The advent of rap music in Kashmir with Roushan Ilahi’s powerful song, ‘I Protest’, has given birth to a new generation of budding and talented rappers who are using music to express the rage, not necessarily against the establishment, to a larger audience, Bilal Handoo reports.

The Rap Revolution

At the peak of summer agitation in 2010, a young boy from Srinagar, Roushan Ilahi, created waves in Kashmir valley with his debut rap track ‘I Protest’. The song with its powerful lyrics and rebellious undertones became an instant hit among the youth who were surrounded by violence and had very few means to express their anger. ‘I Protest’ made Roushan an influential figure in popular music in the valley with many comparing him with Bob Dylan whose popular tracks became anthems for US Civil Rights movement in America in 1970’s.

‘I Protest’ marked the beginning of a new era of rap music in Kashmir. A new generation of talented rappers instantly came out with popular tracks which found a mass acceptance among the youth. Since then, the passion for rap music has gripped the youngsters who are looking for means to give vent to their feelings.

Arshid Habib is a 12-year-old rapper from Raj Bagh, Srinagar, who recently enthralled audiences at Zabarwan Park, Dalgate. He says rapping is a way of his life. A huge fan of rap sensation, Bohemia, Arshid raps in fluent Punjabi. “What have you learnt after coming to this world? Man’s worth is known after he leaves this mortal world,” reads one of his Punjabi rap songs he penned down recently.

“Language is not the barrier. Message should reach the masses which is important. Besides, Punjabi is the darling language with a global reach,” Arshid says. At his age, children are usually seen playing in parks but the wisdom in his words speaks volumes about the maturity he has achieved at such a tender age.

Arshid is the member of rap crew called ‘The Outfit Followers’ formed by seven youngsters. A Class 7 student from Burn Hall School in Srinagar, Arshid has been rapping since the age of 10, “Rap is the form of communication through which I drain out my feelings about the things closer to my heart.”

Unlike most rappers, his music doesn’t revolve around politics. “I am rapper, not a politician. I will never talk about the politics.” He says that he raps to convey a message of life to people.

Arshid’s elder brother, Hamza Arshid, 17, is also a Punjabi rapper and diehard fan of Bohemia. A student of Class 11 at Burn Hall School, Hamza says rap is an art, “But people have false perception towards it in Kashmir. Wearing long chains and donning punk outfits don’t make one rapper. You have to toil hard to master this art.”

His rap, like his younger brother’s, revolves around social messages. “I rap to narrate a story. Keeping the mass appeal of rap music in mind, I think my message can reach larger audience around the world.”

Hamza is aware of the uncertainty surrounding the future of rappers in Kashmir. “Rap is still controversial for large masses here. But if a rapper doesn’t have a spine to alter established notions, then he should better quit rapping,” says Hamza in a confident tone. Interestingly, the family members of Arshid and Hamza have supported their endeavors. “Our parents want us to differentiate between studies and rap which we are doing,” said Hamza.

Most of the valley’s rappers have used social media and popular websites like Reverbnation, a web site launched in 2006 that focuses on the independent music industry, to publicize their music. While their friends are busy with studies and sports, these rappers are trying to create a niche in the world of music sadly seen as a form of immorality in a conservative society like Kashmir. Their passion for rap has made them ‘outlaws’ but they are confident to change the prevailing perceptions towards musicians in Kashmir.

Arhaan Manzoor who lives in Srinagar’s Sonawar area is another budding rapper from Kashmir valley. Barely 15-year-old, he started rapping at the age of 13 and recorded five tracks in his debut year which were featured on which allows its members to place content on web pages. Since then, there has been no looking back.

Famously known as AM-Da Bagpiper, Arhaan started rapping as a hobby and soon fell in love with it. “Growing social evils in our society provides me an opportunity to rap about these practices,” he said. Besides, his rapping also —

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  1. does Kashmir Life really has an editor?no connectivity in the story, i am sorry but at the end of reading this piece i felt i wasted my time. there were good details but the flow and connectivity was missing.

  2. no doubt arhaan is best bt u hav missed famous rappers lyk illsane essxaar aj young and kingg u.t.b. . . rapper jb aint deserve any kindda place in tthe pic. . . not gud story am dissapoined. .

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