Shillong may be considered by some to be the Rock capital of India, but the Anthem for the North East, part of 101India’s series Hip Hop Homeland, has seemingly helped reclaim it as the heart of hip-hop. In this segment of the series, we travel across the North East with Feyago, a popular rapper from Kolkata, to discover the voices that are influencing the music scene in the region. A culmination of this journey, the anthem is a powerful commentary on the socio-political landscape of the region, the song declares that nothing can break the will of the people and urges for citizens to stand up in order to bring forth a revolution.
With some prolific voices such as Feyago, Cryptographik Street Poets, Khasi Bloodz, Symphonic Movement (whose youngest member is 13) and produced by Stunnah Beatz, it’s easy to get lost in the beat, but if you listen closely, the lyrics leave a deep impression on your heart.
Feyago won the Best Hip Hop Act India at the 2014 VH1 Sound Nation Awards – your expression of surprise will quickly vanish when you hear his closing verse on this anthem. As he rounds up the crew of artists, you learn of the deep-rooted issues that mainstream legacy media barely speaks about; high unemployment rates, petty wages, indiscriminate mining activities and exploitative policies. Moreover, it quickly becomes evident that the perceived calm of the region is far from the truth faced by its residents with lyrics like, “On a journey down memory lane homie, I grew up around killers throwing parties with heist money, I don’t mean to promote violence nor provoke some sort of rivalry, (but) so far you’ve only heard a bit of my autobiography.”
The collaboration exposes you to a new rhyme scheme and flow with each verse, even in vernacular languages, indicative of the raw diversity of the region that is unfortunately painted with the same brush in popular media. For example, the Khasi Bloodz use their native language ‘Khasi’ to communicate with the youth about their culture and the oppression under the surface.
“Hip-hop came out from a lot of oppression right? But for us, it came out from a state of peace, into that oppression and realising that oppression,” says Big Ri aka Ritik Roy Malngiang, on another video of the same series. He adds, “A group of people rented a house here at my place, and we didn’t know who they were, but later we found out they were insurgents. We didn’t view them as insurgents back then, they had the public’s full support, they were like the law enforcement of the whole area around here.”
The Khasi Bloodz keep it real on the third verse of the track too, calling out hardcore commercial artists like Honey Singh for gimmick artistry and ‘rhymmin nonsense’, declaring that he’s not even on the Rap geography of the country. Feyago complements the sentiment in his final verse by questioning why despite all the impact that underground artists have created, people know DIVINE but don’t know D-Mon (Lamonte Pakyntein, Khasi Bloodz).
The song is a perfect merger of catchy music and intelligent lyrics, unfolding the trials and tribulations of the people from the region and asking for citizens to act – the essence of hip-hop’s popularity. Prepare yourself to hear an intense anthem that progressively cuts deeper into the realities of the North East, that are seldom discussed and rarely acted upon.