“We don’t want the sympathies. We just want people to look at our talent because frankly, we have loads of it,” say the ‘Gully Boys’ of Asia’s second largest slum.
Savera hote hi nikal jaate ghar se
Suljhane woh apne mehnat ki paheli
Wakai mein mehnati hai ye Dharavi
Karte hai sab hi yaha kal ki tayari
Bachpan se atrangi sab hai yaha
Mehnat karenge par jhukenge na
Mere hood jaisa kuchh nahi
The sun is setting down in Mumbai, and the local trains are abuzz with the crowd going back home. The roads are busier than ever as the city that never sleeps comes to life. At the backdrop of this never-changing scene, Nil, Prathamesh, Rakesh and Yogesh meet at their usual Shivaji Park adda. As soon as you catch a glimpse of them, you will be able to guess their passion correctly.
They have their jackets and caps on—even though the Mumbai weather is hot as ever. Bandanas on their wrists, neck or forehead and stylish first copy shoes. The rappers from Dharavi are practising their latest track in the public park.
“We don’t want the sympathies. We want people to look at our talent because frankly, we have loads of it,” replies Prathamesh Ghodke one of the Mtown Breakers, when I asked him about their backgrounds and the struggles they face daily.
M-town breakers came together towards the end of 2016 when Manas Dhiwar, a Hip-Hop choreographer from Dharavi, Mumbai, grasped the potential of the four rappers who consulted him individually. The common thread binding them together? All of them wanted to create a revolution of sorts through their songs.
“MC Prat (Prathamesh’s alter ego) did not know the other rappers. They would consult me because I am an experienced hip-hop artist. The boys were rapping their issues away but at a very personal level. In 2016, I decided to bring them together as M-town breakers,” Manas shares.
The breakers are not just a rap group. Instead, it is a 10-member crew of b-boy dancers, beatboxers, singers and graphic artists coming together.
Their latest song, ‘Mere Hood Jaisa Kuch Nhi’ is an excellent example of how all these talents come together to voice their struggles, their passion and their idea of home.
Except for Manas, who dropped out of his bachelor’s degree to pursue his passion for hip hop, 9 of them are students, struggling to learn the notes and chapters to score well in exams. Prathamesh also helps his mother in her tiffin service business, finding whatever little time he can, to write and rehearse.
“We all have different issues to raise, and we find our voice in rap,” MC Prat says. “All of us are between 18 to 22 years of age, and although we come from the same part of Mumbai, we have seen different worlds growing up. For example, I found my voice in rap when the horrible Nirbhaya rape case happened in Delhi. From that point onwards, I have been voicing my dissent against issues of women’s safety, financial scams, poverty, and road safety, among others.”
Nil and Rakesh, on the other hand, have more personal issues to raise, and Yogesh is a comical rap artist. There are punches in his composition that take the rap a notch higher, shares MC Prat.
Taking inspiration from artists like Naz and Eminem and in the case of Prathamesh, the struggles of his single mother; the bantai bundle them all into lyrical, catchy raps.
If you have seen Gully Boy that took you through the gallis of Dharavi and introduced you to the world of these underdog street-style rappers, you may have already seen Prathamesh and Manas. They featured in two tracks from the movie – Aapna Time Ayega and Meri Gully Mein.
You might believe that the cameos were their call to fame, but truth be told, it is their compositions and videos that have already catapulted them into the limelight.
Give them a try if you are a rap-admirer, you won’t be disappointed.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)