The song "Libaas" by Kaka, who is an Indian singer, became a tiktok and instagram sensation when it was released in late 2020. With influencers and bloggers endorsing this song in their videos, it was played everywhere from restaurants to Uber rides and even people setting it as their ringtone. Now let's unpack why this "such a popular" song is "such a problematic" song as well.
The song starts with how Kaka, a dark skinned person, is neighbour to a woman he likes but the woman constantly ignores him because he has dark skin and instead spends time with men who are fair skinned. The lead character (Kaka) starts feeling problems of low self esteem and confidence and looks at the girl with desire and longing where he knows he is not good enough for her. The issue of colorism and confining beauty to a particular standard and appearance of men is the main theme of this song. Added to this is the factor that how men who do not fulfil these standards are ugly and worthless and do not deserve love.
However, more than the video of the song, the lyrics are problematic. The main lyric of the song which is repeated throughout is most problematic and is as follows:
"kaalay jai libaas di shokeen kurri"
"doour doour jaye mere kaalay rang te"
These lyrics show how the girl likes everything dark (black), be it her own dress, her bike, or her laptop but not dark skin. Kaka is just reduced to some dark object which the girl does not like. The song is around 4.5 minutes long and mocking dark skin is a continuous theme in it.
Given how much popularity this song had on tiktok and how it was popular in India and Pakistan where people have olive and tan skin tone, this song played a huge part in furthering how either dark skinned men have to use fairness creams to "become handsome" or if they are lucky enough, they will get the female attention because the female may feel pity for them in the end, like it happened in this song. Emphasising the need to gain external validation for men from women and defining "handsomeness", which is not something definable, is seen as a recurring undertone in this song.