underground hip hop culture in delhi-an introduction from the roots

vishu mishra

22nd April, 2012, New Delhi->

It was a warm Sunday stepping into its afternoon heat as I was all set to get my introduction to the hip hop culture prevailing in Delhi. As I was accompanied to the venue by bboy aeke, he would brief me about the culture’s derivatives, forms and its essence in Delhi and other pioneering regions with various bboying groups to start up the drive of this 40 year old afrikan American culture but being a fresh page on India’s consciousness towards the culture’s true purpose and propaganda, it is more than anything else, as he said and I agreed, it was a soul movement.

[Hip hop is the combination of two separate slang terms—”hip”, used in African-American Vernacular Meaning current or in the now, and “hop”, for the hopping movement. Hip hop pioneer and South Bronx community leader Afrika Bambaataa, former leader of the Black Spades gang and Jamaican born DJ Clive “Kool Herc” Campbell were influential in pioneering by building upon the Jamaican tradition of toasting—impromptu, boastful poetry and speech over music—which they witnessed as a youth in Jamaica,with 1520 sedgwick avenue being the birthplace of hip hop. “The Message” Hip hop gave young African-Americans,was a voice to let their issues be heard; “Like rock-and-roll, hip hop is vigorously opposed by conservatives because it romanticized violence, law-breaking, and gangs” “reducing the rest of the world to consumers of its social concerns”.]

As I was getting enticed alongside circumambulating the perimeter of the known’s & facts of this underground movement in India, I would know less, unless witnessed through its dynamics which Paramount’s the effect of any culture, religion, addiction over the youth of various nations over past forty years and it is still going strong & so was I lurked into its powers to provoke my ingenuity to cover this event with all the right reasons, it was named “from the roots-a hip hop jam”, being held at saraswati music college, safdarjung enclave, new Delhi.

As already running late for a long and interesting day from the judge’s point of view, bboy  aeke & a cultural introduction to this society from my perspective, which was to be intense, firstly in terms of recollection of details and of course the keen observation and later  the heavy toll to present before blog a fair draft on its outlook, with my sole purpose to promote, propagate the vibe of hip hop culture, break dancing, evolving graffiti art and authentic derivatives of street culture in India, I was already on the edge as it was to be a first time and first hand experience to professionally write about an event, on my self employed blog page, neither could I be boastful nor I could undermine its character to bring about an effective broadcast through the blog, of which dance, especially of such high merit, being one of my talent domain, would constantly feedback me a prior belonging and enthusiasm to be at that place like anyone else. However, within next few hours it was about to change, as it was far beyond expectation.

Saraswati dance school->

Now entering the premises akash was no longer but the popular Indian break boy alias bboy akash, one of the pioneer of bboying culture in India, and founder of the d2bx crew, however I stepped into my reporter shoes, and started registering from point-blank, but as the event would progress, with my displacement from the main gate to the gallery quickly proceeding to  the dance room, I would realize but only now, that it totally was a reason that it was an underground culture & off  the page event, It had belongings which only refer to the belonged, the performers, poppers, bboys, bgals, graffiti artist, and dj’s ,mc’s. i was now moving into being anonymous and not getting intimidated by the sheer vibe of excellence that  was resonating with superior frequency in the place, a no-nonsense atmosphere, a paradise for thoughtfulness and passionate dancers, everyone was focused on the floor and in their zones.

The room, as I measured, by placing imaginary 6 feet bodies, horizontally aligned head to toe, a gift of guesstimate science, would be not more than 50 feet by 25 feet, populated by bboy’s &  poppers in left center of the room, with dj on the left corner of the room, with his turntables, amplifier ,conjugated to a dj mixer for looping, breaking songs, scratching and emphasizing suitable percussion beats well suitable for dance battles, the floor dimension would be the enclosure of the dancers  sitting around the  event host, namely cipher, adapted in the culture from its popular belief in mathematics as one of its focus elements, hence a completion of circle.

[Kool Herc and contemporary disc jockeys and imitators created rhythmic beats by looping breaks (small portions of songs emphasizing a percussive pattern) on two turntables, more commonly referred to as sampling. Herc  also developed  break-beat deejaying, where the breaks of funk songs—the part most suited to dance, usually percussion-based—were isolated and repeated for the purpose of all-night dance parties. This form of music playback, using hard funk, rock, formed the basis of hip hop music. Generally, DJ will use two turntables simultaneously. The DJ will perform various tricks between the two albums currently in rotation. The result is a unique sound created by the seemingly combined sound of two separate songs into one song. Early years of hip hop, the DJs were the stars, but that has been taken by MCs since 1978The underground movement of turntablism has also emerged to focus on the skills of the DJ.

Break n breakdowns-> a break is where all elements of a song (e.g., pads, basslines, vocals), except for percussion, disappear for a time. This is distinguished from a breakdown, a section where the composition is deliberately deconstructed to minimal elements, simply putting “Breaks are for the drummer; breakdowns are for hands in the air”.]

As I could fail but notice, a five-foot five inch by four- foot canvas graffiti of a giant face, which bboy  aeke tells me is the sketch of dj  afrika bambaataa, the founder and godfather of hip hop culture in south Bronx, new York. the sketch was made by the event’s dj-OIC (one inch cut).the dj area was covered with two box full of 12 inch records of his personal collection of over a 19 year of influence and exposure to the original hip hop culture, regional derivatives & cross culture around the world. The right end was populated by the graffiti artist which consisted of  Indian & foreign origin. Hence, the whole room was full of people who were there to be a part of the culture with their contribution and performance.

As the event host & organiser,aastik tewatia,would gather everyone’s attention and begin with the introduction to the event, he would mention about the judges including aeke and others, the dj –OIC,& the inclusion of the graffiti event which would complete the five elements of hip hop namely->breakdacing, rapping, graffiti, djing, and knowledge, however culture’s knowledge  was considered the most important element to understand the essence of the culture and also to prosper in its true nature & grasp of all other elements.

graffiti of afrikan bambaataa by dj OIC-one inch cut

[afrika bambaataa aasim’s belief-He recognizes that a great deal of ignorance exists within society, and he constantly strives to educate the misguided, indoctrinated masses, not misguiding youth, simply highlighting the facts and allowing people to draw their own conclusions. He does this from the same South Bronx streets he ran 25 years ago with the notorious Black Spades gang, many people in government look at hip-hop music and its culture as a radical music that gets straight to the point and music that will wake up the youth and young adults throughout the world. They can also use hip-hop to backfire and destroy itself , hence knowledge is the most important element of all.]

The host however, mentioned that since the event was held in native languages across the world, they would emphasize on national language of our nation i.e. Hindi (no yo! And yos & was sup would be encouraged), being the primary language and it would be translated for non-Indian origin members who were present; the event was to commence with the freestyle session of break boying by all the respective participants. As I noticed, that bboy’s vary vastly in the culture, from age of 6 years,8years, to late teens and early twenties but shared the common excellence of superior skill-mustered over months of practice, broken wrists, twisted ankles and pain and agony to display sheer skills of great show with unparallel passion for dance and hip hop, something which would defy belief to a new bee to arena, and hence, it did break my taboo of India being an inferior nation to such athleticism, culture, and performance.

As aeke would explain to me, the various elements of bboying, being top rock, power moves, freezes, legwork, footwork, continuum, originality, and  impromptu, however the most important was  its vibe with the music which is custom made on turntables with predominated percussions sounds, drum beats, electronic funk beats.

[Breaking, also called B-boying or break dancing, is a dynamic style of dance which developed as part of the hip hop culture major elements of hip hop culture borrows heavily from many cultures, including 1930s-era street dancing, Afro-Brazilian and Asian Martial arts, Russian folk dance, and the dance moves of James Brown, Michael Jackson, and California Funk styles. breaking” was also street slang for “getting excited” and “acting energetically]

The following, freestyle, session was a pretty good trailer which  would open my eyes to the level, culture, and passion for the dance among those individuals, it quickly made my reminiscence through my past experience which would no more qualify me nor anyone I have seen being even close, who were good or even very good in school dance groups or college level performances, they would not qualify now as to be termed as passionate or above average dancer, they were all performers for crowds, cheers, showmanship, etc etc. this however, was something different, it was pure form of passion, the thoughtfulness that ran through the room would not let them indulge in anything secondary to the event, it hence made them much much superior to any dancer I had ever seen before my eyes, which also explained their crazy advanced skills at such a young learning age.

