Beats of bleak streets

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A young Kashmiri rapper is keeping the protests alive in the Valley, finds Zahid Rafiq

Loud speaker MC Kash
Loud speaker MC Kash
Photo: Zahid Rafiq

WHEN THE new generation in Kashmir is not throwing stones on the streets, they go to schools, frequent cafes, buy music and make it too. In the busy Lambert Lane in Lal Chowk, 21-year-old MC Kash, is dressed in a loose hooded jacket, blue jeans and white sneakers, walks past blushing young boys with ‘I-am-your-fan’ on their lips.

Called Roushan Ilahi until a few months ago, MC Kash started to rap in 2007 for fun, with a closed group of friends in his Christian missionary Burn Hall School in Srinagar. When the stone-throwing in Kashmir became a mass movement, the face of the young Kashmiri took on an angry grimace and this is why MC Kash strikes an important note.

In the past two months, his song, I protest, has been downloaded more than a thousand times and played many times more. Despite the language barrier and a genre that is unfamiliar in Kashmir, his English rap song has found listeners. The song is about Kashmir, its resistance and in support of the stones — I protest/ Against the things you’ve done/ I protest/ For a mother who lost her son/ I protest/ I’ll throw stones and never run/ I protest/ Until my freedom has come.

The song ends with the names of 65 civilians who were killed in the recent protests. “The martyrs are my inspiration for this song and we want to remember them in music and our collective consciousness,” he says.

Kash has released three other songs since September on the music website ReverbNation on which you’ll also find the songs of Renegade, MC Youngblood and The Revolutionary — young Kashmiri rappers with politics on their mind. “We want to support the movement and contribute in whatever way we can and we think music is a way,” says The Revolutionary aka Saqib Mohammad.

But with the fame earned on anti-India and pro-freedom lyrics, concomitant are repercussions and the fear of them. Kash is hopeful about the future of rap in Kashmir. He admires Shoaib Mohammad, aka Renegade, a Class IX student who has removed all his music from the Internet after the success of his song Jhelum is Bleeding. “He is only 17 and must have come to know what it means to say something against the State,” says a friend of Shoaib.

Shoaib’s fear becomes understandable by Roushan’s inability to find a recording studio anymore. When Roushan wanted to record his earlier songs the only place he found was a local television studio renting out its services on the side. But as the rebellious nature of his work became known, even this studio shunned him.

As they rap amid the din of bullet shots and the sound of breaking glass, their names travel from mouth to mouth and their songs through Bluetooth and Internet. These bards might soon have bigger audience.

zahid@tehelka.com

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