Uniting india and africa with music
As leaders wind up the Indo-African Summit in Delhi, it occurs to me that the relationship shared by the two continents are very shallowly premised on only one factor, trade. It is as though the
people want nothing from each other, but money.
After graduating in the early 2000s, I set about interacting with a small hip hop community in Mumbai and Pune. At the time, the fraternity consisted mostly of foreign students and a few musically adventurous locals as well as NRIs. As the decade drew to a close, the culture exploded and instead of the club and terrace parties we once organised on shoestring budgets, big event companies were now flying in top American hip hop artists for shows sponsored by leading brands. Hip hop was awash with cash and every top club had a hip hop night or two every week. Bollywood wasn't left behind either, I voiced rap parts in numerous movie soundtracks as the genre became a part of the staple of film music.
Then sometime between 2011-2012, hip hop dropped off the radar. Clubs were no longer interested, the shows were no longer rolling in and the international acts disappeared. It was around this time that together with three Indian friends, we formed the band Bombay Basement, with only one goal in mind, to spread happiness through hip hop and Afro-Caribbean music. The indie music scene in India is very vibrant and creative, but the representation of black music was minor with rock and its various subgenres and blends dominating.
The music scene reacted positively to our sound and that helped us get bookings at all top performance venues across the country, we also bagged 2 music awards (Jack Daniels Music Awards and Times Music Awards) in our first year as a band. But as our band soared in the live music arena, hip hop music in the nightclubs was dead. Hardly any venues programmed regular hip hop nights and even fewer hip hop DJs got bookings. So in 2014, along with yet another friend, DJ Ishani, we brokered a deal at a club in Mumbai. The proprietor was understanding and vowed to stick with us for at least three months irrespective of the response or turnover from a weekly hip hop night.
This year in September, we celebrated a year of successful hip hop nights at I Bar and the subsequent resurgence of hip hop in the Mumbai nightlife. Bombay Bassment also left for a show abroad in Reunion Islands at the Kaloo BANG Music Festival. The journey took me to Mauritius and South Africa too, perks we never envisioned when we started gigging. As an India based band playing hiphop and Afro Caribbean music, it was an honour to perform alongside other acts from worldwide, including Africa, Latin America and Europe.
At the festival, it was apparent to me that music unites the world, and with increasing interaction and communication, our sounds have started crossing cultural and geographical boundaries, so an Indian band will play Afro Caribbean music while a Colombian act will play African and Indian sampled sounds.
Someone should tell the leaders after the Delhi summit that their artists too can help forge stronger Indo African ties that will not be dependent on a strong dollar and commodity prices.