“Hip Hop Has Really Influenced My Poetry, Content Wise And Flow Wise.” Aranya Johar | Exclusive Interview

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Aranya Johar is a spoken word artist from Mumbai, India. One of Aranya’s videos, ‘A Brown Girl’s Guide to Gender‘ hit one million views within two days of its upload. When Aranya isn’t on stage performing poetry, she’s either curating events under her start up ‘More Than Mics‘ or impulsively speaking Korean. She loves to discuss mental health, the universe and everything in between. Buy her a plate of pani-puri and she’ll love you forever.

Her connections with hip-hop and lyricism are not new. Aranya is the sister of Ankur Johar who is widely known as Enkore. To know more about her roots and dreams, I decided to have a conversation with her which went like:

(Image Credits: Tanay Kadel)

San Cha: What is your take on the negligence of ‘Spoken Word’ style of poetry in India?

Aranya: Honestly, the fact that it’s growing is motive and incentive enough for poets and event organizers just like me to relentlessly invest in the scene. We must keep creating platforms because most people are just unaware that it exists, but take complete and full advantage of it once they’re introduced to it. Rappers as well, we love having rappers come to our events. It helps break the stigma around the incorrect perception towards hip-hop/rap and merge the two similar art forms.

San Cha: One of your recent videos went viral. The message that you wanted to convey through ‘A Brown Girl’s Guide to Gender’ was delivered to a mass audience. How is the feeling and do you think words can change the ill mind of a particular society?

Aranya: Very overwhelming. I honestly did not, even slightly, expect the response it got. I wrote the piece a week before it went up in my room just attempting to make sense of the reality I and other women have experienced. When I wrote the piece, all I wanted was that the piece started a conversation, a dialogue. I wanted people to talk about the things we desensitized ourselves to, and the harsh realities we turned ignorant towards just because it became ‘normal’.

San Cha: A lot of females don’t like to address the things that you say in your poetry. What is the source of your strength?

Aranya: In simple (and maybe poetic terms), my source of inspiration was their silence. Also, there were a culmination of events that impacted me. The unfortunate Nirbhaya rape case, Laxmi’s acid attack, among a few. I realized that women bonded over assault and harassment, and that is unfortunate and wrong.

San Cha: Your poetry on suicidal thoughts of a person is remarkable. What is coming out next from your vault?

Aranya: I have this piece called ‘Goddamn Millennials’ which is about how media sells us to be superficial and unaware, which is very untrue. I’ve elaborated on how they think we’re solely meme loving, selfie clicking, ignorant kids…but we’re a lot more.

(Image Credits: Prachee Mashru)

San Cha:  A lot of people think that you’re an over-night success. Your work definitely suggests otherwise. How has your journey been so far?

Aranya: Absolutely wonderful, really. I think it took a lot out of me to write out of my comfort zone, but now that I’ve tried it, I can’t stop. Also, the poetry scene in Bombay is very supportive, all of my growth has been because of other poets giving me constructive criticism. Hip hop and rap has really influenced my poetry, content wise and flow wise. I absolutely admire Kendrick Lamar, Kanye West, J.Cole, Ab-soul, Nadia Rose and more.

I feel their music has really influenced me to try different formats, for example ‘Sing About Me’, ‘I’m Dying of Thirst’ as a masterpiece. Kanye’s soulful ‘Late Registration‘ got me realizing you could say more with less. There’s always something you can learn from rap.

San Cha: In our last conversation with Enkore, he suggested that your main strength is the thought you talk about. What do you think Enkore lacks as an artist and what do you think is his strength?

Aranya: I love how real Bhaiya is with his music, it’s such a true representation to who he is on and off a mic. I also really appreciate how experimental he is with his music. I personally, can’t vibe to songs like ‘Coolin‘. Its hard to imagine brotherly, preachy, life lesson giving Bhaiya partying the way he says he does in tracks like those, probably cause I haven’t (and don’t want to) see that side of him.

San Cha: Any tips for the people who want to step up their game in the Spoken Word style of Poetry?

Aranya: There is no wrong way to write. Don’t try to stick to a rhyming format or flow format, it’s your art. Don’t compare yourself to other poets. Everyone writes differently, get inspired sure but never competitive in an unhealthy sense. Write about what you care about, don’t feel the need to write about a certain thing just because everyone else is.

San Cha: Anything you want to say to the world?

Aranya: Give art a chance. Let’s sensitize ourselves to the many realities we’ve normalized ourselves to.

Watch ‘A Brown Girl’s Guide to Gender’ by Aranya Johar here: