Indian American hip hop musician Raja Kumari is facing flak on the social media, with people accusing her of promoting caste-based hierarchy in her new song, Roots.
In her new collaboration with Mumbai rapper Divine aka Vivian Fernandes, Raja Kumari claims to take the “gully rap” as an instrument to represent India’s street culture and slum dwellers.
The video, released on July 26 by Sony Music India, has been viewed by more than two million people online. The Grammy-nominated musician is now being criticized for one line in the new song: “Untouchable with the Brahmin flow.”
Several social media users are now taking to Twitter to denounce her for emphasizing Brahmin superiority and promoting casteism, and many are asking who Kumari is representing in the song. Critics are also questioning how far the image portrayed by the video stays true to the core of gully rap, which is supposed to take you to the “roots” of the society.
Lyrics of Roots, the new song by DIVINE feat Raja Kumari. His bits are classic DIVINE but WTF is the first verse sung by Raja Kumari. "Untouchable with a Brahmin flow" is not something I expect to hear in a song, without any context or background. pic.twitter.com/422c1rwW4q
— Anushree Majumdar (@CaptBackspace) July 27, 2018
Kumari has often called herself the “bridge between the East and the West,” and has been known for fusing classical music with rap. However, many Twitter users said that she would have little knowledge of the real situations in India.
“Hey TELUGU RACIST BRAHMIN Get out of Indian and go back to where you belong. We have our own Rappers now who can represent our struggles in much better way. We don’t need American Born BRahmin Supremacists representing the Poor and marginalized,” wrote a Twitter user.
“Sorry but it is rather ignorant of @TheRajaKumari to use a line like ‘Untouchable with the Brahmin flow’, especially given the political atmosphere of the times. Can even be construed as hate speech. On another note, people in Mohenjodaro did not speak Sanskrit,” tweeted another.
Another Twitter user pointed out that even after holding a degree in Religious Studies with emphasis on South Asian religions, and a strong Indian origin, the singer-rapper failed to represent the authentic image, and true cultural spectrum of Indian castes and religions.
“She has a BA in ‘religious studies’ with an emphasis on South Asian religions. Says something about who’s teaching about South Asian religions in the U.S. for her to say things like ‘Untouchable with the Brahmin flow’,” the post said.
Disgusting when you say untouchable with a brahmin flow… you have lost it. We will bring you down. You are shit.
— urbanopath (@Watsay) July 29, 2018
Soon this Telugu Brahmin Might end up rapping about reservations ,Merit etc etc.
— Sonnakula (@MudiLeDubega) August 2, 2018
Kumari is also being criticized for not responding to the views raised by listeners.
Indian rappers pride themselves on being "woke". It's almost been a week since the release of 'Roots' and we continue waiting for @TheRajaKumari to respond to why she thought writing a lyric like "Untouchable like the Brahmin flow" was a good idea.
— Amit Gurbaxani (@TheGroovebox) August 2, 2018
Kumari, whose original name is Svetha Rao, hails from from Claremont in California. She has got recognition for her fusion style of music, and received a Grammy Award nomination in 2015. She has also bagged BMI pop awards and collaborated with famous international musicians such as Gwen Stefani and Iggy Azalea.