Hip-hop dream thrives in India's largest slum

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Hip-hop dream thrives in India's largest slum
In this picture taken on July 02, 2021 coach Vikram Godakiya (C, red cap) watches students during a group class to learn breaking or 'b-boying' at a training session on the rooftop of a building in Dharavi slums in Mumbai. After India's largest slum defeated the pandemic, some of its young residents pulled out their phones to write, shoot and release a triumphant rap video. Punit PARANJPE / AFP.

by Ammu Kannampilly

MUMBAI (AFP).- After India's largest slum defeated the pandemic, some of its young residents pulled out their phones to write, shoot and release a triumphant rap video.

"At first we were afraid, what would happen to us? But we stood with the doctors... now it's your turn", rapped the young men in the video.

"We Did It" -- "Kar Dikhaya" in Hindi -- showcased new talent and won acclaim from celebrities, but its creators' abiding goal was to fight the stigma dogging this densely-populated corner of Mumbai.

The Dharavi slum is home to around one million people, many of whom live in single-room shanties and share communal toilets.

Its labyrinthine alleys have long been associated with filth and disease despite its remarkable success in the battle against Covid-19, and its residents battle constant discrimination.

But Ayush Tegar Renuka, one of the star students of the Dharavi Dream Project hip-hop academy, told AFP he feels "so proud" of belonging to the community.

"The Dharavi shown on TV channels and the real Dharavi are very different places," the 16-year-old said.

Ayush began breakdancing three years ago, brushing off his widowed mother's pleas to give up a pursuit she feared would result in a trip to the hospital.

She was not alone. Many parents were initially reluctant to enrol their children in the school's free classes, dismissing hip-hop as dangerous, a distraction from homework or simply a waste of time.

The Dharavi Dream Project's co-founder Dolly Rateshwar was determined to change their minds.

The daughter of a Hindu priest, Rateshwar was nervous about venturing into the neighbourhood, but the teenagers she met struck a chord with her.

"I was raised in a very conservative family... I never knew there was a bigger world out there," the 38-year-old told AFP.

"And I was worried that these kids might lose out on life because they didn't know the possibilities open to them."

'My confidence level was zero'

The school opened its doors in 2015, offering free classes in breakdancing, beatboxing and rapping to around 20 students, with digital media start-up Qyuki -- Rateshwar's employer -- and US entertainment titan Universal Music Group footing the bill.

As the project won praise from musical icons such as Oscar-winning composer A.R. Rahman it rapidly expanded, with young students like Joshua Joseph -- now better known as MC Josh -- using hip-hop to tell their stories.

If black rappers in the United States could shine a light on racism, he reasoned, hip-hop could do the same for India's glaring inequality and mistreatment of marginalised communities.

"My confidence level was zero before I started to rap," the 21-year-old told AFP.

"The school changed my life."

When Covid-19 arrived, the rapper's income collapsed overnight as Dharavi was put under a stringent months-long lockdown.

Mumbai authorities quickly realised that the slum held the key to defeating the pandemic and launched "Mission Dharavi" -- aggressively sanitising communal toilets, running daily "fever camps" to check for symptoms, repurposing wedding halls as quarantine facilities, and asking residents to stay home.

By the end of June 2020, Dharavi had recorded just 82 deaths -- a fraction of Mumbai's over 4,500 fatalities.

Like the slum, the school staff also refused to be cowed by the virus, switching to online classes soon after the first wave of infections hit last year.

As the pandemic ground on, Rateshwar realised that the academy could expand its reach even further, and broadcast an invitation on Instagram for anyone, anywhere, to join their classes.

They received 800 responses in the first 24 hours.

A year on, the school hosts 100 students who attend every online session -- half from Dharavi itself -- and 300 others who pop in occasionally, including from overseas.

'Everyone wants to become a superstar'

But Rateshwar's focus remains firmly on students from the Mumbai slum, on making sure their voices are heard and their future prospects secured.

"Obviously everyone wants to become a superstar but... I also try to tell them about alternative careers in the music industry, as artists' managers, or jobs in social media," she said.

"Most of all, I want them to stand tall.”

For 21-year-old teacher Vikram Gaja Godakiya, who learned breakdancing from YouTube videos, the school means much more than a steady paycheck.

"People have always been unfair to Dharavi," he told AFP, describing how the pandemic had made employers increasingly reluctant to hire slum-dwellers.

When Godakiya started breakdancing in secret nine years ago, he never imagined he would be able to do it for a living.

"Breaking has given my life purpose," he said.

"I want my students to know that they can do anything if they give it their 100 percent."

© Agence France-Presse

Today's News

August 8, 2021

Pattern & Decoration: A movement that still has legs

Ancient pharaonic boat taken to Egypt's grand new museum

Tate announces 2022 exhibition highlights

Exhibition at Pinakothek der Moderne enriched by curators with new juxtapositions

Muskegon Museum of Art selects Ann Beha Architects for renovation and expansion project

World's most valuable rare coin at Chicago World's Fair of Money

Wadsworth Atheneum selected for conservation grant by Bank of America

GIANT: Major new 15,000sqft gallery opens in Bournemouth

Artist installs split and sinking monument of the Olympic rings

Official name announced for the Ottawa Public Library

Eye of the Collector announces exhibitors and highlights for its inaugural edition in September

Paul Cotton, mainstay of the country-rock band Poco, dies at 78

David Kovats Gallery opens the first solo exhibition of Barnabás Lakatos Gelléri

Newly re-launched Stall & Dean exhibits rare antique & pop culture memorabilia at Chelsea Market

Sotheby's to showcase Black jewelry designers with first-ever selling exhibition

Famed conductor, citing brain tumor, withdraws from concerts

EMERGENCY 2021: A biennial group exhibition of work by emerging artists opens this summer at Aspex

Garment District Alliance unveils Magic Hour, 225-foot-long painted road mural by artist Steed Taylor

Hip-hop dream thrives in India's largest slum

Tate launches pioneering new apprenticeship programme for the visual arts

Exhibition at UCCA Edge charts the artistic development of pioneering Chinese realist painter Liu Xiaodong

New Orleans Museum of Art opens an exhibition of photographs by Ishimoto Yasuhiro

London City Airport reveals Destination London: A new public art commission by Anne Hardy

Friday night footlights: How theater bonds a Colorado town

What is a convertible apartment?

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez

Royalville Communications, Inc

ignaciovillarreal.org juncodelavega.com facundocabral-elfinal.org
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful