent show, open mics, college fests, and I am open to collaborations. That’s how Sollisai Sistah’s can be seen and become a brand.”

Raaga is going to be performing all her songs — Thadumaarum poodhiniley, Valimaiyai, Aasaigalum kanavugalum, Veeram, Urumi, Othungu, and Irambam — at the LangFest along with Sollisai Sistah’s members B-Sha (rapper), Neya (rapper) and Kavi Chikki (beatboxer).

The songs cover a broad spectrum including history, people, women’s issues, childhood experiences and much more. For instance, Valimaiyai is about women getting older, looking for her dreams after marriage, her sufferings, and it questions who is responsible for all that happens in life. Other songs are about artistes, dyslexia, social assault, about prevailing problems in the society.

Before we let her go back to rehearsals, we ask her why do we not have more women rappers, and she says, “I know of 30 women rappers in Chennai; there may be more, but I am not sure. However, there are a lot more male rappers in Tamil Nadu. I think it is because when men rap, they present women in a bad light (in their lyrics); not all, but most of them.  Moreover, I have met girls who want to rap, but are afraid to take the plunge because rapping apparently is not a ‘woman’s thing’. But hey, we are here to break that and how!”

Tickets at Rs 175.
February 24, 5 pm.
At Performance Area, DakshinChitra

X: @rupsjain

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