Meet the teen Urdu rapper with more hits than ‘Mere gully mein’
Ruhaan Arshad is 18 and has no training in music, but his song ‘Miya bhai...’ has had 143 million views on YouTube in less than six months.Updated: May 12, 2019 08:47 IST
Earlier this year, when Asaduddin Owaisi, president of the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen, was canvassing through the streets of Hyderabad for the Parliamentary election, a new sound followed in his wake. Loud speakers blared the catchy rap song ‘Miya bhai Hyderabadi’, YouTube’s biggest viral sensation you’ve probably never heard of.
On the video platform, the song has garnered more than 142 million views since it was posted on November 22. It’s overtaken ‘Mere gully mein’ from the February 2019 blockbuster Gully Boy. The comments number close to 70,000. The lyrics cover local slang, the city, food and life. And behind it all is the little-known Ruhaan Arshad, an 18-year-old, final-year Commerce student from Shapur, a small town on the outskirts of Hyderabad.
His music isn’t out of the ordinary. What’s got audiences hooked is the slice of modern Hyderabadi culture Arshad serves up in the typical bhai style. He races, in Deccani Urdu, through terms like chicha (uncle), sabku (everyone), pottiyaan (girls), chabutre (terrace) and kaaiku (why). Mentions of Irani chai, nahar, paya, haleem and biryani flow freely in the verses. And he name-drops popular localities like Qutbullapur, Malakpet, Tarnaka and Mallepally.
“I am happy that I could do my bit to popularise Hyderabadi lifestyle and culture,” Arshad says.
Success has come as a surprise for Arshad, the second of three sons born to a fabrication contractor in Qutbullapur. He’s only been producing music for two years. “I don’t remember when I developed this passion,” he says. “I used to listen to old Bollywood songs regularly and would write my own lyrics to their tunes in my typical Hyderabad style.”
In early 2017, Arshad heard a song called ‘Hyderabadi kiraak gana’ by the city-based group DeathRap. “I realised that my lyrics more or less resembled this song and it struck me that I should bring out a video of my own too,” Arshad says. He recorded ‘Marfe wale babu’ in February 2017. Taufeeq Shaik and Abdul Aziz, Arshad’s longtime mohallah friends, helped him fine-tune the lyrics, borrowed a Canon 200D camera to shoot the video, and posted it online.
It is, as first-time home-spun films go, raw and patchy (and is not included on Arshad’s official channel). But it proved to be a hit among his friends and at Pratibha Degree College, Kukatpally, where he studies. He eventually recorded two more tracks, ‘Hyderabad raja’ and ‘Ruhaan Arshad rap’, which did better.
For ‘Miya bhai…’, however, Arshad did things a little differently. While he wrote the lyrics, he got his friend and fellow rapper Adil Bakhtavar to compose the music. Bakhtavar used the Marfa, a rhythmic Hyderabadi beat that begins with a high tempo, to lend a high-energy feel to the song.
It worked better than anyone expected. Within 24 hours of uploading the song to YouTube, ‘Miya bhai…’ had earned a million views. Over the next two weeks, it had clocked up 5.6 million. He’s been swamped with offers for stage performances at college festivals and private galas in the city.
And since November, the money has poured in too. “The YouTube viewership has fetched me about Rs 10 lakh so far. I am quite happy with that,” he says.
For now, it’s enough to get the young rapper to make music his career. “I have not studied classical music. I don’t have the voice for ballads,” he admits. “But, I wish to earn my name as a rapper by developing my own Hyderabadi style. I hope to make it to the film industry one day.”
Arshad is currently working on his fifth song, ‘Hyderabad rubaab’. “You know, Hyderabadis display a particular kind of rubaab [attitude]. I want to show this attitude in my song. I plan to release it after Ramzan,” he says.