Baba Sehgal Image Credit: Verve
Baba Sehgal Image Credit: Verve

Baba Sehgal- A Pioneer Of Hindi Rap In The Country

For a lot of young Indians today, he might only be relevant as a postmodern, internet celebrity – the guy who writes meme-tastically absurd lyrics about rajma and flatulence. However, the origin story of Baba Sehgal’s fame actually began almost 30 years ago, during the Indipop boom. Akhil Sood maps out the irregular trajectory of the eccentric rapper’s success, from ‘Thanda Thanda Pani’ to ‘Chicken Fried Rice’.

Akhil Sood

The music video for Thanda Thanda Pani, its album’s title track, released on 7 August, 1992. Baba Sehgal had moved to what was then still called Bombay a year and a half earlier. He’d already released two albums, Dilruba (1990) and Alibaba (1991), but the response hadn’t been quite what he’d expected; it was somewhat tepid. Atul Churamani, at Magnasound then, however, believed in him and worked hard to make Thanda Thanda Pani happen. The song is a riff on Vanilla Ice’s Ice Ice Baby (1990) and repeats its central melody. (For what it’s worth, that very melody itself was taken from Queen’s Under Pressure, 1981.) And soon after, Sehgal’s life flipped on its head.

The song was an outright success. People began recognising him on the streets. He remembers standing near this paan shop outside his house, when a bike passed him by and someone shouted, “Hey, that’s Baba Sehgal!” He was surprised; it’s when he figured the video must have released. “After a month,” he recalls, “in The Times Of India — the main paper, not the supplement — there was a headline: ‘Thanda Thanda Pani Creates Waves in the Indian Music Industry’.”

He began performing commercial shows. He didn’t have a phone at the time, so he’d give out that same paan shop’s number. In case any clients called, the

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