"Often, you only have one golden chance in life. Take it and make what you want, happen. If you don't succeed, at least you won't have the regret of not trying."
So said Shamnkeri Pillai, who's better known on as her rapper persona Yunohoo.
Astro Ulagam caught up with the 30-year-old from Kuala Lumpur who is still relishing from her collaboration with renowned Kollywood Yuvan Shankar Raja and Indian rapper Arivu, on "Don't Touch Me", a song that raises awareness on violence against women.
For the uninitiated, Shamnkeri was previously known as Rubba Bend as part of the local rap unit Psycho Unit. In Kollywood, she had also displayed her rapping prowess in the "Stylish Tamizhachi" song in 2015's Ajith Kumar's starrer Arrambham, and "Run for your life" song in Biriyani.
Her most recent Kollywood project is "Kaalam" in Nerkonda Paarvai, two years ago.
From School Bus To KollywoodShamnkeri has indeed come a long way from her days of listening to rap numbers in the school bus, in her teens.
"That's when I got to listen to English songs as it was mostly Tamil music at home.
"I was about 13 then, I think, from an all-girls school. I would go back and rap the songs I liked and upload it on (the now-defunct file sharing platform) Limewire, and send to my friends," she recalled.
"And they used to tell me 'not bad ah, you can rap'," she quipped.
After completing school, Shamnkeri became part of a Bhangra dancing troupe for three years. It was when she started working later that she met a friend who linked her with Rabbit Mac of Pyscho Unit.
The number "Mandai Odi Dance" in 2011 got her widely noticed, and she was called to work on "Stylish Tamizhachi" when she did not even have a single out yet.
"It came as a surprise to me as 'Maria 2' had just come out then," she recalled.
According to Shamnkeri, who raps equally well in Tamil and English, more recognition and acknowledgment for her work happened after her Kollywood projects.
As for "Don't Touch Me", she said that Yuvan did previously tell her that he was considering a collaboration on an independent project, but she forgot all about it, until the project came along.
"I have always been a huge fan of Yuvan sir, and also Arivu, even before his Enjoy Enjaami days, so I was nervous as much as I was excited about the collaboration.
"I wrote in my portion of the song and sent it in to Yuvan sir, and thankfully, it was approved in one take," she said, adding that she has always been critical of her own work, in a sense that "I always believe I could have done something better."
As for the reception for "Don't Touch Me", Shamnkeri said she has received messages from survivors saying that the message relayed in the song is impactful and empowering.
Asked if she is open to the idea of working with the members of Pyscho Unit again for a collaboration, she replied in the affirmative, as it is the group that "gave birth" to the rapper in Shamnkeri in the first place.
Lucky To Have Supportive Friends & FamilyShamnkeri said that she has been lucky in life for having supportive family and friends.
"Thankfully, no one has told me to the face to stay off rapping or my skills would not pay the bills. If at all I had been concerned about what other people said about me, I wouldn't be where I am today," she said.
As for tips for aspiring female rappers of musicians out there are who are held back by familial or societal expectations, Shamnkeri had this to say: "First of all, don't have any fear. Once you have fear, problems will come. You only have one golden chance in life (to prove yourself). Take that chance and show the world what you can do.
"Even if you tried and you do not succeed after all, at least you will not have the regret of not having tried. And also, pray a lot," she quipped.
Asked about what's next, Shamnkeri said that she has several projects on the pipeline, which have to be put on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She did not divulge details.
Photos source: Yunohoo