#HaqSeBolo Podcast Ep#3 Swadesi: ‘Our Story of Dissent is the Story of India’
The multilingual hip-hop collective on protest through music, rapping in their mother tongues, going commercial for a cause and more
“Dekh rahe hai news pe ki news kya nahi dikha raha hai (We look to see what the new doesn’t portray too,)” says Aklesh Sutar aka MC Mawali of Mumbai-based multilingual rap crew Swadesi. #HaqSeBolo’s third episode features the hip-hop collective whose lyrics and beats are keyed into the political dissent and vibrant sounds that shape the socio-cultural fabric of India.
Swadesi’s co-founder and sound engineer Joshua Fernandes, MCs Dharmesh Parmar aka Tod Fod, Saurabh Abhyankar aka 100RBH, Mawali and Producer/DJ Tushar Adhav aka BamBoy spoke to Rolling Stone India’s Executive Editor Nirmika Singh about dissent in music, an artist’s role in protests, rapping in people’s languages and more. Bolo is the audio and video podcast series chronicling the journeys of some of the biggest names in Indian hip-hop as part of #HaqSeHipHop, digital media firm Qyuki and Rolling Stone India’s multi-platform venture to nurture the hip-hop ecosystem in the country.
The rap collective is widely known for walking their talk, having been vital and vocal proponents in environmental, development, tribal and social movements. Their 2014 track “Laaj Watte Kai” spoke of women’s rights in light of the 2012 Delhi rape case while their 2019 track “The Warli Revolt” (featuring Aarey tribal chieftain Prakash Bhoir) was a call-to-action to preserve the Mumbai’s Aarey forest, tribal rights and culture. “Bahut saare artist jo ha jaante nahi hai ki unka haq kya hai (Artists do not know what their rights are,)” said MC Mawali, while detailing the group’s experience with both commercial and independent work. Swadesi consciously looks to imbue their own sounds into every project they do, so that no matter where and when it’s put out, their message — the message is after all why they do what they do — rings clear. “Har tarikey se feed karna bahut zaroori hai (It’s important to feed the cause in every way,)” said MC Mawali.
The crew spoke about why they rap in their mother tongues. MC 100RBH, who raps in Marathi, shared the story of the first time he rapped, revealing how he realized his lyrics didn’t just reflect his own lived experience. “Meri story mere poore gaaon ki story hai (My story is the story of my village,)” he said. Swadesi maintains that every audience they perform to must be able to understand what they’re saying, which is where their multilingualism (Marathi, Gujarati, Bengali, English) comes into play.
From watching music videos on Vh1 to discovering the underground movement, Swadesi also delved into how they first discovered hip-hop and why they formed their crew. They realized at the outset that their music was not going to be meant for television. “Yeh logon ke liye hai, strictly. Yeh koi entertainment ke liye nahi hai, yeh message ke liye hai (Our music is only for people. It’s not for entertainment, it’s for the message,)” said MC Mawali.
The hip-hop group also spoke about their upcoming debut album Chetaavni, the commercialization of hip-hop, why they call themselves a movement and more. MC Tod Fod said about why they stay authentic to their objective, “It feels good. Paise kitne hi miljaaye lekin tu satisfy ho raha hai [kya] andar se? Aap bhi karke dekho (No matter how much money you’re making, are you satisfied on the inside? Try what we do.)” Watch the third episode of #HaqSeBolo below: