Sara Babar at Pitstop, Karachi
Dance

Anarchists rise for ‘Our Culture’ in Karachi

© Saad Saeed
Dancers, rappers and graffiti artists gather at the Pitstop to spread love, peace and unity through the one thing they know best: hip hop.
Written by The NarratorPublished on
While it’s too early to say there’s been a renaissance in Pakistani music industry in the last decade or so, there is a case to be made for its resurgence. After years of stagnation after the glorious early 2000s and the rise of Atif Aslams and Ali Zafars and the like, new artists finally broke away from the traditional model in a pursuit of creating and finding their own audience. Independent musicians turned to social media to reach out to and carve their own niche.
And yet, even beside them, is an underground culture, the sort that doesn’t get enough spotlight. It may not receive the recognition, but, mind you, it’s there. And it’s thriving. I got to explore this underground scene first-hand last Sunday at the hip hop show aptly titled ‘Our Culture Vol. 4’.
Taishi - Anarchy
Taishi - Anarchy
Taishi of the hip hop dance group Anarchy has already held three shows under the ‘Our Culture’ banner in the last couple of years. But Vol. 4 was special. It was a comeback show after a gap of over a year.
Perhaps, this is why you could see everyone shedding their skin, coming out of the cage and figuratively roaring with intensity as the hip hop beats blasted from the speakers.
Hashim Ishaq and Moji
Hashim Ishaq and Moji
Everyone was back in their element.

‘Our Culture’ was more like a mini-festival than a show.

Held at Pitstop in Karachi, there was something going on in all parts of the venue: dancers free styling on the dance floor, groups showcasing merch on the stands in the corner, artist Neil Uchong spray-painting a beautiful mural on the wall, and a rapper spitting fire on the stage. Everyone and their pet dogs were immersed in the hip hop spirit.
Neil Uchong - Graffiti artist
Neil Uchong - Graffiti artist
Saad Imtiaz aka Imtiazing opened the show with some rapid-fire rhymes while the floor was prepped for the dance battle. 16 of the best dancers in the underground hip hop community partook with a cash prize and gifts promised for the winner.
Shady - Hip hop dancer
Shady - Hip hop dancer
Syed Saad aka Sid showcased some of the most insane freestyle moves and went on to win the tournament. However, the level of competition was so high, anyone winning would’ve been fair game.
Sid - Hip hop dancer
Sid - Hip hop dancer
Dwayne Lucas, goatee-and-a-black-tee sporting, arrived on the dance amid a huge buzz in the 150, SOPs-following, mask-wearing, social distance-maintaining people at the event. You could tell, while some were focused on executing the dance moves to the best of their ability, Lucas was a character. Not only a fantastic performer, he showed more personality on the floor than perhaps anyone else.
Kumail - Hip hop dancer
Kumail - Hip hop dancer
Taishi, who also served as the host and 1/3rd of the judges for the dance battle (fellow Anarchy members Naqi and Rocky were the other two), introduced him as not only a friend and a “homie” but a mentor and an inspiration. And once the beat dropped, one could see why Lucas had such fanfare going for him. His signature style of incorporating desi moves and expressions with the traditional hip hop amped up the audience. It was evident that he was having fun; and so were we.
Anarchy with Hashim Ishaq and Moji
Anarchy with Hashim Ishaq and Moji
Sarah Babar was a surprise as the only female entrant in the tournament. Out of all, it was Babar who not only represented best the notions of love and peace and unity, but also the anarchy and fearlessness of the hip hop lifestyle.
Here was a woman in Pakistan, practicing hip hop and killing it on the dance floor. She showed off and showed up the boys and looked badass while doing it.
Sarah Babar - Hip hop dancer
Sarah Babar - Hip hop dancer
Masoom was anything but. Freakishly athletic, his performances were a highlight of the night. It was fascinating to see the variety in the dance techniques among the competitors. Dancers like Shady, Sid, Hamza Nadeem and more, all exemplified grit and dedication to their craft.
More performances followed until the end of the night. One more that stood out was by Munab Manay. One may have heard of character actors; he was rather a character rapper - personifying different characters in each rap to comment on the social and political happenings in Pakistan.
Hip hop artists
Hip hop artists
In all, Our Culture Vol. 4 was a milestone event not only because it was happening after a long break, but also because it was a self-created platform for a community, a huge pool of unrecognized talent, that goes on, that stands up and, as Josephine and Anthony of ‘Oh Wonder’ sing, “keep on dancing until the feet wear thin”.
Spectators enjoying the hip hop scene
Spectators enjoying the hip hop scene
Here are the anarchists who live and move and dance the way they want. To quote Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, here are the “angel-headed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night”. And they find that connection to the cosmos, to the world around them, to fellow humans, through hip hop.