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Kerala Hip-Hop Group Street Academics Forced Off Stage at Bengaluru Venue

The crew were on the same bill as Mumbai’s Swadesi, producer Bandish Projekt and more at Foxtrot Gastropub

Anurag Tagat Jul 15, 2019

Kerala hip-hop group Street Academics. Photo: Down Trodden

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In the midst of all the noise pollution complaints and resident associations filing public interest litigations against pubs in Bengaluru, there’s a different (albeit longer-running) problem that music venues, artists and promoters came face to face with at Foxtrot Gastropub on July 13th.

Malayalam hip-hop crew Street Academics – one of the best known from Kerala, who released their new album Loop last month – were performing at the EP launch for Mumbai’s Swadesi crew and producer Bandish Projekt. Also on the bill were Chennai/Vellore duo Arshaq Malik and 47K, plus Bengaluru-based rapper HanuMankind.

Mumbai-based artist and event company 4/4 Experiences said on social media that their tour representative Prasad Iyer was asked by Foxtrot’s floor manager to request Street Academics to “sing songs written in a different language as a small group of customers had an issue with the language the songs were written in.” The post goes on to say that the manager “threatened to cut the sound and stop the show.”

The group of customers who had made the demand, meanwhile, “came to Prasad and asked him to stop playing Malayalam songs as this was Bangalore, and only Kannada music should be played at the venue.” During this escalated situation, the venue cut short the Street Academics’ set.

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In the hip-hop crew’s own social media statement, they said their mics were cut. “According to the management, people were not vibing to our set and they cut our set short amidst rising tension in the crowd. This is far from true since there were plenty of people having a real good time, and mind you, they weren’t all Malayalees.”  The post adds: “Hatred towards a language or rather people who speak that language is all too familiar to us, and this is not the first time that this has happened.”

While Foxtrot – and its separate branch Foxtrot – House of Subculture – has hosted several independent artists since last year, this incident highlights the venue’s refusal to stand by the music it claims to support. In their statement posted yesterday evening, Foxtrot’s team said that the incident stemmed from “some guests [who] responded in an unexpected manner.”

The statement adds: “We respect the artists and their work and have programmed multi-lingual acts ever since we ventured in to live performances; however to de-escalate the issue, safeguard our guests, artists and staff and to avoid a security lapse, we took necessary decisions to pause the show briefly. We officially apologize to Street Academics, 4/4 Experiences and Azadi Records for the unfortunate experience and would like to reinstate that we are all for great music, but need to take certain calls to ensure people’s safety. We were only de-escalating the situation, and always do stand by the artist community and music of all kind.”

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The idea of linguistic jingoism and regionalism, whether it’s at a hip-hop club gig or in a street-side conversation, has no place in a city perceived to be as diverse as Bengaluru. In addition to logistical and financial hurdles in booking independent artists, do promoters and venues now have to take into account so-called cultural sensitivities too?

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