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‘Suede Gully’: At the Heart of it All

With seven street artists, eight rappers and 36 dancers, the upcoming music video is probably the biggest desi hip-hop visual collaboration yet

Rolling Stone India Nov 02, 2017
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With India recently embracing R&B and hip-hop, the two genres have become some of the fastest growing independent music forms in the country today. Whether it is catchy numbers for commercial success or tracks written to spark political change and create conversation, Indian rap is a reflection of its global counterpart– an expression that is liberating and powerful.

“Suede Gully” was created to celebrate India through hip-hop’s lens. The artists participating in the collaboration came together to lend their voices to a culture that allows them to embrace tradition and love for their cities.

Mumbai rapper Divine is responsible for a large percent of desi hip-hop’s popularity and owns where he comes from in every piece of music he creates. His singles “Farak” and “Mere Gully Mein” are powerful odes to his love for the city as well as tales of his growth from a nobody to one of India’s biggest hip-hop icons. Then there’s New Delhi’s Prabh Deep, whose work documents the raw reality of his everyday life in his city; his tracks “Suno” and “Kal” are prime examples.  Shillong-based rap crew Khasi Bloodz fearlessly take on politics and the world’s declining morality with their track “Don’t Stop” while Madurai-based Madurai Souljour’s “Yeppadi Padinaro” showcases their cultural pride. With eight rappers coming together from four distinct parts of the nation, the upcoming collaboration ensures diversity and plethora of new stories.

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Speaking of stories, whether it’s painting on the walls of the streets, pavements, gravel roads, rooftops or the face of buildings, street art has been a key channel of self-expression in India for centuries. Utilising public spaces as a canvas, street artists showcase social and political messages through vibrant colours, bold motifs and symbolism””a movement artists like Shilo Shiv Suleman, Baadal Nanjundaswamy and Anpu Varkey hope to continue with “Suede Gully.” The video will feature street art by these intriguing artists, whose work has transformed Indian streets into brilliant exhibits over the past few years.  Suleman uses illustrations and installation-based art to showcase an intersection between magic realism, social change and technology while Nanjundaswamy uses 3D art as a form of protest against the issues in the country.  Varkey meanwhile has bridged gaps between street artists and the government and is best known for her work on the colossal mural of Mahatma Gandhi at the Delhi Police Station back in 2014. With government authorities now leveraging street art to communicate messages to the masses, these artists are determined to make as much of a positive change as possible.

While dance brings art to life in a completely different manner, the core idea behind it is the same; to inspire and perhaps incite change. After making steady inroads into the Indian music scene, hip-hop and contemporary forms of dance have broken out on streets and dance floors across the country, offering liberation and expression to many dancers who were seeking outlets to customize the discipline around dance by making it more personal. Several prominent Indian dancers have taken to hip-hop and contemporary dance forms seemingly effortlessly. Mumbai’s Mukti Mohan in particular is known for her exemplary skills across varied dance forms, classical or modern. Other dancers on the project include Bangalore-based Black Ice crew, Unity One from the North East and Mumbai’s Beast Mode crew as well as solo dancers, all coming together to make an impressive total of 36 and with skills in popping, locking, freezing, animation and more.

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All in all, “Suede Gully” was created to not just showcase these artists’ skills, but create spaces for young, potential artists to take it forward by inspiring them. With all the artists from the same country, the diversity is outstanding not just in skill but also culture, pushing the sheer amount of talent and social awareness that is present in India. There is a hunger within this generation to strive towards change and “Suede Gully” is just step one.

“Suede Gully” will premiere on November 5th, 2017.

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