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Hip-hop, don’t stop

HARSHINI VAKKALANKA
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MUSIC Hard Kaur says she’s on a mission to educate people on hip-hop

Breaking boundariesHard Kaur
Breaking boundariesHard Kaur

Hard Kaur entered the hard-core hip-hop scene over 12 years ago in the U.K., where she moved to after the Sikh riots in 1984.

“I first got into hip-hop back in 1995. It was the kind of music where you say what you want, do what you want and wear what you want. Coming from India and not being able to speak in English and being bullied a lot in school, I just wanted to do something different,” she says.

Tough start

“When I first started, it was a male-dominated industry and the community used to tell me I was meant to make babies and that I belonged in the kitchen. But my school friends always encouraged me.” It was not easy, she recalled, because 20 years ago nobody really used to rap and that’s what motivated her to take it up.

“You need to be strong in this industry because you can break down and quit in two minutes. And I was lucky to have a supportive mother; but for her, I would have given up years ago. Rapping is no joke, it’s a tough vocal technique; your punctuation, timing, diction… everything has to be perfect.”

Hard Kaur hopes to set an example for those who aspire to take it up. “I want people to think that if I can do it, they can too.” She has performed with Roots Manuva, De La Soul and Justin Timberlake, and has albums such as Supawoman or Party Loud All Year: P.L.A.Y. to her credit. But, it was through the song ‘Glassy’ that she shot to fame. Since then, she says, she has been pigeon-holed.

“My music is really from the heart. I like to make people dance, I like to make people happy. That’s why a lot of my songs are club tracks.” But she rues that “when you talk about real things, nobody buys your music. Apparently, when you talk about alcohol everybody wants to buy your music”. Though it has been relatively easy to work in India, she says she now has to to educate the country about rap and hip-hop.

“Rap and hip-hop have taken off in the country, but they’re a diluted version. Everything I do in Bollywood is watered down because they’re still not ready and they still don’t understand the genre. But it’s getting there.”

Kaur feels that Bollywood has taken up all the space for commercial music in the country. “It’s all down to promotion. Remember there was a time when you had MTV playing album songs? Now there’s no platform, no channel supporting us. So what happens to all the people who do independent music? It’s difficult to be an independent musician here, but I try as much as I can. The best way to do it is Bollywood because everybody listens to Bollywood. A lot of people associate me with bhangra or Punjabi. Apart from Singh is Kinng , I have not done Punjabi numbers; I have always done hip-hop.”

HARSHINI VAKKALANKA

Rapping is no joke, it’s a tough vocal technique; your punctuation, timing, diction… everything has to be perfect

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