When a sound-alike word causes awkwardness: ‘Nigah’ vs. the N-Word in ‘Tu Jhoom’ Song


In recent years, YouTube has seen a surge in reaction channels, particularly those reacting to content from India. While these channels enjoy widespread popularity among Indian audiences, they have also garnered attention from audiences abroad. One such phenomenon is foreign channels reacting to Coke Studio songs, which are known for their fusion of traditional Pakistani and Indian music.

However, a peculiar issue has arisen when foreign YouTube channels react to one particular song, ‘Tu Jhoom’, featuring Naseebo Lal and Abida Parveen. The song has the word ‘nigah’ in its lyrics, which translates to ‘a look’, ‘glance’, or ‘observation’. While this word is entirely innocuous in the context of the song, it bears a striking phonetic resemblance to the highly offensive N-word that is commonly used in the West.

As soon as the word ‘nigah’ appears in the song, many foreign reactors seem to become visibly uncomfortable. This can be attributed to the fact that the N-word carries a lot of baggage and cultural weight in the West due to its historical use in the context of slavery and racism. Therefore, when hearing a word that sounds so similar, it is natural for people to become uneasy.

This is one of those reactions wherein you can see a tinge of awkwardness in the hosts when the singer comes up with ‘nigah’: 

This issue highlights the importance of cultural sensitivity when it comes to reacting to content from different cultures. It is important to understand that different cultures have different norms, values, and linguistic nuances, and what might be innocuous in one culture may be offensive in another. In this case, it is crucial for foreign reactors to realize that the word ‘nigah’ in the context of the song is in no way related to the N-word and should not be treated as such.

In conclusion, the popularity of reaction channels on YouTube has created a new avenue for cross-cultural exchange. However, it is essential to exercise cultural sensitivity and avoid making unwarranted assumptions about different cultures. This issue surrounding the word ‘nigah’ in the Tu Jhoom song serves as a reminder to be mindful of cultural differences and to approach cross-cultural interactions with respect and understanding.

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