[bboyin links: bboyin one on one battling videos: bboy runnin vs bboy breakfail:bboying battle round

bbloyin links:bboyin one on one battling video:bboy sanjay vs bboy mandeep:bboying battling round]

As aeke, help me notice, that I might get a true culture shock, and realization, through this, and for a light humor would henceforth see all the popular moves from the step up movies, as I was witnessing a parallel universe and the defying my established belief, simultaneously t was quite paranormal for an introduction .i would not fail but notice, head stands, headspins, elbow stands ,crazy leg work, one hand spins, back flip, slides, crazy popping, and possibly all degrees of freedom a body can undergo.

The event commenced with short listing of bboy’s for one on one battle, in which the cipher was cornered with two ends pavilions, red and blue, and the judges would sit in centre, it was an elimination round as each bboy would get same time to express them selves on a random track by simultaneously using their face expression, to counter the battling bboy on other corner, it is strictly impromptu and focuses to showcase the understanding of bboy’s self in culture, expressions and bboying  skill. it was followed, with popping one on one battle, where the poppers would get a chance to showcase their skills to the judge who would shortlist the best few among all, who would then battle against each other.

[check out the popping videos: popper’s showcase   & popper harsh vs popper sumit,one on one battle video: one on one popping battle round]

The next event, that followed was the power move battle, which was purely a display of a break boy’s power move skills & highlights like windmill, turtle, 90, six step, flare, air tracks, holla back, baby mills, ball banks, jackhammer, head spin, drills, air chair, stalls, v kick, l kick, slides. It was followed with footwork battle one on one and top rock battle, simultaneously to the battles, at the right corner end was ongoing the thirty minute graffiti challenge of the letter word ‘cope’.

[in 1960s, graffiti was used as a form of expression by political activists, and also by gangs such as the Savage Skulls, La Familia, and Savage Nomads to mark territory .one of the well known form->’wildstyle, Brooklyn style tracy 168’ is a complicated and intricate form of graffiti which is often very hard to read by people who are not familiar with this form of graffiti, as it incorporates interwoven and overlapping letters and shapes. It may include arrows, spikes, and other decorative elements depending on the technique used. Another form is Bubble lettering which held sway initially among writers from the Bronx. Graffiti is recognized as a visual expression of rap music, just as breaking is viewed as a physical expression]

As in the beginning of his speech, the dj -one inch cut emphasized about the culture’s message of peace, love, unity and respect, bboy aeke also, bring me to notice that no culture member was allowed to disrespect other or abuse another member in the battle, as it was utmost necessary for one bboy to respect the other else, he would be shunned from the community irrespective of his level of skills, as I saw same instructions would follow into the graffiti as it was new form  to India, throw ups(i.e. overwriting on other piece of work),copying, and gimmickry was not a sporting tradition and was plainly discouraged in the community culture. the show was quite complete in itself as it comprised all the five elements namely, deejaying, emceeing, break dancing, graffiti, knowledge.  However  bboy  aeke told me, that few in the community know about the 9 elements into preaching which would also include, street fashion, street language, street knowledge, and street entrepreneurialism, all these were employed as the culture gurus felt that the former five were falling prey to hyper capitalism and materialism and the true essence and spirit of hip hop was not imbibed in the successor generation, it was getting lost, hence the element of street knowledge would help curtail the ingenuity of the youth’s unheard territory and give them insight to all other elements along with mixing it with their own hood culture, and understanding their own belongings into their society, along with their hip hop fellowship with their slangs, language, regional fashion and the street entrepreneurship would bring finance by  attracting the capitalist to become the buyers of their society culture outbreak, as I did notice the sponsorship of sabotage 80’s spray cans( India’s only spray can company for graffiti work),clothing by street scientists, music  cd’s by dj olli & mars for even an underground non-commercialized event.

[hiphop language-Academics suggest that its development stems from a rejection of the racial hierarchy of language, the satirical works of great “canon” poets of the modern era, who use imagery and mood to directly criticize society. Hip hop texts are rich in imagery and metaphor and can be used to teach irony, tone, diction, and point of view. Hip hop texts can be analyzed for theme; motif, plot, and character development, words are prolific in nature.]

