Kashmiri Rapper MC Kash Releases Debut Album
The rapper says that his album ‘Rebel RepubliK’ typifies his need to represent the common Kashmiri’s voice
It was in 2007 that Roushan Illahi aka MC Kash recorded his first ever song “My Game” at his friend’s house in Srinagar, Kashmir. Illahi and his friend downloaded a recording software at an internet cafe, programmed beats and returned home to record verses on the track using a tracking microphone. Says Ilahi, “Hip hop might have originated in Brooklyn, but it is global now and people connect with it everywhere.”
This year, in order to record songs for his first full-length album, Rebel RepubliK, the 22-year-old hip hop artist visited an “underground studio,” at a location he wishes to remain secret, where he paid extra per hour. “I tried to record a whole song within an hour. That’s all I can do in a place like this,” says Illahi. In a state that has been synonymous with curfews, unrest and overbearing military presence, Illahi says the common Kashmiri’s voice gets “strangulated.” “If we speak, it’s as though we’re in the Tower of Babel or something,” says Illahi.
Similar to these words, there’s disappointment, anger and frustration on the 10-track album, which he released this month as a free download. But there are also songs such as “Heart Is My Weapon” and “Free At Last” where Illahi throws down rhymes about peace and liberation. MC Kash’s claim to fame, however, remains “I Protest,” a song released in 2010 to address the deaths caused by the summer unrest in Kashmir that year. Illahi refers to “the dark side of a murderous regime” in the song that led to claims of borderline sedition and that became just the first of his problems. The studio he had recorded the song was raided by the police and every other studio in Srinagar turned him away after “I Protest.” Illahi says, “It’s understandable. It’s a small place so everyone knows me. ”
Among the 13,000 fans on his Facebook page, a majority of Illahi’s fans are from Kashmir. “It’s [the lack of a larger audience] sad in a way because we [Kashmiris] never get heard,” says Illahi, “A Kashmiri will support another Kashmiri, but it’s time people heard what a common Kashmiri has to say. We were born into struggle.” Although the rapper has had fans from Delhi writing to him to tell him how his music had compelled them to wake up to the socio-political situation in his state.
With Rebel RepubliK, Illahi says that he is more relieved than anything else. “It feels like I’ve taken my first step after crawling for two and a half years,” he says, referring to the task of self-producing and self-releasing the album. Unlike any other artist armed with a new release, Illahi has no plans to perform. “Getting gigs in Kashmir is not possible,” he simply says. However, he is heading out of Kashmir to perform at the third edition of Goa Arts and Literature Festival between December 13th and December 17th.
Stream “Rebel RepubliK” here:
Watch MC Kash’s music video for “Beneath This Sky” released in February 2011