Hard Kaur has arrived in the Indian market, now she looks to the West for artistic gratification
Taran Kaur aka Hard Kaur’s residence is small yet ostentatious in all it can occupy. The hall is exquisitely furnished in dark tones. An ashtray littered with cigarette butts and a half-smoked joint is discreetly slid under the tinted glass coffee table. In the stately abode, a huge whiteboard staring us in the face from a corner of the room is quite the anomaly. Scribbled in blue ink is a long list of names – Sean Paul, Pussy Cat Dolls, Sean Kingston, Missy Elliot, Sanjay Dutt, Shahrukh Khan, Yashraj… we suspect Kaur is on to some very ambitious projects (Passing thought: has it carefully been placed there for our benefit?) The lady who prides herself as being India’s first woman rapper struts in half an hour late in a colourful fleece hoodie, with one of her cronies (whom she later introduces as – in her judgement – Mumbai’s best DJ) at her heels. Much apologetic, she settles down crosslegged on the couch, and for the next two hours speaks to us with this untiring fervour about life, music and tomorrows.
Kaur cruised into the Indian market a couple of years back with her hit single ”˜Glassy.’ The song was the rage on the Indian club circuit and the then Birmingham-based Kaur was noticed outside of her Brit-Asian ilk. In time Kaur started getting shows in India and caught the attention of musicians such as Shankar, Ehsaan, Loy and Vishal-Shekhar. “I went nuts, SEL want to meet me! They call me to Yashraj and ask me to play one of my tracks, I played them ”˜Bombay Deewana’ and they were blown away,” she tells us. 2007 saw Kaur slowly finding her feet in the Indian industry ”“ signing on to the Saregama label for her fairly successful album Supawoman and working on a track for the Bollywood gangsta flick Johnny Gaddaar with Shankar, Ehsaaan, Loy. ”˜Move your Body,’ her track from the film was a great follow up to ”˜Glassy’ sitting well with the R&B drift and opened doors for her in Bollywood. That’s when Kaur decided to shift base back to India. Recently she has done tracks for Shahrukh Khan’s IPL team Kolkata Knight Riders, Bollywood releases Ugly aur Pagli and Singh is Kinng and suggests a couple of projects lined up with Vishal/Shekhar and the Yashraj banner. But right now she is mostly occupied with her upcoming album. She has cut five tracks as of now and leaves for the States soon to work up some credible collaborations for her album. Kaur doesn’t spill much but lets us know that her collaborations with D-12 and Sean Kingston are confirmed. The album will also feature Pritam, Mikka and Richa Sharma. With the album due for release in November on the BIG label, she seeks to satisfy Indian and American audiences. She runs us through some tracks which are balanced out in Bollywood pop and hardcore hip-hop ”“ she applies English verse to almost all tracks, though Hindi hooks remain on some. She gets slightly brave for Indian audiences with lines such as “I don’t fuck you/I fuck you up,” on the album.
29-year-old Kaur wasn’t born with the daredevil attitude she displays today. In the Eighties, she was the archetypical Sikh girl who wore her hair in plaits and ribbon. During the turbulent 1984 riots, the then four-year-old Kaur fled with her family from Kanpur to Chandigarh. A year later, Kaur’s father passed away. The press mostly assumes that he was a victim of the riots and Kaur didn’t care to refute the fact so as to avoid messy questions. “My father actually killed himself; he was very depressed not just because of the riots but with life in general.” For a minute her cheery disposition succumbs to a required seriousness. Left to her own devices, Kaur’s mother shuffled jobs in Ludhiana to provide for the kids. In time, her mother was coerced into remarrying an old man whom Kaur describes as a haggard geezer fit to play her grandfather. “He said he had a prosperous business back in London, he showed us lots of dreams and we were more than convinced,” she simmers with anger at the recollection. Little did they catch his bluff and in 1991 moved to the UK. “Firstly we didn’t go to London but Birmingham, and secondly he flew Air France and flew us via Aeroflot!” she says. Birmingham wasn’t easy on Kaur who was ten at the time; her rickety English and Indian accent made her a soft target with classmates. “They’d say stuff like why’ve you got two plaits? Did you live in a hut in India? Did you have a toilet? I used to cry when I came home,” she speaks in Hindi with a heavy Punjabi accent and her English employs a cockney accent from her Birmingham days.
With time, Kaur came to be one of them. She takes us through livid anecdotes of cat fights and brawls where she got bashed up, and of how in typical chic-flick fashion, Kaur started to fight back. Kaur’s overtly animated conversation takes us frame by frame through a story which seems fictional at times. The coy girl from Punjab roughed it out at the UK eventually taking the avatar of the Lara Croft prototype by the time she was 15. “I got older, cheekier, was into hip-hop, and wasn’t as submissive as before. I started giving my step dad warnings,” says Kaur. She also divulges that her step father had once made sexual advances at her and often beat her mother. When things went out of hand, Kaur apparently fought him and handed him over to the cops on counts of domestic violence.