Desi Hip Hop

Amit Shah's visit to Shillong inspires protest rap video

A group of musicians from Meghalaya are putting the politics back into the country’s indie music scene.

When Amit Shah, president of the Bharatiya Janata Party, visited Meghalaya last month, he couldn’t have expected that his trip would inspire an indie music video. New Green Things is a collaboration between Tarik, an audio-visual act from Shillong and Delhi, and Cryptographik Street Poets, a hip-hop outfit from Shillong. Their video is a criticism of the Hindutva party's policies at the Centre and its attempt to build presence in the North East.

In an interview with Scroll.in, Wanphrang K Diengdoh of Tarik and Andrew Lyndem of Cryptographik Street Poets explain what motivated them to make the video and what’s next.



A speaker says in your video: “If a right wing party is trying to divide the country by the politics of hate, we will unite by the politics of love…
Diengdoh:
The video was shot at a rally organised by TUR [Thma U Rangli], a progressive people’s group, during the visit of Amit Shah to Shillong. The video mentions what the demands and critiques are.
Lyndem: The BJP promotes a lot of anti-people ideologies and fuels hate among different communities and religious groups in India. So yes, Modi’s political party and its ideologies are, in simple terms, a “politics of hate”.

Do you think Shillong’s youth are getting interested in the political situation? Or is it just a handful, while the rest are indifferent?
Diengdoh: Shillong’s youth have always been interested in the political scenario of our town. Apathy and indifference is something that is determined by historical and demographical reasons. Lately, I feel there is a new fervour, and more direct participation by young people.
Lyndem: Yes, I would say the youth here are getting more and more involved in political issues. We, as the youth, are realising the impact that these issues are making on our lives and that we are affected, whether directly or indirectly, by these political anomalies, whether it’s in the form of employment, freedom, etc.

Is this the first time you are collaborating? Are there more works lined up?
Diengdoh:
Musically speaking, this is our first collaboration, but Shillong is a small town so we’ve known each other for years. Tarik would love to collaborate with more musicians from all over the country for future projects. However, we have a very firm ideology and we are only drawn to musicians from a similar ilk.

What are the ideas underlying your music?
Diengdoh:
Tarik is Valte Chongthu, Shaun Nonghulo and Wanphrang K Diengdoh. Our musical content is an eccentric blend of punk and radical themes with a Khasi twist. Our riffs are catchy but our lyrics are far from sugar-coated. Strongly rooted in a D-I-Y philosophy, we’re proud of our uncompromisingly honest approach to music.
Lyndem: CSP is a rap duo of Grey Jaw Ripper [Ratul Hajong] and Prophet of Esoterical Metaphors [P.O.E.M aka Andrew Lyndem]. We have been around since 2010 and have been working on what is called horrorcore-rap style articulated with a multisyllabic rhyme scheme. We identify our band as an Underground Conscious Rap group, where underground rap is a subgenre of rap comprising of artists that tends to break away from the usual bling-bling gangster stereotype of rap.

 

What is Shillong’s music scene like?
Diengdoh: Shillong’s music scene is largely derivative. The yardstick for measuring musical success has always been if you come out on cable TV or sing for some president of a country. But there is some hope. A lot of young musicians have realised that the only way they can be heard is through their music. Sadly, they compromise that for petty stage time because there are not many alternative spaces in Shillong.

On the other hand, Khasi pop music is much more interesting. Because most of the musicians themselves are more connected with the reality of the space, their lyrical content is much more potent even though, most of the times, for the socially untrained ear, they just come across as begrimed, crass and even cheeky. This is precisely why we enjoy them because they speak of a certain time and space. The form of the music, whether metal, rap or pop does not matter, it is the functionality and the critique that counts.
Lyndem: Apart from the occasional state-sponsored gig coming up every now and then, Shillong’s music scene is as laid back as it can get (laughs). But yeah, more and more people here, especially the youth, are realising that they can express themselves better via music.

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.