Here’s how India’s biggest slum, Dharavi, became one of the biggest hubs of the hip-hop scene
Dharavi, Asia’s second largest slum, is not only known for Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire. The area is home to millions of people in the city – where house rents are among the highest in the world. People live there in one-room shacks and share communal toilets. There may be a shortage of basic equipment there, but the talent is in abundance.
The rise of hip hop in Dharavi
Around two decades ago, Mumbai was known for its metal music scene. About a decade ago, the city saw a rise in EMD that dealt a blow to all other genres. Currently, Mumbai, especially Dharavi, is known for its culturally vibrant hip-hop scene. As the genre’s popularity grew, it became the voice of the personal and political angst of its people. Their daily struggle to survive is reflected in their music. All other Dharavi locals are now local hip-hop. People often congregate in the streets and in their homes – which are their only performance spaces. The mix of culture and religion is what makes Dharavi special.
It has now become a way of life for people, especially young people. This includes – b-boying, beatboxing, rapping, graffiti, DJ-ing and MC-ing.
Not gangsters, criminals and bootleggers, Dharavi is now known for his hip-hop icons
As hip-hop culture grew in the community, The Dharavi Dream project helped recognize young talent. He helped discover, nurture and promote Dharavi’s Hip Hop talent and start a Hip Hop movement to encourage young minds around the world to express themselves by giving them a platform to do so.
Communities like Insignia Rap Combat were growing where young artists influenced by 50 Cent, Tupac and Eminem would write their rhymes and post them online. In 2007, the Dharavi crews – the pioneers – called Outlawz and Sout Dandy Squad were born. As they started releasing songs, they spread around the neighborhood via phones. Music, especially rap, has become a big thing in Dharavi. From here, there was no turning back.
The Dharavi Dream Project
The Dharavi Project was launched in 2016 by co-founders of Qyuki (a multi-channel network) Shekhar Kapur and AR Rahman and Universal Music Group CEO Max Hole and former Disney India MD Digital Samir Bangara as responsible for corporate social responsibility (CSR). It was launched to amplify local music and dance talent nationally and internationally through digital and traditional media, and fund the expansion of Dharavi School of Music and Dance, which was created by Qyuki in March 2014.
As part of the project, Universal Music periodically brought in prominent singers, musicians, choreographers, producers and others to mentor young artists from Dharavi while Qyuki amplified content through its nationwide digital delivery network and international.
In 2018, a recording studio was established in the Dharavi slum to nurture young talent and celebrate hip-hop culture. PepsiCo India and The Dharavi Project collaborated for this. Now they got what their music lacked – sophistication and polish in production.
From 7 Bantaiz, dopedalic, Enemy, Sout Dandy Squad, Dharavi Rockers, M Town Rockerz and several other artists are very popular and rap in different languages - Hindi, English, Telugu, Tamil, Marathi and even Marwadi.
They all try to stay away from the big labels. Tony Sebastian, 27, a hip-hop artist who also acts as a manager, told TOI: “With the big labels, you end up being a product. People want to cash in on the fact that we are Dharavi , but we don’t want to. We love our freedom. We can rap however we want, swear in our songs and keep it raw. And we don’t see the need to partner with big labels because we can deliver quality as well.
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