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From the streets, with love

THE ASIAN AGE. | NIRTIKA PANDITA
Published : Feb 27, 2018, 12:49 am IST
Updated : Feb 27, 2018, 12:50 am IST

The hip-hop collective Bombay Lokal is looking to put everything from societal issues to infrastructural ones in its music.

People here don’t know what hip-hop is. All the knowledge they have of hip-hop is from dance-reality shows — Aamir
 People here don’t know what hip-hop is. All the knowledge they have of hip-hop is from dance-reality shows — Aamir

Mumbai is in the midst of a rather interesting indie movement. The global emergence of hip-hop culture from the ghettos of the city has been rapid, with it gaining fans everywhere it goes. 

Right from rappers of Dharavi and Khar gullies to popular ones like Divine, Naezy and Emiway, the mainstay of Mumbai’s underground hip-hop has remained issues of the locals and growing up in a tough life, replete with struggles. 

However, a hip-hop collective that has emerged from the bylanes of Nalaspoara aims not just to highlight the difficulties of people in the area, but also other societal issues like inequality and discrimination.

Meet Bombay Lokal — consisting of 12 artistes, the collective not just has emcees, but also b-boys, beat-boxers, graffiti artists and a DJ. At the core of the five elements of hip-hop, the collective believes is knowledge. 

There’s more to hip-hop to just dance or rap, explains Aamir Shaikh, aka Shaikhspeare, the founder of Bombay Lokal. And this is why he founded the collective out of Nalasopara. 

“People here don’t know what hip-hop is,” says Aamir. “All the knowledge they have of hip-hop is from dance-reality shows. Our area has a lot of breakers (b-boying artistes). I want people to see it all.”

The artistes in the collective are from the adjoining areas of Vasai and Virar, making it the first collective from the belt. With the hope of bringing Nalasopara on the hip-hop map, the collective, in a span of a year, has produced three tracks. They even have a collaboration with a hip-hop group from Pakistan, called Baranti, to its name. 

“Our collective is versatile,” he says. “While we do talk about social messages, we make sure it’s also flexible enough to make whatever we feel like. It’s an expression of our daily life experiences of travelling from one corner to the other, and we also rap about ourselves and the hip-hop genre.”

And like most other hip-hop artistes from the scene in Mumbai, these youngsters — all in their early 20s — have picked up the nitty-gritty of this art from the Internet, working on the scales and lyrics by themselves. “Our inspiration is how African Americans used hip-hop as a tool to highlight their discrimination. We use it to talk about the general discrimination in society, especially the kind of environment we live in when there’s so much communal hate,” says Aamir, who has a solo rap on Rohith Vemula’s life and fight against caste discrimination. 

While the collective initially started off rapping in English, the lyrics have moved to Hindi now. “Right now, we want our music to reach to the masses and this language has a very wide range. We feel and relate to things easily in Hindi,” he says, emphasising that when it comes to writing there is no limitation. “If I am targeting a social issue I will try and keep it in Hindi. If I am just talking about hip-hop and want the international audience for it, the lyrics will be in English.”

But ask what makes their collective different from the likes of Divine and Emiway, and the rapper is quick to reply, “They are individuals and rap in street lingo. We know the slang and at the same time we can talk intellectual stuff, there is no limitation to our music. It is the collective effort that makes us stand out,” smiles Aamir.

Comparing the hip-hop culture in Mumbai to Delhi and Bengaluru, the 29-year-old says there is recognition to this art form in the city. “There are ciphers (informal gatherings), hip-hop jams, rap battles, breaking battles, a lot is happening. There are many new artistes coming up. I never thought it would be like this,” he says.

The rapper recently featured in a cypher on BBC Asian Network along with artistes like Divine, Emiway, and Prabhdeep, awaits two releases — a cypher song and albums.

“We are currently working on a collaboration and two albums. One addresses the infrastructure issues of Nalasopara and difficulties faced during the rainy season. The other is just a hip-hop fusion, where we will be using beatboxing and highlight other elements. There will be no electronic beats and we will rap on them, making a video with graffiti and DJing,” concludes Aamir.

Tags: shaikhspeare, aamir shaikh, emiway