I don’t know what the right time to write this is. I was confused about whether I should write about it at all.
It’s hard to distinguish and not get confused with clout-chasing media through news outlets, trying to show celebrities extending their condolences without even attempting to speak to the friends and family around Dharmesh every day. ‘Celebrities Condole’ yeah, thanks.
I’m wondering how much anyone did, knowing how talented he was. Maybe there’s just so much to be angry about generally. And then there’s also the idiots who gave birth to many false rumors running on YouTube and other social media platforms about his death. For TRP, click bait, fake perception, mass media influence, half-assed information, conglomerates and their narratives, and much more – the things that he stood against, all happening right here.
Were you listening to him when he was here? Did you even know what he stood for?
The reason to state all of this is so all of you who didn’t know him now know what his purpose was, and what he believed in. Dharmesh Parmar, popularly known by his stage and artist name MC Tod Fod, was a rapper and poet from Mumbai, India. He was best known for his works in hip-hop collective Swadesi, one of the first socially conscious groups in the country.
Swadesi, in a statement on their page, mentioned, “He died due to a heart attack while playing hackey sack. Post mortem reports have stated that he died because of high blood pressure that caused the attack.”
I heard Swadesi for the first time in 2017 while working at turnkey solutions company 4/4 Experiences. Shortly after, we began to work closely with them. While I moved to Azadi Records too, Swadesi released their music, including their debut masterpiece album ‘Chetavni’ through the label. I grew fond of Dharmesh, and my respect for the crew just kept increasing. Imagine, your introduction to Indian conscious rap was Swadesi, and this guy in it! I had heard demos of ‘Chetavni’ so much by 2018, that the album was at the tip of my tongue at least a year before it released. There was something so powerful about that record, and the songs in it.
Dharmesh started rapping when he was 16, and had fellow crewmate Mawali by his side, along with all his closest friends and crew along the way – BamBoy, Raakshaas, Maharya, 100RBH, Sachin, Robby, and the entire Swadesi family. He repped his crew till his very last days.
Dharmesh stood for the environment, against socio-political turmoil, against injustice and discrimination. To find emcees and people who REALLY BELIEVE in concepts like these is rare in itself. But he didn’t only speak them, he lived fighting for them. That’s what a true revolutionary is. A person who had a vision for a better future. If you’ve ever hung around Swadesi, you would notice many moments where these discussions were for real, not just spoken about as a concept for a song. He has been a part of every protest he stood up for physically too, not just speaking through his songs, from the Warli Revolt to save the forests of Aarey in Mumbai, to the anti-CAA protests. The boys spent their time together discussing life and finding meaning in the chaos.
Doing public relations had me reach out to Swadesi and understand the meaning behind their songs, work on translations, and more. One vivid memory was Dharmesh explaining to me how he wrote ‘Dikhati Sapne Sadke’ under the tree near his house with the contrast of day and night, and how it inspired him – speaking about the daily hustle, the world actually having no sleep, how the streets can teach you anything including survival, and how the scales are scary, disparity, the economic gap, and more. These things only made me realize how concerned he was about everything around him, maybe more than himself.
None of us saw this coming. Anyone else besides his crew and close friends are far from understanding the impact. But only through hanging out with him and working with him, memorizing his bars reminded me what the Indian hip-hop scene just lost. There are fewer rappers with the level of skill Dharmesh possessed. His delivery was mostly flawless live, with clarity between every word and syllable. His words were super impactful. He’d play with rhymes and meters like crazy, something I actually learned from him – how to use the language you are good at and play with it.
MC Tod Fod – photograph by Samarth Shirke
He was India’s first breakthough Gujarati rapper to rap in the language itself, along with Hindi. His work went beyond Swadesi – with a discography that extended through his works with Ta Dhom Project, Swadesi’s collaborations with Bandish Projekt, and plenty others! I wasn’t even a rapper when I heard him, and went, “Hey, wait. What?! People do this in India too? This voice texture! These lines! Who are these people???” And if you shared the same train of thought, you knew this was some of the best homegrown stuff you were going to hear.
From hereon, I just want to celebrate all his music. That’s one of the truest ways to honor his hard work. I’m going to feature some of my favorite lines by him, followed by videos of music he was a part of.
“Mere dost mere bhai, kyun hum karre ladai?”
“Marr marrke ji ya shahid ho shaan se.”
“Murkho, utho, apni soch badlo, ya na kuch bachega phir khoneko.”
“Kathor Satya – vishwas na karo aa khoti sarkaar.”
“Mai uss jahaan se bhrashtachar jahaan badi bimaari
Neta kanoon jahaan bhool gaye apni zimmedari”
“Jahaan insaan badhta hai ek dusre ko chalke
Sapne dikhati sadke, dekh kabhi tu unpe chalke.”
“Van rakshak.. har kshaks jo rakhe himmat
Sahi rakhe mat unhe haq se sammaaan!”
“Area ke funter toh, aai shapat sach mein hard hai”
“Insani haivano se khabardaar, khabardaar
Sanskriti bann gayi hai vyapaar, khabardaar
Abhimaan vata ke bann samajhdaar
Khabardaar (khabardaar) Khabardaar (khabardaar) Khabardaar”
Every time you nodded in appreciation of my music, I thank you. Your opinion was one of the few that mattered, to me, and to everyone you inspired to take this path. You were always ready to listen to my music if I nudged you about it with my poor rhymes and repurposing of lines – “Mere dost mere bhai, ek gaana sunna chahtai?”
Thank you for your music, and all the fond memories we had together. You still owe me royalties for using ‘Kasa kai, potath pai’ onstage, but I’ll see you sometime anyway! You are deeply missed, brother.
Brave hearts and broken memories are all that’s left
While we immortalize and set in stone the precedent
In honor, we’re picking up from where you left
An open wish for an afterlife where you are blessed.
Cover photo image by Samarth Shirke from the Azadi Records’ second anniversary photoshoot.