Someone had called his name out. It was a little gathering in Kochi and Haris Saleem was invited to speak a few words. A reluctant young man went forward and said a couple of lines about singing for Muhsin Parari’s music video Funeral of a native son. But when the video came on, the viewers spotted a different Haris — one in a cap and sometimes in chains pulled off by policemen, as he raps: See those heads hanging by a saffron trishoola/They shouting Jai Bhim, I am Vemula.
The same man had appeared in the music video Native Bapa, also directed by Muhsin. But that’s not the surprise. Heads turn in disbelief when he is introduced by his friend Suhas. “Meet Haris, he is a doctor.” Haris gets a reaction he is now used to when people who know him as a musician learn that he is a doctor.
“MBBS is what I wanted to study and I take it very seriously. Music is my passion but becoming a full-time musician is not practical.”
“If you are not in films, you get very few platforms as an independent musician in Kerala. There is just no existence,” Haris says. The funny part is that Haris had never been keen on music in his younger days. “I never listened to music till I was in my tenth grade. It’s after that I heard hip-hop and felt this was something different — the rhythm and the pattern. And I used to write poetry in school. So when I found an interest in music, I began to write songs and share it in groups on Orkut with my friends with similar interests.”
With those friends he began to make music and they brought out quite a few singles. They formed a band called Street Academics and are one of the first in the music scene to do Malayalam rap. “Serious rap. Even before, there used to be rap but mostly done funnily like Neela Bucket.”
Haris became part of songs like Repping the truth and Vandi Puncture before Muhsin called him for Native Bapa. “It is tougher to do Malayalam rap because it’s not been done before so you have nothing to refer to.” Haris who is now doing his house surgency, is also interested in acting. He will be appearing in a docu-fiction, and would also like to act in films....