Friday, November 23, 2007
Freedom Song - by Rhythma Kaul (in Mail Today)
Rapper Hash sings of a lost land and the sorrow of the homeless, giving a new edge to the demands of Kashmiri refugeesThe first thing you want to know about rapper Emcee Hash is what his name stands for. It’s ‘Heavily Affected by Smoking Herb’, typicalstreet lingo that you would expect a rapper to use. But then take a look at his lyrics and it sounds as if it is 80’s broken hearted reggae or pop that talks of the romance of revolution and struggle.“Live long, pray, our story recited /for y'all to hear /refugee from the place called home/our family tree began there homes/ now we set free, with an A-k/ready to deliberate”, he sings.The California- based, Emcee Hash is not talking of a forgotten revolution. With his rap number released on the net on November 17, he has become the voice of the Kashmiri Pandits whose struggles and tears his lyrics reflect. Hash, whose formal name is Ashish Kaul, was born to immigrant Kashmiri parents who reached the US via Australia. “Such songs may help in rekindling lost hope and bringing a new zeal to realize the ultimate goal of our homeland,” says Aditya Raj Kaul, 18-years-old social activist. The fact that a US based rapper, --the song has seen about 200 downloads in the one week since it was posted on his site -- has taken up the cause of Panun Kahsmir has given even the elders of the community hope that their cause will attract international attention. “It feels nice to see that the youth has taken charge of things. It will keep our hope alive that some day we may be able to return to our homeland,” says Somnath Wali, an octogenarian activist based in Ahmedabad,Though his lyrics reflect the pain of a community driven from their land and living as refugees, Ashish Kaul hasn’t had any a feel of his place yet. Though the history of his people and the experiences that ‘scarred his brethren,’ have come to him through stories told to him and what he has read, Kaul feels that he is one among the suffers. “The song ‘Panun Kashmir’ is a work that I have wanted to do for a long time, particularly ever since I embarked on my career as a musician. Although, I haven’t personally experienced the ache and misery that KPs underwent, I feel that my inner self can express similar feelings of pain and frustration through songs like this one,” Hash told Mail Today in an e-mail interview. Hash describes himself as a Kashmiri first and then a hybrid of Indian, Australian and American cultures. “I have had the opportunity to assimilate into multiple cultures in my young life and that has only helped me in my understanding of these entirely different worlds and situations,” he says. A major reason behind the anguish and frustration so visible in his lyrics is the condition of his grandfather, who stays with him in the US and has been suffering from dementia caused by a stroke he had when circumstances forced him to sell his ancestral home in the valley. “I wanted to write a song that would highlight our story, our struggles and bring them to the forefront of the minds of people,” Ashish Kaul says. Hash, 29, who has been a profesional musician doing gigs in and around California, intends to inspire people all over the world— Hindus, Muslims and all, to realize that, “It’s not about religion, it’s about terrorism, and it is high time we take a stand and unite to destroy this horror that has molested people all over the world and particularly for over a decade the people of my community,” he says. Then why the talk of hitting back with guns in his lyrics? “My reference to using guns and fighting back do not have to be taken as literals, they are expressions of my frustration, and the important message is unity and taking a stand. I hope that is how people take it.”The rap number was in the making for quite some time. He could not begin the song until I had found the perfect instrumental for it; as soon as he heard the beat created by Rapid Fly Beats), he got to writing, and when he did, he could not stop till the song was complete. Having completed the lyrics for the song, which was in early August of 2007, Hash forwarded them to his harshest critics— his family and friends, who came up with an encouraging feedback. “I knew this would be a song that people would appreciate and would associate with, and I am glad that my assumption is becoming a reality,” he says. His Kashmiri fans are hoping that such songs will start a journey of reconciliation for them.