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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