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Dhaka Tribune

Uniting cultures through hip-hop

Update : 18 Nov 2014, 06:58 PM

The outcome of the two-week hip-hop dance and music workshop with four American hip-hop artistes shaped a momentous period in the history of hip-hop culture in Bangladesh.

50 Bangladeshi hip-hop artistes took part in the final demonstration with the American artistes – vocalist Asheru, dancer and choreographer Amirah Sackett, vocalist Jocelyn Ellis, and DJ André “DJ A-Minor” Barden – at the show titled “Next Level Bangladesh,” held at Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy in the capital on Monday.

The long-anticipated evening started with a seven-minute Kathak dance piece, performed by dancers from Shadhona. The performance seemed to be synchronised with the theme of the project, which is building a cultural bond through hip-hop.

Then a hip-hop break dance routine was performed, which featured around 20 local break dancers, which was followed by the rendition of a folk song titled “Shona dia bandhayachi ghor,” with rapping and beatboxing by three local artistes. An unusual sight was Black Zang, a local hip-hop artiste, rapping with a script in his hand.

Speaking during the event, Muhammed Abdullah, artist and owner of Wreck Records – a record label solely dedicated to hip-hop productions – said Bangla hip-hop was incarnated in the hands of the country’s National Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam. Abdullah with other artistes performed a hip-hop version of “Chal Chal Chal,” a popular Nazrul song.

The three major manifestations of hip-hop culture: rapping, turntablism or DJ mixing, and breakdance – were demonstrated profoundly on the stage. The fourth manifestation, graffiti art, was also noticeable, with two graffiti boards on the stage which read “Bangladesh hip-hop forever” and “hip-hop.”

Then a beat prodcution battle took place on stage among with six beat producing groups. The audience were handed the authority of judging the participants, who picked the best group by cheering and even whistling.

Asheru, the African-American artiste, sang two songs titled “Chup Chup” and “More Swing,” leaving a long lasting impression on the audience when he left the stage. The audience also applauded and cheered a relatively popular local hip-hop track titled “Ai Mama Ai” by Uptown Lokolz.

However, the most crafted performance of the evening was another fusion performance of a Lalon folk song titled “Chatok Bache Kemone,” performed by Shafi Mondol, Amirah Sackett, Asheru and Jocelyn Ellis, which featured of breaking, DJ mixing and rapping.

However, talking to the Dhaka Tribune prior to the show, Muhammed Abdullah said that it was too early for the local artistes to delve into hip-hop fusion. “We should get used to the raw version of hip-hop first,” he said.

Next Level is an initiative of the US Department of State and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which selects hip-hop artistes and educators to participate in the programme to use hip-hop as a tool for cultural diplomacy and conflict resolution. 

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