February 02, 2008

Be easy

One of the three finalists in the Doritos "Crash the Superbowl" competition is Soul Tap Records' "Be Easy (Koi Naa)", a South Asian hiphop anthem by Nivla and P. Oberoi:

Anna at Sepia Mutiny wrote

I'm massively tickled by the fact that Nivla peppers rap with Malayalam phrases like I do my posts, though he is not as consumed with the word "kundi". Despite that minor shortcoming, when he's flowin "edi penne...ingota va", I'm goin', "HELL YES!".

Nivla may sprinkle some Malayalam into his English, but P. Oberoi's performance is in pure Punjabi. (If you can transcribe and translate the lyrics, please tell me.)

According to Peter Mucha (" Rutgers' Punjabi singer up for Super Bowl ad, Philadelphia Inquirer, 1/25/2008), Parag Oberoi grew up near Princeton, NJ, recently graduated from Rutgers, and now works for Goldman Sachs. Nivla, whose real name is Alvin Augustine ("Nivla" = "Alvin" backwards), is from New York. For more about him, there's an interview here, and some quotes here in the context of a story about arranged marriages in (U.S.) Desi communities. Soul Tap Records has a Superbowl blog here.

The NY Post featured this as a NY vs. Texas contest, because the other two Doritos finalists are based in Austin and Dallas (Raakhee Mirchandani, "Super Subcontinent: NY Act Goes for Bowl", 1/24/2008):

WHILE there's nothing you can actually do to help Eli and the boys beat the Pats next weekend, you can help New York "Crash the Super Bowl." That's an off-field contest to win airtime for a music video during the game.

For more on the corporate context of the contest, see Betsy McKay, "Super Bowl Is Crunch Time for Doritos' Risky Youth Strategy", WSJ, 2/1/2008. (Note that this article begins with a reference to "Nivla featuring P. Oberoi, a little-known hip-hop group", embodying the care with which journalists and editors at big-time newspapers check their facts.)

[One last thing -- Soul Tap Records' logo is an abstract dancing figure that also looks a bit like a devanagari character:

But unless I'm missing something, it's not actually a character used in writing Hindi, or for that matter the vattezhuthu script used by Malayalam. If you recognize this logo as a version of a glyph used in some actual writing system, please let me know.]

[Nihal Parkar writes:

The logo is just an S superimposed over a T, and it is not similar to any Indian language script. I am Indian, and have an acquaintance with most of the important scripts of the country.

I should have seen the S/T connection, which is obvious if I look at the logo in terms of latin characters. But there's a clear stylistic reference, at least, to some of the graphical components of devanagari, and so I wondered whether an actual character in some South Asian writing system was there as well.]

Posted by Mark Liberman at February 2, 2008 08:02 AM