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Monday, 07 January 2013 13:43

Native Bapa: A hip-hop song from Kerala challenges narrative on terrorism

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Kozhikode, Jan 7: The first hip-hop song of the band Mappila Lahala – Native Bapa - launched online on the New Year eve has been listed among the popular videos of Youtube with more than 100,000 views in just six days. The album quite effectively questions the global trend of branding anything and everything related to Muslim names to terror and vehemently criticises the media culture forming such a public consciousness.

It was in October 2008 four Muslim youths from Kerala were allegedly gunned down by security forces in Kupwara district of Jammu and Kashmir. It was soon after this that one among the mothers of these youths from the Kannur district of Kerala stated that - ‘she doesn’t want to see her son’s body as he is a traitor’. The statement was since then widely celebrated by media and political parties in Kerala and in no time she turned into an icon of Kerala Muslim mothers.

It was years after that she expressed her inner pain before a few media sections in Kerala saying that, she had to make that statement under those testing circumstances, where police broke into her home late nights and even neighbours and relatives having an eye of suspicion over her. The grievous mother went on to state that no mother could have objected to having a final glance at her dear son and what she did was out of desperation.

The team Mappila Lahala, a Kozhikode based music movement formed out of the evening coffee discussions of a few friends; having set the dreams of doing music with a purpose and visuals with a vision decided to go ahead with their first project –a musical video album titled Native Bapa, by taking a revisit into this 2008 incident through the eyes of a father.

We are a musical movement engaging in multiple genres of music upholding collective self respect of the oppressed, says the team comprising academician, students and professionals. The work though has its cultural background in Malabar, is multi lingual with English lyrics and lyrics in Malayalam made special with the local Kozhikodan slang associated with the Mappilas of Malabar.

Mamu Koya well renowned in the Malayalam film industry for his genuine usage of the local Kozhikodan slangs plays the father’s role in the album. The lyrics featuring him mock at the state machinery, media attempt to demonize anything and everything related to Islam. The album moves forward with the monologues of this poor father – the ‘Native Bapa’ [‘Bapa’ – a deglamorised way of addressing a father among the Mappila Muslims]. ‘Native Bapa’ played by Mamu Koya gets introduced into the album as a reluctant secularist and his words convey immense grief and anger against the stereotyping of Muslim lives with terror and he narrates it sarcastically through the story of his personal life.

He expresses his painful concerns and elements of doubt which forces him to think otherwise on the stories fed through media and police with regards to his son, Kunju, branded as a terrorist. Despite all these justifications in favour of his son, he too towards the end of the album quite unwillingly and filled with pain agrees to the general perceptions with regards to his son, saying that ‘he too don’t want to see his son’s body as he is a traitor’. The actor Mamu Koya quite successfully brings to screen the mental and physical tortures meted up on the family by the state and the media, and ends the narratives registering his disagreement to the stereotypes by again sarcastically referring to the term ‘bomb’.

The rap portion of the song is in English and so the team Mappila Lahala prefers to call their work by the name Mappila Hip hop. The whole song has its English sub titles and is the first of its kind in Kerala.

Hip hop has a history of resistance and so bringing in these rap elements in to the Mappila narratives, the team succeeds in putting up a formidable resistance against such stereotypes. So the album is not all about the narratives of the grievous father and instead features the voice of the youth, who believes that the ‘Rebel is the only loyal’. The rap portion of the video album, with its immense energy and revolutionary content responds to the very same issues addressed by the father from the angle of a rebellious youth, who wants the peace to prevail.

The youth who hops with the rap portion of the music rejects terrorism saying that Islam is peace in the definition and asks us to take away all our prejudices based on what media feeds us. As the lines says,

Bombing innocents, I’ll call you a terrorist

I don’t care if you are an Al-Qaeda militant

or if the world calls you the US president…

The rap portion of the album is performed by a medical student Harris; part of the Kozhikode based ‘Street Academics’, whom with the Team Mappila Lahala collaborated to produce its first project Native Bapa.

The Album is directed by Muhsin Parari a graduate in English and Islamic Jurisprudence and he says, "Majority in the community meekly stomachs the police version because they fear any attempt to question the official story will land them in trouble. We want to assert that only a rebel is the real loyal”.

It was Muhsin who penned the poem titled “Native Bapa” which later grew into this song.

Muhsin told that the team Mappila Lahala’s next project will be a rock version of K Satchithanandan's poem Kozhipanku and thoughts are on progress with regards to giving a hip hop treatment to Kambalathu Govindan Nair’s Mappila song on the historical 1921 Malabar riots against the British invasion.

We are used to the Hip hop versions of films songs in languages like Hindi, Malayalam and Tamil and never in the history have they made use of the political possibilities of hip-hop. Native Bapa stands apart as the first of its kind on that regard.



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