I decided to write this in honor of the song I am hearing outside our home literally as I type this. The song is titled Why this Kolaveri Di, the Bollywood sensation from the movie Moonu or “3,” and one of our neighbors must be listening to it on repeat because it just started over. A few weeks before leaving for India I posted the song on my blog because it had gone viral, not knowing the magnitude of what I had been introduced to. I will attempt to express how famous this song is by saying this: Familiarizing myself with this song before entering the field was one of the best things I could have done to prepare for Tamil Nadu. In fact, on any given day, there is a very good probability that you will hear or see reference made of this Indian pop tune.
Spanning most of the month of May and into June, I worked with the Youth Program at Shanti Ashram, a Gandhian NGO just outside of Coimbatore. A popular question the kids will ask you is if you know of any Tamil songs. Had I not known about this song previously, I would've been clueless and likely a huge disappointment. Instead, I could say one line from the song and the kids would go ballistic. The times I have sung amongst a raucous chorus of kids the song "Why This Kolaveri Di," are too many for me to number.
People light up in an instant the moment I recite any of the lyrics or hum the melody. Especially kids. This fact was reinforced when I sat down for an interview with a grade-school piano teacher. I asked him what kind of music he taught his students. He responded that they enjoyed learning the popular film songs most. “Oh really?” I inquired, “like what?” And he sat down at the piano and played the chorus of Why This Kolaveri Di. “You may have heard this before,” was his prologue to the short demonstration. Indian understatement.
I’ll give a few examples. T-shirt shops litter the streets of downtown Coimbatore, and if you’re looking for it, a Why this Kolaveri Di screen-print top will catch your eye as it hangs on display of nearly every one of them. Have a spare 200 rupees on you, and you can pick yourself up one of these novelties with some change to spare if you barter right. Not only is this a great deal, but if you get the right one, the entirety of the lyrics will span the length of your torso in bold lettering.
Another example. I went with a group of four musicians to attend a wedding last week. As is custom, they were paid to play throughout the duration of the festivities and lead the wedding procession. You know where this is leading already. They indeed performed a rendition of this hit song with two traditional Indian drums, a saxophone, and a high-pitched traditional bassoon-like instrument, the “Nathasuram.” This marked perhaps the fourth time I had heard Kolaveri Di performed by different musicians during my time here.
Here a few more. Call up a good buddy of ours from Coimbatore, Ruben. His ring-back tone? Count it. Kolaveri Di. I can also recommend Gowrishankar, a Pure Veg restaurant off the main road on your way into the city. Why? Because of the food. And also, because they play Bollywood music videos on a flat-screen in the corner. While we were eating, what came on, but none other than Why This Kolaveri Di.
If you still aren't familiar with the song, click here to be led to my original post on the song. It may change your life.