They are all here on Indian soil: Carl ‘DJ Invisible’ Hollier, who is a fan of Bollywood. Lyricist Miz Korona, producer and beatboxer Richie ‘Robot’ Steighner, emcee and rapper Khary Kimani Turner, and professional dancer and choreographer Hans Pierre. The tour also includes workshops by the artists to inspire up-and-coming talent and promote cultural harmony, diversity and inclusiveness.
The group’s tour has been organised by the US embassy and consulates in India in association with American Voices and Teamwork Arts. “This cultural extravaganza will strengthen our people-to-people ties and our bilateral relationship, while providing opportunities to share values of freedom of speech and expression using hip-hop. This art form has traditionally been used to celebrate diverse cultures and encourages innovation and experimentation. We look forward to understanding cultures better together through music and artistic expression,” says Gloria Berbena, Minister Counselor for Public Diplomacy.
What do they feel about being in India? Hans Pierre says he never imagined coming here which adds to his level of excitement. “It feels absolutely amazing to be performing in India. Never did I imagine that dance would bring me here. I am excited to share my love for hip-hop and hopefully inspire as many people as possible. On this tour I am the only dancer, which is great because I have the opportunity to entertain the audience with my movement. Thanks to some of the locals I have met, I have also been able to incorporate some traditional cultural movements to my performance as well,” reveals Pierre.
For his workshops, Pierre focuses on the structure of the art form. He explains, “During the workshops, I will aim to provide information on hip-hop’s original dance – Breaking, which includes the lineage, correct verbiage and structure of the art form.”
Miz Korona finds it surreal to be performing and exploring in India. She aims to touch upon the various aspects of stage performance as well as “explain the differences between MCs (Emcee), Rappers and Mumble Rappers and song writing techniques.”
Korona’s new EP ‘The Healer and The Heartbreaker’ drops this Friday. “I have always had an interest in Indian culture from fashion to cuisine, so being here, able to experience it first-hand, is unbelievable,” says Korona.
Khary Turner wants to connect with the people of India through his music. “Performing in India is an honour. The people are beautiful and passionate, and our music embraces that kind of energy. We look forward to seeing how that passion applies in all of the cities we visit.”
Although he has missed performing live during the pandemic, the hiatus enforced by the lockdown allowed him with the opportunity to spend time with his loved ones. “Performance is one of those things. It is lifeblood to an artist, and sharing it in this capacity is priceless. The lockdown was a transformative time because it forced me and my loved ones to connect and hold to the things that are most important in life,” recollects Turner.
Turner likes to keep the workshops as interactive as possible. He explains, “We have been hosting interactive workshops with Indian students and youth. Exchange is the theme. Hip-hop is meant to be interpreted, so an Indian artist’s work should not sound like mine. In our workshops, we are inviting participants to season hip-hop culture with their own.”
For Richie Robot, it’s a dream come true. “We grew up on the other side of the world, learning about your food and music and culture. So, the chance to be here, meet you in person, and share music with you is really amazing. It is a dream-come-true to perform in India.”
His workshops are well-devised knowledge sessions on hip-hop. Richie explains, “We aim to build knowledge and technical skills in hip-hop. It’s a fun chance to learn how to express yourself through this hugely popular genre.”
Reflecting upon the extended periods of lockdown, he recollects, “Lockdown meant making music nonstop—it was an escape. The video calls became tough, but you start to settle into a routine. Breaking out of that to perform again feels like I have come back to life.”
Richie will be releasing a new EP soon before continuing on tour in Nigeria and Uganda. Later this year, he will be producing a beatboxing TV show and scoring two new films.
DJ Invisible, who has been a fan of Bollywood movies, is very curious to see how “hip-hop is received and assimilated into the already rich Indian musical culture”. Speaking about the performances as part of the Indian tour, he reveals, “The roots of hip-hop music begin with the DJ so I put together a crew of my friends representing some of the original elements of hip-hop. We will be performing original songs recorded by each artist. We also have a single titled ‘Hello India’ that we open with every night.”
The workshops by DJ Invisible will aim at grooming the perfect performer. “Our workshops focus on stage presence, confidence, collaboration and non-stop audience interaction! We are all passionate about what we do and we all have different backgrounds, so we talk about our individual journeys while demonstrating Dance, Dj, Beatbox and Rap skills,” DJ Invisible sums up.
Murtaza Ali Khan has been a film critic since 2010. He has curated and presented retrospectives and film festivals for various embassies and high commissions in New Delhi. He has also served on the jury for a variety of film festivals. He tweets at @MurtazaCritic