Ari Ari was was the song that turned Indian metallers Bloodywood into internet sensations. The New Delhi band had already dabbled in covers of pop songs, getting clicks for their unique fusion of nu metal and traditional percussion, but Ari Ari took their music to the next level. It was a test: a cover of a song by duo Bombay Rockers, which was itself a version of a folk song called Baari Barsi, barely known outside India. By doing a spin on something less well known, they could see whether it had been their song choices or their sound that was garnering all the attention. Turns out, it was their sound.
“We had gotten numbers before that on a couple of videos, but what really changed was when people said that this is something that they’ve never heard before,” smiles founder and guitarist Karan Katiyar.
There was also the small matter of their joyful video, featuring Karan hitching a lift with a camel, singer Jayant Bhadula riding a horse through the streets, a monkey clambering over power lines, some wedding preparation crashing and lots of dancing. Bollywood actress Ileana D’Cruz shared it online, giving them the kind of publicity most bands can only dream of. “Honestly, I don’t know a lot about Bollywood myself,” confesses Karan. “But when she posted that video, I got messages from everyone. I’d heard her name, but I’ve not seen a lot of her movies, and I think she’s got 12 million followers on Instagram. If you can put a number to popularity, I think that’s quite up there!”
Ari Ari is propelled by chugging riffs and the constant rhythm of the dhol (a double-sided barrel drum), as Raoul Kerr’s rapping and Jayant’s singing vie for attention. The tin whistle, which also features in the Bombay Rockers song, has a surprisingly central role too. It’s not the most common of metal instruments, but Karan managed to invest it with heart and passion – even if he’d never tried playing it before.
“I didn’t know how to play a tin whistle, so I asked an acquaintance who did, and he said, ‘Yeah, I’ll play it for you and I’ll record it for you, and I’m gonna charge you about $500.’ And I said, ‘I don’t have that kind of money, I would rather just learn it myself and play it myself’, and thankfully I had a couple lying around, because I just love collecting instruments!”
Lyrically, Ari Ari is an anthem for togetherness. The lyrics of the chorus, sung in Punjabi, are: ‘Besides all differences, we are one.’ “We’re not talking about Indian mythology or singing about how our culture is different or something, it’s more about how everything is connected, and things are not very different,” says Karan. “But of course we love embracing where we come from; that’s also very important, I feel. So our instruments are traditional, our attire is traditional, but we want to keep the spirit of the message universal.”