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Meet the hip-hoppers

art-and-culture Updated: Sep 25, 2010 23:29 IST
Malvika Nanda
Malvika Nanda
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Youtube opened up the world to this Rajasthani teenager. For the last few years, Sanjay Dhaka, 17, would walk to a desolate cybercafe on the Jaipur-Bikaner highway and download clips to satiate his curiosity for street dance.

Before this, Dhaka’s dance education was limited to Bollywood videotapes or Michael Jackson videos. He didn’t even know what these styles of dancing were called. Taking notes from the videos, he borrowed friends’ mobile phones to download clips for practice. “Hrithik Roshan’s dancing in Main Aisa Kyun Hoon got me thinking. I realised we could watch styles of dancing from all over the world on Youtube.” The virtual lessons and his perseverance got the student of applied arts at the Rajasthan School of Art, Jaipur, on the popular show Entertainment Ke Liye Kuch Bhi Karega.

Dhaka is not alone. With a fire in the belly, a new generation of youth from India’s B-towns is setting talent shows ablaze with its mastery over sub-genres of hip hop such as krumping, b-boying, popping and locking.

With origins in Africa and Latin America, hip-hop music and dance genres became popular in the 1970s. Breaking, locking and popping are the most popular styles. Earlier this year, Bindaas launched a show dedicated to street dance. Here, too, small town contestants gave tough competition to hip-hop crews from the metros.

Harihar Das, 24, from Behrampur, Orissa, is a hit with judges and the audience on the show India’s Got Talent for his ability to fuse Bollywood jhatkas with B-boying. “I used to copy Jackson till I came across this fantastic crew of Japanese Animation Poppers called U-Min,” says Das. “But I felt their popping lacked the emotions that Bollywood dances have. So I created my own style.” Das, too, learnt the tricks from Youtube and television. “When I went to college in Raigarha, no one had a clue about my style of dancing. Today, thanks to TV, we’re seeing performers from the most unexpected places,” says the B.Tech graduate.

Ajinkya Kodak, a 13-year-old hip-hop enthusiast from Maharashtra’s Nasik district, was bedazzled by a participant’s ‘cool moves’ on television. “I was already learning other forms of dance. I asked my teacher about B-boying and decided I had to be a B-boy,” says the class eight student of Guru Gobind Singh Public School, who now performs everywhere from school functions to Ganpati celebrations.

Video jockey Nikhil Chinapa isn’t surprised with the street dance revolution gripping the country’s small towns. “This is essentially street culture. These trends don’t emerge from ballet studios or discotheques. The tempo of Bhangra is very similar to the hip-hop beat,” says Chinapa, who hosts India’s Got Talent on Colors. “That makes it easier for small-towners to identify with it. In Bollywood, too, Bluffmaster and several other tunes have played on the hip-hop beat.”

Smaller town contestants are hungrier for success, contends Bosco Martis of the Bollywood choreography duo Bosco-Caesar that played mentor to dance prodigies in Chak Dhoom Dhoom on Colours. “Seventy per cent participants were kids from places we hadn’t heard of. But they had something urban people don’t: the hunger for success. I can’t imagine making half the effort to learn as some of these guys do.”

Social networking sites are also taking the genres beyond the metros. Members of All In Crew from Malad and Nala Sopara in Thane district meet at a park in a Mumbai suburb to celebrate their passion of B-boying. Now, with participation in India’s Got Talent and the rise in their popularity, they’re busy fielding queries on Internet forums from many ‘crews’ from far-out states.

The sub-genres of street dance thrive on improvisation, says Chinapa. With no access to formal training, these enthusiasts learn by themselves and improvise. As the words from a popular song, by Blue and Shaan suggest, their credo is simple: One love for the hip-hop beat…