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Shubhdeep Singh Sidhu
I’ve been moved by the outpouring of love shown on the Pakistani side of the border at the passing of Sidhu Moose Wala. For those unfamiliar with Sidhu Moose Wala, he was a renowned Punjabi rapper and politician from the village of Moosa, which lent him his stage name. He was gunned down a few weeks ago.
The emotion with which the Pakistani rap scene reacted to Moose Wala’s death is further proof to me that South Asian hip hop is a supra-national affair. The reflexivity of influences and the similarity of influence and topics is striking.
There is an argument to be made that this movement may be the strongest cross-border artistic enterprise of our lifetimes. The closest parallel I can relate to is the crossing over of Atif Aslam, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Shafqat Amanat Ali Khan and Strings into Bollywood. But that participation has been severely limited by the Indian government.
Today’s hip hop scene, going round the regular institutions of media and by drawing on artistic references in such a flexible manner, completely subverts the institutional barriers to cross-border artistic collaboration. This collaboration manifests as songs produced by artists together from two sides of the border, reaction videos, lyrical themes, direct references to songs, and tributes such as this one below.
Punjabi rapper Kh44ki is early in his career, but there is reason to believe there is so much to be hopeful for. This heart-wrenching tribute to Sidhu Moose Wala lays an almost folk melody on a hip hop beat. The result is evidence of the flexibility of the hip hope genre to accommodate local influences, to evoke deep emotion, and to incorporate a familiar musical tradition for a new generation.