With their recent rap song on the post-August political scenario in the valley, two emerging hip-hoppers of Kashmir are already creating a lot of buzz around.
Streets were simmering with rage when a Srinagar boy came out with his stirring rap song amid the peak sentimental storm in 2010. That summer as Omar Abdullah government amassed 120 bodies across the valley, the rap song—“I Protest”—became the defiant street anthem in Kashmir.
The rapper, who called himself MC Kash, was a boy next door named Roushan Illahi.
By becoming a hip-hop sensation in the valley, Kash became a poster boy of a popular music form in which words are recited rapidly and rhythmically on the beat. The genre which gave American Black community a musical voice to their unheard stories only lived by its name in Kashmir.
Akin to restive artists of West rapping on streets and raising their hushed voices, the Shivpora boy became an ‘idol’ for the new Kashmiri generation, then seeking newer creative means of expressions.
Almost a decade later, even as Kash has momentarily faded from the scene, two friends, Tufail Nazir, 21, and Syed Arslan, 22, are continuing the tradition.
The duo recently released their much-talked-about rap song, called “Khoon Reezi”, which details the political situation in the valley after the abrogation of Article 370.
“We were exploding inside,” Tufail said, “and the hip hop helped us to vent out our feelings about what’s happening in Kashmir.”
The hip-hoppers carry impressionable childhood images and experiences with themselves. Some of those stark memories are sparking off their singing now.
Tufail comes from Old Srinagar’s Chattabal area, while Arslan hails from HMT area in cityside. The two got to know each other outside Kashmir through social media in 2018.
“We met online as we both study outside the valley,” said Arslan. “We connected instantly.”
Tufail is doing BA Honors in Economics in Chandigarh. In the same city, Arslan is enrolled in Filmmaking programme.
The duo first met in Delhi and exchanged their ideas about hip hop and started their YouTube channel “Straight Outta Srinagar (SOS)” after they came back home last year.
The duo believes there’s need of hip-hop culture in Kashmir to tell stories. Only three months ago, they collaborated with Mumbai-based artist and released a rap song called “Beta Naaz Hai”.
However, producing rap isn’t easy. It takes almost months of work on one such song and “we’ve to maintain quality by not compromising on lyrics, sound engineering, and rhythm,” Tufail informed.
The duo is looking to connect other rappers in Kashmir and learn from each other in underground and hoping that someday there’ll be “cyphers” in Kashmir.
Cyphers is jam-session where artists meet at some place and rap on the beat.
Arslan has attended and participated in cyphers in Delhi “but here in Kashmir,” he said, “there’s no such thing as we’ve no music industries here” but “we need to grow the culture here and create space for rap artists”.
The duo contributes from their own pocket for the production of rap songs.
They’ve listened from old school to fashionable rappers and get daily inspired by artists like Tupac, Eminem and Travis Scott.
“We listen to the Pakistan rappers like Farish Shafi and Talha Anjum as we can relate to them in terms of society we’re living in,” said Arslan.
While listening to renowned artists they’re conscious of getting inspired not influenced “as we’ve our own voice, culture and thoughts,” said Tufail in synchronizing tone.
As hip hop remains their source of expression, the duo believes that it will take time and effort to grow rap audience in the valley.
“In Kashmir, there’s no future of rap but we’ve to make a way here,” said Tufail with a firm belief. “It’s all about maintaining quality and patience.”
Until now, the duo has released three rap songs on SOS, other than releasing two solo rap songs—“Different” by Tufail and “Azaadi” by Arslan.
Their last released song is “Psycho” produced by Prophecy (Music producer) in which MC Kash can be seen in a cameo posing silently and another Kashmiri rapper SXR rapping in Kashmiri.
However, their families are disappointed with their passion and interest in rap.
After their first rap song was released, Tufail’s parents got calls from relatives, grumbling, “Wanni oskhaa yi karun” (Is this what they had to do?)
“They [relatives] fear it’s affecting my education, when it’s never the case,” Tufail said. “I can’t rap if I won’t study, as there’s a lot of references in the rap, and only an educated person can get this.”
His hip-hop partner is facing the same brickbats for adhering to his passion.
“We face disappointments every day and we deal it with patience,” said Arslan with signs of hope on his face.
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Adil Amin Akhoon is the Managing Editor at The Mountain Ink.