Recently, the United States Consulate in Bangladesh linked up with team ‘NextLevel’ to bring some exciting Hip Hop workshops for Hip Hop heads in Dhaka. NextLevel is an initiative of the U.S. Department of State and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It is an international hip-hop diplomacy and exchange program. In 2014–15, Next Level is taking teams of artists to Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, India, Montenegro, Senegal, Serbia, and Zimbabwe to use hip-hop as a tool for cultural diplomacy and conflict resolution. Teams of four artists—a beat maker/producer, a DJ, a hip-hop dancer, and an MC— spent the past 2–3 weeks teaching and performing in Bangladesh.
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“I personally have traveled to over 25 countries and in each one, regardless of religion, or sex, or nationality, Hip Hop has been the tie that binds.” – Asheru
The Next Level program in Dhaka brings together American hip hop artists and Bangladeshi hip hop artists for a cultural exchange experience. The American artists are: Gabriel ‘Asheru’ Benn, a veteran hip hop artist, educator, and youth, activist; Amirah Sackett, dancer and choreographer; JocElyn Ellis, vocalist, songwriter and music producer; and André “DJ A-Minor” Barden, an educator, DJ, and producer. A big shoutout to Mohammed Abdullah, aka ABD, who went through thick & thin to put together aspects of the workshop, and event on November 17th.
Hip Hop Workshops
The artists (& educators) spent the past couple of weeks hosting numerous Hip Hop workshops for Hip Hop enthusiasts. The impact they made on the youth was huge! I’ve personally heard back from artists and rappers who enjoyed every minute of it. From dancers to DJs to beatboxers, everyone seemed to have a home there. Uptown Lokolz artist & host of Planet Hip Hop 101.6FM, Black Zang, said, “I woke up every day, got ready and went to class – except this time I was excited! I went to Hip Hop school for two weeks, and all we did was write raps, freestyle, beatbox, do cyphers. My life was 120% Hip Hop, it was like a dream come true!” The impact made by the NextLevel team can be felt through the words shared by Black Zang.
Watch the NextLevel Crew Freestyle Rap with Black Zang on Planet Hip Hop 101.6FM
Unity Thru Hip Hop
Black Zang also mentioned the impact on Unity that this workshop had, he added, “There was true Unity among Bangladeshi Hip Hop enthusiasts. Dancers, DJs, Beat Boxers, Rappers, all joined up unitedly for the cause of Hip Hop. I loved that.” When asked about the power of Hip Hop to Unite the masses, Asheru mentioned, “Unity is one of the tenets that the Universal Zulu Nation, the founding organization of Hip Hop, is based on: Peace, Unity, Love and Having Fun. I personally have traveled to over 25 countries and in each one, regardless of religion, or sex, or nationality, Hip Hop has been the tie that binds. Even here in Bangladesh, I have learned so much and been able to collaborate with artists such as Baul Shafi Mondol and Nazrul Islam, and I’ve been exposed to the writings of Lalon (bangla folk music), and in exchange, I have exposed the Bangla youth to the principles of Hip Hop culture and how it can be used as a platform for transformative change in their communities and in their own lives.”
Bangla Folk + Hip Hop
This is the true power of Hip Hop. And, I’ve experienced it first hand as we struggle through this journey of Desi Hip Hop. I’ve noticed how artists and fans from all over Asia and the world stay united when it comes to Hip Hop. We’ve released music from all over the world, and we can regularly notice how that music connects well with fans from all over the world. When we post artists from Pakistan, fans from Indian and Bangladesh recognized the real and supported it. When we released Indian Hip Hop music, fans from Bangladesh, Pakistan, USA, or even a fan from some corner in Manchester, UK, responded well to it. When we posted a street cypher shot in the streets of Bangladesh, we’ve noticed fans all the way across the world listening and watching the movement grow from its grass roots.
” Dancers, DJs, Beat Boxers, Rappers, all joined up unitedly for the cause of Hip Hop. I loved that.” – Black Zang
This is the ultimate power of Hip Hop. It brings people together. As artists express themselves, their message is beamed all across the world which makes the movement stronger, and brings forth the issues and struggles faced by people. Hip Hop allows artists to show how an individual’s struggles in life are similar to many others all across the world. This is why I am proud to support Hip Hop every day of my life. This is why we, as a whole, are proud to say that We Are Hip Hop.
NextLevel Showcase Concert Featuring Some of the Best in Bangladesh Hip Hop
Watch Freestyles From the NextLevel Hip Hop Workshop In Bangladesh