A lot of people might raise eyebrows at the idea of hip-hop and Shakespeare on the same stage. UK rapper Akala, who’s been bringing the two together through his live acts, says that he often come across people who seem suspicious, only to be convinced later. His performances, which feature a medley of songs inspired by scenes or themes from popular Shakespeare plays and sonnets, always stand apart for the curiosity they generate."It’s not about gimmicks, not about making hip-hop sound smart or Shakespeare sound cool for the kids. It’s about a love and passion for both art forms. Yes, people come with certain perceptions, and, in the end, they’re pretty much always won over by the quality of our work," says Akala, who will perform today at the Literature Live festival at National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA).
Akala has also utilised the novelty of this marriage between literature and hip-hop to develop educational tools for those who might find Shakeaspeare too arduous. He and his band of performers have also been spearheading projects in schools, youth centres and festivals in the west. But could his education projects be relevant in the Indian context, given that the country didn’t experience the socio-economic conditions that saw the rise of hip hop in the West?
“Hip hop comes out of a certain set of experiences. But India is not completely different. Like in any country, there’s violence and anguish and love and poverty,” he explains. Akala will also perform a solo set at the upcoming Bacardi NH7 Weekender Festival in Pune. And he will feature in one of the episodes of the ongoing television music series, The Dewarists, for which he collaborated with lyricist Piyush Mishra.
“He (Mishra) was a great person to work with. I’m looking forward to seeing the final edit of the episode,” he says.