[bboying one on one battle videos: bboy runnin vs bboyabhilash video: bboyin battle

bboygol-D vs bboy beast video: bboying battle]

As the events commenced into its final battles, I could notice that the event was raw and freestyle in nature as the regional fusion was quite entertained into the mainstream moves unless it won’t hamper the breaking nature or popping nature. any age group, any social & financial background was treated as one equal on the cipher, I saw few events where an 8 year old bboy defeated another much senior to his age in top rock battle, bboying battle, as aeke would tell me about the wild cats of the Delhi slums, who were sometime financed, sometimes  encouraged into bboying,  they were raw, fearless, full of crazy skills, Classless & impossible to intimidate with an attitude to kill in cipher, which was honestly, very rare to see among any normal kid of their age, outside this cipher world. one of them turned out to be my favorites by the end of the event, their bboying names were-slum god  rishi and slum god  Milan.there was another 6 year old, whose name I couldn’t get, was one of the finest prospects of this prospering culture, as agreed by the whole bboying family & culture fraternity.

As already, aeke tells me, that these are the second generation of bboy’s in India, with his d2bx crew and others of their league being the first and pioneering in India and this culture will evolve exponentially in the future.

Then event, ended with a raw cipher on the floor in which all the poppers, break boys, respectable judges were involved on the move, it was amazing to see, how people were into the mode as I could find few bboy’s dancing even in the corners, right ends, left ends, little kid bboys practicing their moves outside the hall, and the dj was busy in his own trance to indulge himself to his work of turntabalism. it was hard for even the most stiff body to unmove, it was even harder to absorb the discrete nature of the environment, few people who entered the hall during the end of the show for a sneak peek, were spellbound and mesmerized to encounter the powerful energy of the place.

It was quite classless ,free from judgment yet free from vandalism, everyone was in true flow, a total learning experience to understand the meaning of dance, passion, focus and pinnacle of skills and face off with the people who do it as  for hip hop culture has become their life now. it was a turn out truth in the end that it is a movement of soul in India, an experience to get together and therefore losing any personal identity, background but one being on the cipher and breaking to the beat, as before, aeke would also tell me that in the culture start point in 70’s,the grooving couples were interrupted for a minimum of 30 second to a slot of  breaking  on floor where they would push aside their girls, partners, girlfriends’  to perform and be lost for it. i reconcile with the raw cipher that it could only be true, as I could myself notice that for past six hours it has been an intense physical expression of dance form &  exhaustive sessions through dance battle and still nobody seems tired, or no one was found resting as bboy aeke again tells me that it like a constructive drug, Once your on it, nothing else can be felt, as even with head injury(i.e. they would wear helmets to perform headspins), or broken writs, or bruised knees and bones, everyone would still perform to their best of abilities and body limits. its the best way to forget anything else that bothers or cultivates negativity, or makes you irrational, it’s a one entity state, hence a drug, the best one to be given to rescue the society, especially to the under privileged section and unfranchised section of the unheard, repressed and unknown faces, to save lives from violence and direct them to constructive  expressions, a true reform culture for society, it was truly a remarkable experience and introspection into my own self, as I could not fail but notice it reflecting in form of passion and fierce attitude from the eyes of ten year old slum god bboy to conclude my narration.


Since hip hop is a soul movement, it is a term that would describe our independent collective consciousness. In global economy, hip hop is the center of a mega music and fashion industry around the world, that crosses social barriers and cuts across racial lines.

it is the world’s favorite youth culture in which just about every country on the planet seems to have developed its own local rap scene. it has far more transcended its original culture, and is appealing because it is custom-made to combat the social injustice and is attractive in its ability to give a voice to disenfranchised youth in any country anomie that preys on adolescents wherever nobody knows their name.

Hip hop’s true messages allow the under-privileged and the mistreated to be heard. These cultural translations cross borders. While the music may be from a foreign country, the message is something that many people can relate to- something not “foreign” at all. Hip Hop has given a voice to the voiceless & showcased their artistic ingenuity and talent on a global scale and it therefore Challenges: materialism, sexism, homophobia, an internalized racism and apathy towards intellectualism. it however face a constant battle between the true world ingenuity and the devil’s trick,known as global hyper –capitalism. It is simply a cultural response to historic oppression and racism. Hip Hop culture reflects the social, economic and political realities of the disenfranchised youth. Hence, youth around the world absorbs and are influenced by the American hip hop scene and start their own form of hip hop rap music and cultural adaptation.

special thanks to indianbboyingnewslive,one circle world,bboy aeke-founder,d2bx crew,

2 thoughts on “underground hip hop culture in delhi-an introduction from the roots

  1. Pingback: Aeke’s journey of hip-hop culture | The out of business

  2. Pingback: aeke’s journey of hip-hop | routeoimagination

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