Pakistan has Taher Shah and Nepal has Bhim Niroula – singers who exists only because the internet exists. It isn’t fair to put pioneering Indian rapper Baba Sehgal into the same bracket, but he does seem to be trying hard to fit in, as his latest work demonstrates.
The lyrics for “Hope Hai Toh Dope Hai” suggest that the recent suicide of television actress Pratyusha Banerjee was an inspiration: “Arey bhaad mein saala boyfriend jaaye joh ghadi ghadi tera bheja khaye, chhod de usko kick mar key joh tujhko mental kar jaaye” (Let you boyfriend go to hell if he chews your brains, kick him if he makes you mad). The video has other gems in its attempt to finds words to rhyme with hope. Its visual style is most interesting too: a collage of copyright-free and Photoshopped images and video grabs (including a cat climbing a rope).
It has to be said that Sehgal isn’t crass and does not take himself too seriously. He has a canny sense of timing, evident from his editorials on current topics. Sehgal is eclectic: he sings with equal vim about his worthiness for a Grammy and the benefits of going to a gym. The songs are an extension of his Twitter avatar, where he regularly dishes out wisecracks. The internet surprises in many ways, one of them being its ability to revive the careers of out-of-work celebrities. Sehgal had 48.5K followers on Twitter when we last checked and the views of his YouTube videos run into lakhs.
In the early 1990s, Sehgal had the distinction of singing the lyrics “Musical horn hai, UK ka porn hai” in the popular song “Aaja Meri Gaadi Mein Baith Jaa” (Miss 420, 1998). Had social media been around at the time, Sehgal would have been hailed as a messiah. The track is tame compared to the topics that he is singing about these days, proving that outré behaviour is always rewarded.