In India, the musical genre of rap has often been dismissed as being shallow and indecent. But moving against this notion is bilingual rapper Siri Narayan, who breaks two stereotypes with her passion – first, of being an English-Kannada rapper, and second, of being a female artist in the field. She ‘glocalises’ this powerful medium of expression and brings it closer to the local audience.
The content, flavour and beats that form her music are profound in their simplicity and are extremely relatable. Rapping is close to Siri’s heart since the style began as a form of expression in the 70s during the civil unrest among African-Americans in the USA. Rapping, she says, has always served the purpose of catharsis. Writing and performing the verses have helped her get through some tough times.
Siri reminisces that at school, she used to be a tomboy and was often bullied for it. This led her to become an introvert. Her family encouraged her to learn mostly traditional art forms such as Carnatic music and Kathak dance. Today, she also freelances as a fashion designer while nursing interest other interests like sketching and painting.
Siri began rapping after she listened to B.o.B by the Amercian artist Nicki Minaj. The song inspired her to create her own work. She soon began to perform at college events. In this interview, she tells RJ Shilok that her first rap performance remains her most memorable one because it lifted her up and drove her to create more music. Though some of her friends liked her work, she didn’t immediately find people who truly encouraged her. She says that some people even made fun of her uncommon interest. However, she soon got involved in communities that had interest in rapping, hip-hop and b-boying. This soon led her to bigger dreams and better projects.
“That is the beauty of rapping. You can write about anything,” she says when asked about what inspires her to write. She writes about her experiences around her imperfections, stories of the people she meets and anything else that she connects with. She considers rapping a medium that helps put a part of herself out into the world.
As unconventional as she is, she is humble about admitting that she has a long way to go in the field. RJ Shilok and Siri also discuss how old-school thinking among people makes it rare to find female rappers in India. They are hardly heard or appreciated. She mentions how important it is to be more accepting of newer cultures. Deviating from what is defined for us requires courage. Believing in oneself and having positive people around us, she says, are critical requirements.
Siri Narayan stands out as an example telling all of us to fearlessly follow our dreams.
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