Changing tides: (W)rapping up taboos in Balochistan

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At a time when the Baloch music is stagnant and suffering from an inertiawithin itself, the Balochi rap music is becoming a trend. Not only rapping is new in Balochistan, rap songs are also challenging the very basis of the Baloch societal myths and taboos. Although they do seldom conform to them too.

Rap music originally came from African Americans. It’s a form of hip hop. In a rap song, the poetry is chanted with the beats that differentiates it from recitation or chanting of the poetry.

Rap is sung in free style, where thoughts flow freely. Often, but not always, it discusses a socio-political issue.

Balochi rap songs’ origin is traced back to the beginning of this century when internet and smart phones revealed a new world to the Baloch people. The last 15 years have brought so many changing tides within Baloch society that it can also be termed as an era of change. Baloch society, like many others, has never transformed so rapidly in such a short period of time in its entire history. Love for rap songs is one such change.

In one rap song, Sawaal, by an anonymous Baloch girl, who is supposedly based in a European country, extremely criticises the Baloch male-dominated society. It exposes hypocritical tendencies of the Baloch men towards the Baloch women.

“I don’t accept, I don’t accept, I don’t accept such hypocrisy.”
It also says that Baloch society has enslaved its women and they need to be liberated in order to march towards an independent society.

There are a number of such songs on the Lyari gang war. Almost all such songs demonise the gangsters and their destructive role in bringing Lyari on the verge of complete anarchy.

“The mother is worried that her child is missing
Bombs are exploding and bullets being fired
Let’s listen to Lyari’s story in this rap (song)

Many songs reminisce about the “golden past” when Lyari was once a centre of music, sports and literature. From 1950s to late 70s, Lyari was considered the centre for the activities of leftist groups. Poets like Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Gul Khan Naseer could often be seen in gatherings there.

It was also the cradle of the Baloch resistance politics. The Baloch Students Organisation (BSO) originated from there. The modern Balochi music also owes its origin from the now restive Lyari area. Singers like Ustad Sattar, Ustad Shafi and Ustad Dinarzai composed most of their music in this area. Sayad Hashmi – considered to be the Father of Balochi – did most of his works while his stay in Lyari.

The rap songs recall that “golden past” and blame the state of Pakistan for an organised attempt to weaken Baloch society by patronising the gangsters.
There are also songs on the widespread culture of drugs among the Baloch youth in Iran and Pakistan. They curse the druggies and call them as useless members of society.

“Young people, don’t be so miserable after drugs
This thing is useless
Do something big to show to the world
Leave the drugs, friends, don’t waste yourself”

The rappers are also aware of the ongoing conflict between Pakistan and Baloch separatists, who they call as sarmachars. One of song composed by the Lyari Underground is titled as Ryasat o Syasat (The State and its Politics) lashes at the Pakistani state’s policy towards the Baloch people. It mocks Pakistani democracy.

There are other revolutionary rap songs that call for an all-out war against Pakistan to liberate Balochistan. They also mention the kill-and-dump policy and glorify “Baloch martyrs” like Kambar Chakar.

They also refer to some famous attacks of Baloch militants against the Pakistani military personnel and installations. Some extremely political songs are also ridiculously funny due to their faulty and amateur political analyses.
In short, the rap songs are a representation of the current socio-political situation of the Baloch people. Although the political insight of the rappers doesn’t seem to be impressive, it’s a promising beginning. Either they are wrong or right in their assertions, their tone is provocative.

Although the rap culture has not yet find a popular audience in Baloch society, it’s gradually making its presence felt. It would be too early to predict about its future, yet it’s a pleasant addition to the Balochi music. Since lyrics of rap music is in free style, the lyricists and singers have immense freedom to depict issues thus far untouched by other Balochi arts.

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