It is no surprise that Desi Hip-Hop has reached places which at one point could not have been thought of. There is absolutely no ambiguity that a lot of it has to do with the flourishing of technology and social media. Due to the growth of social media in the past two years, I got to check out plenty of music from the North-East region. Something I had only heard of through word of mouth before. Now I cannot wait to go and check out the burgeoning scene over there!
One of such personalities who shaped the hip hop scene in NE is DJ Knack who hails from the Meghalaya, Shillong. He’s one of the most prominent figures from the North East Hip-Hop community. Knack has been grinding hard for quite some time as he aims to make sure that India gets to listen to pure and unadulterated Hip-Hop music. He is affiliated with numerous acts from the North East, one of them being the Khasi Bloodz. DJ Knack is currently based in Delhi and we’ve had quite a few conversations in which we contrasted the music scene prevalent in Delhi and the North-East. Speaking from experience, he had some interesting observations.
I caught up with DJ Knack and we spoke about the scene persisting in North East, his run as a DJ so far, what were his obstacles in the journey thus far and much more. Have a read –
“I had no money for equipment of my own. Most people mocked me and doubted my abilities. I had to rent players for every show that I got. Sometimes the money that I was paid for a show wouldn’t cover even half of what I paid for renting. I did a lot of free gigs too but I wasn’t the one to give up. I gave my best and here I am today, giving you this interview.” – DJ Knack
For those who don’t know you, introduce yourself.
I’m Duncan Kharmalki. On stage, I go by the name DJ Knack. I hail from the beautiful capital of Meghalaya, Shillong.
How has Hip-Hop treated you? How has your journey been thus far?
My journey has been an overwhelming one. Hip hop has always been there with me since my interest in music developed. Though I have been playing other genres as well depending on the shows I perform in, I always make sure that I drop at least 2-3 Hip-Hop tracks. My relation with hip hop is not only through music. I have been involved in B-boying and have organised a few events in Shillong such as “Got Soul” to promote the hip hop culture.
How difficult has it been to establish yourself among the most prominent figures in the Northeast Hip-Hop?
There have been a lot of hurdles and obstacles from the day I decided I wanted to pursue music up until this point. I had no money for equipment of my own. Most people mocked me and doubted my abilities. I had to rent players for every show that I got. Sometimes the money that I was paid for a show wouldn’t cover even half of what I paid for renting. I did a lot of free gigs too but I wasn’t the one to give up. I gave my best and here I am today, giving you this interview.
I have seen and heard that Northeast has real love for Hip-Hop. Why do you think the artists from this region are not as popular as folks pursuing the same art from other regions of India?
That would definitely have to be due to less exposure and lack of opportunities. All aspects considered, the Northeast is always neglected and looked down upon. There are and were many talented artists before us who have quit the industry since they were only able to reach out to few people and their music reaching Mainland India was totally out of the question. In this context, I would like to point out that “The Anthem for the North East” ft. Khasi Bloodz, Cryptographik Streets Poets, Symphonic Movement and Feyago has brought change and recognition to artists from our region.
You’ve had a long and crazy run, what is your favourite moment or any incident that you remember?
There is one incident I can’t get out of my head till date. I had a gig in a college fest in an area which is very far from Shillong. The place wasn’t well connected at that time and there wasn’t proper electricity as well. Hence we carried our own generators. We travelled on the back of a truck with all the equipment for a 2 hour straight journey. We were exhausted by the time we reached the venue but nonetheless it was a great experience and the response from the crowd was overwhelming!
What do you think about the Desi Hip-Hop scene?
No doubt it has grown and it is reaching people worldwide. There is a lot of talent out there that can still add to it. And if we all work well together we can definitely take Desi hip-hop to the next level.
You recently moved to Delhi, how would you compare the scene in both the places?
Both the places differ in their own ways and have been equally difficult to survive in but the system in
Delhi is quite amusing. The artist himself has to bring the crowd to attend his/her own gig, indicating that there is no value for artists here. Though some artists are trying to change the system here but it still persists.
Who are your favourite artists from the country?
There are talented people all over our country. A few artists for whom my eyes and ears can’t be kept shut are Dewdrops, DJ Karma, Small Axe Sound, Prabh Deep, Bohemia, Sun J, DJ Skip, Reggae Rajas, Enkore, Delhi Sultanate(BFR), MC Kash, Swadesi, Brodha V, Seedhe Maut, Smokey the Ghost, MC Kode, Stunnah x Sez Beats, 2-ShadeZ, Mumbai’s Finest and (L) Michael M Sailo.
Any message for fans or followers?
In my opinion, I would like to say that the hip hop scene shouldn’t focus just on the musicians but also on B-boys, Turntablists and Graffiti artists since these are also the elements of hip hop. Another thing I would like to say is that most of our artists back in Northeast and other states rhyme and MC in English or in their own mother tongue. So what I’m saying is that, that’s still Hip-Hop and it is a form of their expression. And to my fans/followers, the only message I would like to convey is to never lose hope. People may try to stop you, put you down and laugh at your dreams but remember that real talent never goes unnoticed.