Underground hip hop artists were connected using technology. The Citizens Archive of Pakistan (CAP) sourced technology from Shared Studio USA for their project ‘Story Share Initiative’(SSI), in order to provide the citizens of Pakistan with a platform to share their experiences and build connections with the rest of the world. So far CAP has curated over 50 inter-city sessions with Karachi, Lahore, Chicago, New York, Berlin, and Kabul.
On Tuesday, underground hip hop artists from Karachi were connected to underground artists from Chicago. Poet and publisher, winner of the 2017 John Peter “Altgeld Freedom of Speech Award” Kevin Coval was in conversation with a group of b-boys, rappers and dancers called Anarchy and two independent artists, Ali Akbar Soomro and Muneeb Baloch (J-Zee).
The Young Chicago Authors Club arranged this dialogue with Kevin Coval and The Citizens Archive of Pakistan crowd searched for emerging talent in Karachi and found these young folks.
Coval was born in a Jewish family, his interest in hip hop seeded when he was studying for the Bar Mitzvah. He grew up in suburban Chicago but having spent his adolescence in the downtown the transition is very rich in his writings. His poetry has vestiges and recurring themes of race and religion and contrasts of urban and suburban life. In his book, “A Peoples history of Chicago” he has written about how communities and sub-communities occupy the city and interact with it.
Similarly, the artists from Karachi talked about how they are experiencing and influencing the city as rap and hip-hop artists. We had with us, B-Boy Tashee, Naqinix, Burhanmehkari, Anashussain, Krumnado, Aaqil Ali, Ali Akbar Soomro and J-Zee.
Tashee spoke on behalf of his group ‘Anarchy’. He said that he fell in love with dancing and music as a child, anywhere he went he would start grooving at the sound of any kind of music he would hear in shops or the marketplace.
This would embarrass his family and they would say, “Tashee stop” but even when he grew older and came under the aegis of adulthood, family responsibilities and his 10-hour shift at a call centre, all this did not hold him back from making time for his art.
Ali Akbar Soomro and J-Zee hail from Lyari- an area in Karachi which has seen gang wars and has been pushed to the backwaters in terms of the city’s development. They are among a new generation of rappers who are trying to fight the stereotypes that have crept in society about this area which has largely been maligned. In that spirit, both Chicago and Karachi representatives conducted an ebullient and heartfelt exchange about marginalization and struggle, emotions that pulsate in hip hop and rap.
This session was a very powerful one, where we saw artists speak their heart through lyrics and beats. Synchronized and expressive movements and fusion of English, Urdu and Punjabi rap really amused peers from Chicago as well. The boys showcased their talent and took the opportunity to thank us for this platform. The session came to end but left behind a lot of inspiration and room for more ventures in the service of this art.