Interview Hard Kaur says though people associate her with bhangra, she is a hip-hop artiste
Hard Kaur entered the hip-hop scene over 12 years ago in the UK. “I 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,” she began at an interaction at The Park, Bangalore, before her recent performance at the I-bar.
The singer moved to the UK after the riots in 1984. “Coming from India, not being able to speak English and being bullied a lot in school, I just wanted to do something different,” Hard Kaur adds.“When I started, it was a male-dominated industry and the community used to tell me that I was meant to make babies and I belong in the kitchen. But my friends in school always encouraged me.”
It was not easy being an Indian, 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 and thick-skinned in this industry because you can break down and quit in two minutes. And I was lucky to have a supportive mother, if it wasn’t for her I would have given up years ago. Rapping is no joke, it’s a tough vocal technique and your punctuation, timing and diction, everything has to be perfect.”
Hard Kaur now 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. I really don’t like it when a non-Indian looks at us like we don’t know music.”
Not many of her fans in the country know about her hip-hop background in the UK, where she has performed with Roots Manuva, De La Soul and Justin Timberlake, or about her albums Supawoman or Party Loud All Year: P.L.A.Y. ‘Glassy’ propelled her to fame in India and 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 is why a lot of my songs are club tracks. I could do love songs and heart-break songs. But when you talk about real things, nobody buys your music. Apparently when you talk about alcohol, everybody wants to buy your music. Duniya ulti hai and that’s how I look at it. I need to make my bread and butter, I’m not going to be a struggling artist. At the same time I have to do it in the right way and I’ll do it my way.” Though it has been relatively easy to work in India since ‘Glassy’ when work started flowing, she says the struggle she now faces in India is to educate the country about rap and hip-hop, since that is what is really her forte.
Though she has sung songs such as ‘Char Baj Gaye’ which predominantly features rap. “Rap and hip-hop have taken off in the country but it is 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 non-Bollywood 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.”
About assumed contemporaries such as Honey Singh, the rapper is quite clear, “A lot of people associate me with bhangra or Punjabi. Apart from Singh is Kinng , I have not done Punjabi, I have always done hip-hop. But it makes my people happy and proud of me and that’s a good thing. I am here to educate people about hip hop rather than bhangra.”