Music

Wanandaf, Bengaluru’s hip hop collective, breaks barriers with rap

Wanandaf has performed electrifying cyphers at public spaces, including Town Hall and MG Road, on varied topics including politics, mental health and feminism

In June, 2019, rappers Nex, Akx, producer Cj, and videographer Karim Poocha shot a small cypher video in Lalbagh. They uploaded it on social media and announced their next performance at Rangoli, MG Road. Defying all expectations, hundreds of rappers and producers turned up. And that is how Wanandaf, a hip hop collective, became a sensation in Bengaluru’s art scene.

Agaahi Raahi, Innerrhymes, Akx and Karim Poocha (the core group of Wanandaf) talk about their journey so far and how all their performances have been powerful and of high standard. If you have attended their performances at Town Hall, where Siyasat was performed by Nex, who raps in Dakhani, or at Cubbon Park (which the collective call their home) or Innerrhymes’ cypher about mental health, there is no need for words to describe their performances. However, if you haven’t, then ‘powerful’, ‘relevant’, ‘stirring’, and ‘electrifying’ are some words that come to mind.

Agaahi Raahi says the cypher at Rangoli in MG Road was charged with excitement over rap. “It had even started to rain, but no one cared, we continued to perform.” Innerrhymes adds: “People kept joining in. A group of people were free-styling at one end with rappers on the other.” By the end of it, 100 people were added to their Whatsapp group. “We even had rappers from other states joining in,” adds Akx, who then claims: “After our cypher, rappers from Lucknow and Ahmedabad started their own collective.”

Wanandaf breaks all barriers, including religion, caste, class, and language. The artistes come from varied backgrounds and rap in different languages, including Hindi, English, Telugu, Dakhani and Urdu.

Tracing his journey, Akx, a conscious rapper in Hindi, says: “When I came to Bangalore in 2017, I did spoken word performances. I rap about what it means to have been raised as a middle-class boy and about what is going through my mind. One day I found a Bangalorean rapper Young Dirtt on VH1. I finally met Smokey, who is one of my inspirations, and that is how I became a rapper.”

He adds: “It was hard to find a videographer, though, who was interested in shooting us and who also knows about hip hop.” He eventually found out about Karim Pooch and Nex. “The three of us got talking. I thought that is all we need to start a scene in Bangalore. I then introduced Nex and Karim Poocha to Smokey. All of us met and it was then we decided to name our collective Wanandaf.”

Karim adds: “Every Bangalorean will relate to Wanandaf, it is a take on auto driver demanding one-and-a-half meter fare.”

Innerrhymes vouches for Wanandaf’s strict adherence to standards. “When we put out a certain kind of quality, people’s expectations of us would be high.” When asked if they are careful with their lyrics, they unanimously say they do not censor themselves or care for censorship. “Rap is protest art,” Akx says and adds: “Nex got a lot of threats because of his performance ‘Siyasat’ at the Bindi and Burqa protest. But that did not stop us from performing and Nex also got a lot of praise, there were people from Mysuru who called to ask him to perform.”

Agaahi Raahi is proud to call himself a feminist. “I tell men there is nothing to fear about this term. I am inspired by my sister. I ask for her perspective on issues and put that in my music,” Agaahi Raahi raps in Hindi about political and social issues. “I was interested in rapping since my school days, but I was not connected with it from 2010. Then I moved to Bangalore in 2017 and later I met Wanandaf.” His track ‘Krodh’, which was released in November, 2019, and is about child marriage, won him quite bit of traction and praise.

Wanandaf, Bengaluru’s hip hop collective, breaks barriers with rap

An introvert, Innerrhymes says he performs conscious rap. “I rap about mental health, anxiety, depression, and suicidal tendencies.”His track ‘Inner Reveal-ations’ is coming out on March 6. “It has four tracks: ‘Lulla-bye’, ‘Unsent Letters’, ‘Lately’, and ‘Panic Attack’.”

Wanandaf is excited about their uber cool track ‘56: A Song for the City’. “Agaahi Rahi says, “It was released on February 11, ‘56’ is a song for the city by the gang of four who started it all: Nex InnerRhymes, Akx and me. You could say it is Bangalore’s anthem. I recorded one verse and sent it out. Akx said I am riding this beat. I gave a shout out to my friend Alchemii. Innerrhymes heard it, and he decided to join.”

Wanandaf also credits a group called Bangalorean. “There were always rappers in Bangalore, but they didn’t get the exposure they needed,” says Agaahi Raahi. Wanandaf, therefore, aims to bring all the rappers under one umbrella. Karim Pooch says: “Wanandaf now has close to 180 members. We even have French and Arabic rappers.”

As of now, Agaahi Raahi is looking forward to his mixtape Irtiqa-Evolution, which comprises three songs: ‘Mufti’, ‘Jaang’ and ‘Qayaamat’ while Akx’s next song is Doom, which is against caste.

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Printable version | Mar 30, 2020 8:10:08 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/music/breaking-barriers-with-rap/article30852211.ece

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