The revolutionary rapper from Kashmir, Roushan Illahi aka MC Kash who sings rap songs, mostly related to Kashmir conflict, says, “I took up to something that I couldn’t just leave on the shelf. I couldn’t let my feelings rot. I had to record no matter what. So, they won’t let me record? It’s cool. I will come back tomorrow.” Roushan received international attention during the 2010 Kashmir unrest, when 115 protestors including several teenagers, were killed in police and paramilitary action. He released a song called I Protest (Remembrance), which he says was inspired by “Too many, sixty five of them.” When he released the song sixty-five teenagers were killed during protests which continued till late autumn of 2010 and till then more than 120 were killed. This song served as an “anthem” for Kashmiri’s protesting the killings. Roushan was born in 1990 at Zero Bridge, Kashmir. Besides Rap, he studies Business. Roushan Illahi, in this interview with The Kashmir Walla Editor, Fahad Shah, talks about his songs, his journey and the response so far.
What is your first memory of music?
Radio. I believe. You know, back in the days, that was probably it. BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) and shit like that. Crap ass music on some FM (FM band). As far back as I can go, my old man was fiends for BBC, just like every other Kashmiri, I think, and for me, that “intro” is something I still remember. And then, of course my mother’s voice. She used to sing, you know, like Kashmiri women always do, while working and stuff like that.
When did you feel that you can sing Rap?
After I understood that writing poetry made me feel good. I never wanted to sing, you see. Never had that in me. But Hip Hop gave my poems a voice. People might think that rapping is easy and all, but the amount of time I have spent to just understand the basic concepts of Hip Hop is unbelievable. Not to mention, I been into Hip Hop since I was 13. And I only wanted to “rap” when I was 17. You can say I spent a whole lot of time in self-education.
What it takes to make your music and bring it before listeners?
People may or may not understand, but the amount of shit I have to go through just to make music is sick. There was a time when nobody would come forward to help me. Every studio “kicked” me out, you know. Humiliation. Disrespect. Amen, what not? But yo (yes), in the end, it’s all about the struggle and the cause. Those who stay true, get fucked with, right? And it’s their heart that keeps them going. I took up to something that I couldn’t just leave on the shelf. I couldn’t let my feelings rot. I had to record no matter what. So, they won’t let me record? It’s cool. I will come back tomorrow. I can’t get money to record a song from my father? I can borrow it from my friends. Studio got raided last year. And since then how many tracks have I come up with? It’s like, education. (Laughing). Making music when you “supposedly” can’t.
Did you face problems from administration for singing songs which are related to Kashmir dispute? What were they?
Raiding my studio. That basically, was like cutting my throat.
You have sung songs which are related to political situation of Kashmir. How do you see Kashmir politics?
Ummm, I write what I see. I mean, it’s like, when I see emotions, people see politics. You know. I feel pain, sufferings; I see blood, tears; I hear screams, wails. And I write pure emotions. And Kashmiri Politics? Well, it acts like a catalyst for all that I feel, see and hear. You know what I am saying?
Do you feel any threat?
Honest to God. You will find me right there in the streets. Walking. So, do you think I am scared? Or feel threatened?
What was the inspiration behind popular song, “I Protest”?
Too many, sixty five of them.
Tell us about the song “Take it in blood” and how does the idea came?
The song is dedicated to Parveena Ahangar. And if you know who she is, what she does. You will get to know what Take It In Blood is all about. I met her once. And the next day I wrote the song. The next day I recorded it, somehow. She is an inspiration.
Where do you see yourself after ten years down the line?
Alive and still doing my thing.
What would Roushan Illahi have been, if not a rapper?
Fact is. I am still a son and a brother. A friend too. Nothing has changed, except my priorities. My responsibilities have expanded enormously and I am trying to balance my life, you know.
What are your future plans after studies?
Lord knows better.
Is it hard to being at this position (a rapper who sings songs like I Protest) in Kashmir?
It’s a responsibility, Brother. And the moment I took it, I knew the consequences and the hardships. All I have is my faith in Allah. Everything else is dust.