How Kolkata’s gully boys are go­ing vi­ral

Young rap­pers are find­ing a new au­di­ence with their edgy and ex­plicit mu­sic, in a di­alect that’s unique to the city’s mi­grant pop­u­la­tion

The Times of India (Mumbai edition) - - TIMES NATION -

Kid­der­pore in Kolkata is best known for its docks, cheap mo­bile phone stores, and shabby houses. Some eru­dite bhadralok would also know it for St Thomas School — pos­si­bly the sec­ond old­est school in In­dia. Named af­ter the pa­tron saint of the seas, Kh­waja Khizr, Kid­der­pore sud­denly woke up one day to a song that men­tioned it with a goofi­ness miss­ing from its des­o­late build­ings.

“Achha achha ka phate Kid­der­pore ka naam se,” raps its cre­ator Mi­naj Khan. Kid­der­pore’s very name strikes ter­ror in peo­ple, says the line. The song ‘Kid­der­pore Basti’ gar­nered over 1.7 mil­lion views on YouTube and pitch­forked Mi­naj into in­stant star­dom. “I had to bor­row a T-shirt from my friend for two days so I could shoot the mu­sic video,” says Mi­naj, whose sec­ond name is ac­tu­ally Ahmed and whose fa­ther works in the docks.The suf­fix Khan was added for style, he con­fesses.

A slow rap with rhyth­mic beats, the song starts off with two boys, one of them flaunt­ing his abs, groov­ing to the cho­rus next to a rail­way track. “Peo­ple think Kid­der­pore is a bad place and wrong things hap­pen here. I was un­happy with that. Since I rap in gangsta style, I wanted to flaunt our lo­cal­ity and get back at those peo­ple,” Mi­naj says. Gangsta rap is a genre char­ac­terised by talk of gun vi­o­lence, drugs and use of ex­ple­tives.

How­ever, an­other sub­al­tern rap­per, Awes­sum Frankie aka Mo­ham­mad Huza­ifa Raza be­lieves the lan­guage they use is not re­ally abu­sive. “It is how we talk in our bastis. It may sound crass and not

Mi­naj Ahmed Mi­naj



|23 Song: ap­peal to the re­fined pub­lic but lo­cals ap­pre­ci­ate it,” says Huza­ifa, whose fa­ther has a shop in Raja Bazaar.

Both Huza­ifa and Mi­naj are at the fore­front of a street rap revo­lu­tion in Kolkata’s ghet­toes and sub­ur­ban neigh­bour­hoods — par­tic­u­larly those with a siz­able Bi­hari and Mus­lim pop­u­la­tion. A num­ber of rap­pers are mak­ing their voices heard, their songs rid­dled with a lan­guage that speaks of dis­crim­i­na­tion to­wards the poor, of neigh­bour­hood pride and char­ac­ter. “We speak about our food, our lo­cal­i­ties and how peo­ple sur­vive,” says Huza­ifa, who flaunts street ag­gro in lyrics that go, “Ek call kaam tera tamaam hai (One call and your game is up).”

While their lo­cal­i­ties are their in­spi­ra­tion,

Kid­der­pore Basti

17 lakh views on YouTube

Mohd Huza­ifa Raza Awes­sum


Frankie Ilaka



|21 the styles have been de­vel­oped af­ter songs of Lil Wayne, Eminem and other anti-es­tab­lish­ment singers known for their ‘hard’ lyrics. The di­alect is rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent from the Hindi spo­ken in UP and Bi­har, but com­mon in sub­ur­ban Kolkata. Many call it Cal­cut­tiya — a jhaal­muri-style mix of Ben­gali, Bi­hari, Urdu and Hindi.

Deep in­side Burrabazar—the Mar­wari heart of Kolkata—Prashant Jha, 21, raps in Cal­cut­tiya. “This is a mar­ket hub with peo­ple from all over In­dia. The lan­guage spo­ken here is unique and re­volves around dhanda,” says the busi­ness­man’s son, who’s known as Kat Jr when per­form­ing. His song ‘Bada Burrabazar’ is about just that — busi­ness, karobaar and a bit of dhandhli (sly tac­tics).

The song, Prashant ex­plains, is a blend of Mar­wari, Bi­hari and Hindi — some­thing he con­sid­ers his her­itage. “My fa­ther has worked here all his life and I have picked up all this by ob­serv­ing him,” he adds.

Many of these rap­pers feel the city’s mu­sic scene is slow to change. “Peo­ple in Mum­bai and Delhi take to new mu­sic quickly. In Kolkata, peo­ple are con­ser­va­tive about mu­sic,” says Prashant. Huza­ifa is more op­ti­mistic, talk­ing proudly of their grow­ing au­di­ence among Kolkata’s “un­seen pop­u­la­tion”. “Soon, the whole city will lis­ten to us,” he says. 5 lakh views on YouTube

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