By Aparna Wanchoo:
The times are a changing. Amongst the whiff of fresh air that carries the spirit of the changing views of society, we also have the up and coming, unconventional hip hop artists of our nation, who have taken it upon themselves to raise serious and political concerns the society faces through their art – their music. Art has almost always been used as the means to opine one’s views for or against any issue. Allow me to give you some brief insights into some of the likewise coming of age artists who have made a mark for themselves already and who continue to make a difference.
MC Kash: Taking his stage name from his homeland – Kashmir, MC Kash is an up and coming underground Hip Hop artist. Determined to express himself fully as a street poet, this 22-year old rapper is fast emerging as a lyrical storyteller with a distinct voice. Simultaneously engaging the world of Hip Hop, urban beats and indigenous Kashmiri sounds and cultural influences, Kash’s rap songs mix diverse beauty to orchestrate original sounds of unity that support his clear-hearted and exacting lyrics. Born in 1990, Kash belongs to a generation of Kashmiris that grew up under the shadow of guns, whose childhood memories are that of a war, raged in the streets. It was a battlefield and a playground, and it also handed out education to those who were able and willing to learn. The streets said it all. Right from his first track as a 17 year-old to his single “I Protest” and to his self-produced debut album “Rebel RepubliK”, MC Kash’s underlying principle has been to stay true to his streets and to speak his mind.
The Delhi Sultanate: Taru Dalmia aka Delhi Sultanate, is an Indian reggae/dancehall artist from New Delhi. Apart from having a solo act, he is also the lead singer of the Delhi-based ska and dub band, The Ska Vengers. Dalmia is also the founding member and MC of New Delhi’s first dubstep/drum and bass/reggae group, BASS Foundation. His music ranges from hip hop to dubstep, drum & bass and more experimental electronic and acoustic music. His singles , “NYC -2-India” and “Criss and Shine” met with positive reception and were number one on the Beatport reggae charts and Juno Hip Hop singles charts. Perhaps the most intriguing of Dalmia’s musical exploits is Word Sound Power, a multimedia project driven by collaborations with Indian revolutionary folk singers of rural protest movements. The not-for-profit venture is an active expression of political solidarity. It was co-founded by Dalmia and American music producer Chris McGuinness in 2010, and has more recently involved filmmaker Kush Badhwar. The venture received extensive coverage by AFP, BBC Asian Network and MTV.
Bant Singh: Bant Singh is a lower caste Mazhabi, Dalit Sikh farmer and singer from the Jhabhar village in Mansa district, Punjab, India, who has emerged as an agricultural labour activist, fighting against the power of the landowner. Described by Amit Sengupta as “an icon of Dalit resistance”, he has been active in organizing poor, agricultural workers, activism that continues despite a 2006 attack that cost him both of his lower arms and his left leg.
The Bant Singh Project: In June 2010, Word Sound Power visited Jabbar village, Mansa, Punjab and collaborated with Bant Singh. Despite a savage attack in 2006 that cost him his limbs, Bant Singh continues to organize poor laborers and inspire many with songs of rebellion. The Bant Singh Project film, shot by Lakshman Anand, directed by Samrat B., and edited by Sourav Brahmachari, was screened at Goethe Institute New Delhi in October 2010. The musical album was released in January 2011 and a remix compilation featuring Dr. Das, Subatomic Sound System, Nucleya, and Dubblestandart was released in March 2011. The Bant Singh Project has been featured on AFP, MTV, and BBC Radio One.
Ashwini Mishra: I was lucky enough to get a chance of a candid interpersonal interview with the Mumbai based hip hop artist Ashwini Mishra, who goes by the alias of A-list, and who by free styling, recording his own tracks and bringing a vibrant energy to clubs, open-mic nights and protest concerts alike, is rapidly making a name for himself in what he labels ‘hip-hop journalism’. He does not aim to enter the entertainment industry, instead, declares himself to be “an ordinary guy who’s expressing himself through his music.” He opines through his art, and continues to make rebellious, igniting songs that aim to trigger the dormant conscience of the youth and society, at large. When asked his views on commercializing his music, he responds with an incontestable NO. “I will never get into bed with the corporate names or political parties” because that, he states, defeats the purpose of his unbiased and irrefutable ideologies and contours his freedom of expression, which would naturally be unacceptable to someone like him.
He expresses himself on various dimensions varying across politics and society; whatever he feels in his heart must be spoken about. And he does so quite fearlessly, as is apparent from his song ‘True lies- Tale of Afzal Guru‘, few lines of which read:
“Electrodes on his genitals, kerosene in his anus,
And the scene that was infamous was his confession,
So say Jai Hind if you are done stressin’.
The reason even the court threw it out
It was like saying ‘I love you’ to an abusive spouse.”
If this does not send shivers down your spine, I don’t know what will.
“Tale of Afzal Guru” is produced by Shayan Nabi a.k.a Shyn9n who is a protest musician himself from Kashmir and he has produced a number of tracks for me. We are the Mumbai-Kashmir protest rap duo”, says Ashwini.
He has used his latest video “Say no to 377“ as a means of expressing solidarity with all those whose identity stand in jeopardy after the outrageous verdict of the Supreme Court earlier this year. For more of his equally edgy works, follow him at Reverbnation and/or Facebook.
In the wake of recent times of the awakening of youth and society alike, artists as such are a much needed and refreshing tool to question the stigmas, taboos and turpitude prevalent in the society. They are doing their bit in trying to reach out and change the existent bigoted views of whomsoever possible, and it is bearing fruits. It is to be seen how rapidly this art flourishes and reaches out to the masses evermore.