An Octave Higher
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Staccato beats paired with infectious riffs open a song, the Journey, in a video that has been doing the rounds on YouTube these days. A few seconds later, an instrumental warm up introduces 26-year-old Borkung Hrangkhawl aka BK. His slang is crisp, sarcasm sharp and the problems of Tripura, his home state, evident. The singer raps Don't hate the state/ Cause I'm truly embraced/To blow like a grenade. For most looking at this, it may seem like an attempt to grab eyeballs, but for Hrangkhawl (his tribe name that he uses as his surname), it is a way to steer attention towards his state. "This is how I can out reach out to the masses and tell them about the truth of what's happening," says Hrangkhawl, whose track has garnered over a million hits online.
For someone whose journey has been defined by his growing-up years in Kamlachhera, a village in Tripura, Hrangkhawl calls his passion for music a natural progression. He is the son of Bijoy Kumar Hrangkhawal, leader of the Indigenous Nationalist Party of Tripura (INPT).
"I saw my father struggling to fight for the rights of our people. I was motivated because his purpose in life was to fight for them. So I decided to follow in his footsteps, but on a slightly different path," says Hrangkhawl. He was exposed to pop, rock, jazz, blues and hip hop in school, a time when MTV and Channel V still played music.
Rapping in India began with the likes of Baba Sehgal and Apache Indian. To an extent, it is being followed in Punjabi by Yo Yo Honey Singh, among others. Currently, many young rappers are reaching out to the audience through their protest music. According to Hrangkhawal, the genre is gaining much attention. But in times when it is relatively easier to put one's music out there, Hrangkhawl did not go via a record company and chose YouTube. "You can upload your videos and can be assured that people are going to comment. However, I did not expect the response I got," says the musician.