Singing of Pain

  • Auqib Javeed
  • Publish Date: Jan 8 2018 2:10AM
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  • Updated Date: Jan 8 2018 2:10AM
Singing of Pain

Kashmir's first female rapper tells stories of the oppressed


All Menime wants to do is "tell the stories of our oppressed people". "Tell", though, isn't what she does. She raps.

The 17-year-old from Srinagar, born Mehak Ashraf, is likely the first female rapper from Kashmir.

Though Kashmir has a long, glorious tradition of poetry and music, rap is a recent phenomenon. In the summer of 2010, as a hundred people were killed in the  brutal crackdown on protests against the Machhil staged encounter, Roushan Illahi, a young rapper who goes by MC Kash, released the song "I Protest". It soon became an anthem of sorts for the more urbane among the young protesters -- and helped spawn a new generation of rap artists. Today, Kashmir can count about a dozen rappers of some renown. Menime is the only woman on the list.

It wasn't an easy ride, she says, not least convincing her parents to let her sing and perform, a vocation which, especially in the case of a woman, is still largely looked down upon. "They used to scold me because they knew that if I chose rap as a profession it would be difficult for me to pursue it as a career in a conservative society like Kashmir's."

In the end, though, her passion won out. Now, her parents are fully behind her choice.

Menime holds as her biggest artistic influence the American rapper Eminem, who she has been listing to since she was 12. “My first performance was in school. The audience appreciated my performance and it gave me the boost I needed to pursue rapping as a career option,” she says. "Then, as grew older and starting reading about the Kashmir conflict, I decided to put what I felt about it in my lyrics. I am doing my best to speak on behalf of our people through my music.”

Menime now plans to train other girls interested in hip-hop, and she hopes there are many. “Girls should do whatever they are passionate about and keep working to achieve their goal and not listen to people who oppose them," she says. "It would be a challenge but that it is only by overcoming difficulties that you achieve your dreams."

Menime's success gladdens Noma Nazir no end. Noma was the lead singer and guitarist of the all-girl band Pragaash, which was disbanded in 2013 following threats to its three teenage members on social media. "It’s amazing that so many girls in the valley are coming out and breaking the stereotypes and chasing their dreams," she says, before adding, rather ominously, "I really hope they don’t get into trouble.”

It's a hope Menime shares. She says she is wary the authorities might seek to put restrictions on her work. "I hope I won't get into trouble," she says, "but if I do, I hope my people will support me."