Rebel RepubliK - MC Kash

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By Naveed Qazi | Editor, Globe Up Front

A rising fist defines Roushan Illahi’s aka MC Kash’s hip hop name – a hand with fingers clenched in a palm. Art interprets it as a symbol of defiance, courage and that is exactly what he metaphorically cantillates through his gifted speech rhythms  At the age of seventeen, he emerged in our social circles through a single ‘I Protest’, dedicated to hundreds of dead who died during the street protests against the state, and since then, he has been continuously producing extraordinary singles dedicated to Kashmiri’s socio-political change. 

After months of hard work, he is now back with ten new singles. This acclivitous change should be lionised by Kashmiri people, as we have an artist who has coalesced an isolated genre to our emerging music scene. ‘Rebel RepubliK’ is Kashmir’s first mainstream English hip-hop album – these are compositions for the laden, a remembrance of anguish of Kashmir’s forgotten infliction, and of resistance against an unrelenting conflict.

We don’t find any eminent purposeful rappers in India and Pakistan. In Kashmir, rebelliousness in music is something people have not known for many years.  Hip-Hop has been a culture of Afro -American public parties which got its evolution particularly in the suburbs of New York City. It was also a resistance from low-economic American areas. Since then, rapping or emceeing has also been taken over by non-black youths. It is now recognised as a global movement which has penetrated into new cultures. It is also one of the few genres in music which reflects social change, universal consciousness, propagates prison reform, minority rights, freedom from hatred, crimes and also serves as a medium for propagation of justice, remembrance and love. It also has racialist causes: the murder of Malcolm X also resulted in its propulsion especially in 1980’s. From conflict zones, this form of music represents a pivotal appeal due to its aggressive nature. It is for this reason that hip hop music has become a casual agency of the oppressed, a form of activism from creative natives. For Kashmiri people, MC Kash is a one man show, when it comes to fixing international hip hop influence in Kashmir’s music scene.

English is a language which has always deserved honour and obedience in our learning institutions or in our daily life in general. In our culture, we have mostly seen its forceful effect in books, on media, and from our leadership. In music, its utilisation has been totally alien. It maybe unusual that the power of English language in our music circles has emerged through hip-hop, but it also should be a moment of pride, because Kash’s maven by blending local folk elements or language in his music, keeps him as one of the most talented musical artists in the region, who fully deserves more international attention, and admiration from his people, for keeping striking appropriateness  in revitalising our aspirations, and in discovering various forms of pain in our land, by using a music genre which has a universal appeal. His catchy music and insurrectionist poetry is a celebration of English language, as well as a feeling of honour for our regional culture. It may be called as a cultural evolution from our new generation. This form of music may represent a bridge between old customs and new influences.  If Aga Shahid Ali influenced Kashmiri American band, Zerobridge is vocalism of Kashmiri roots in a foreign culture, then MC Kash’s songs are revolutionary, provocative, all bred inside the native territory, having Marxist, nationalist, civic and philosophical dispositions.

MC Kash has made fervid compositions. The theme of this album is resistance, transformation and tribute. It starts with ‘Koshur X’- a conversation by Malcolm X with a journalist about Negros in an audience. The second song, ‘Listen My Brother’ features Mohammad Muneem, the vocalist of Pune based rock band, Highway 61. The lyrics are soaked with Sufiyana propensities and emotional torment. It is a marriage between Urdu and English poetry- an originality in composition from Kashmir. It is a song of hope and encouragement to a despondent youth for a needful change. The third song, ‘Family Portrait’ is about an afflictive tale of our war torn society- a bread winner becoming a victim of war, his family’s everlasting search for his fate, their painful remembrance and the condition of a fatherless son. The track carries a somber piano tune which arouses a feeling of thoughtful sadness. The fourth song ‘Self-Produced’ is about an anger of a man derived from repressiveness, who speaks valours of his bravery by fighting tyrants and their larceny. The lyrics include strong metaphors and is very sophisticatedly crafted. The fifth song ‘Rebel RepubliK’, contains strong pop elements and it is a jubilation of the power of revolution, which speaks of victory from the despots. The title song has inspirational anarchist elements and it may find propinquity with the dissenters of the Kashmiri tribe. The sixth song ‘Azaadi’ is instrumental which is an attempt to capture our aspirations in euphonies. The seventh song ‘Heart Is My Weapon’ speaks of determination for the road to peace. It speaks of lost innocence of childhood, the dream of freedom, and an everlasting inspiration coming from a rebelling soul. The eighth song ‘Free At Last’ represents the championess of the tenets of liberation. Notes of the lyrics have drawn inspiration from a speech of Martin Luther King, and it tries to give a moral courage for nation building and how the pursuit of Truth invites social change.  The ninth song ‘War Path’ speaks of a reincarnated rebel, a Che like youth, who wants revenge and blind justice for his raped sister and his murdered brother, Younis through guerilla warfare. It is a song of opposition from a suppressed young farmer who is a soldier for his hungry aboriginals. The song represents Kashmir as a feudal and a totalitarian state which induces its people towards militant extremism. The album ends with a tribute ‘The Letter’ which is a missive by Maqbool Butt from Tihar Jail, to his comrade, Mian Sarwar in Srinagar. This letter is read by Kash and it speaks of political ethics, and the need for continuation of struggle for the liberation of Kashmir, and its independence from outlanders. A very aroused conclusion for any true Kashmiri at heart.

People have made memorials for the dead, for our struggle through writings and through speeches. Rebellious music is something very new to this engagement. MC Kash has given a befitting tribute by providing a new platform where only he is a specialiser. The album speaks of an avid passion for hip-hop, truthfulness, emotional adherences and justice for Kashmir. His voice has emancipationist overtures. The album is available online and can be streamed and downloaded for free, from his newly designed website, (


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