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This Pune-based hip-hop collective will reveal their fresh take on music in Mumbai today

Updated on: 11 July,2024 09:05 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Devashish Kamble |

A Pune-based hip-hop collective reveal their fresh take on the genre at their debut show in the city today

This Pune-based hip-hop collective will reveal their fresh take on music in Mumbai today

Raj Karan, Vedang Deshpande and Shantanu Dubey at a previous performance in Pune

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This Pune-based hip-hop collective will reveal their fresh take on music in Mumbai today

Step out in Mumbai today and you’ll find no dearth of fans across diverse backgrounds, jamming to hip-hop tunes that have their origins in the slum clusters and gullies of the city. This cultural transformation began when the metropolis’ hip-hop scene came of age nearly a decade ago. Not far away in Pune, the cultural capital is experiencing its own awakening now. Tonight, Mumbaikars get a sneak peek.

Ringing the bells, or rather beats, to this awakening is hip-hop collective Itihaas, from their compact home studio in Pune’s original business hub, Swargate. When Shreyas Sagvekar, Vedang Deshpande, Shantanu Dubey and Raj Karan join us over a video call from their homes, they’ve all taken a break from writing music. “This is how a usual day in our life looks,” laughs Sagvekar.

Away from the Maximum City, where broken dreams usually fuel art, the quartet comprising architects and engineers turned to hip-hop for a different reason. For Sagvekar and Dubey, it was a means to break out of their introversion. “Growing up, I was a man of few words. Home or outside, I kept my opinions and complaints to myself. When I take stage, I pour it all out,” shares Sagvekar, who also addresses it in his single, Khankhanit.

Shreyas Sagvekar and Deshpande at an artiste meet-up in Mumbai
Shreyas Sagvekar and Deshpande at an artiste meet-up in Mumbai 

Karan, an architecture professor, who will join Dubey for a multilingual set tonight, echoes the sentiment. “I grew up with a physical disability. The day I performed my first set at a cultural fest in my college, I could see people look past my disability, and into the poetry I had penned,” he reveals, adding, “When I’m on stage, I seem to forget about what’s holding me back as well.”

The duo reminds us that we’d be mistaken if we assumed Pune hip-hop was confined to Marathi. “The essence of the subgenre is the Pune way of life, our proximity to the Western Ghats, and the experience of growing up in a city that is slowly embracing multiculturalism. That is what you’ll hear in our songs as well,” explains Dubey, who writes his verses in Hindi and English.

Sagvekar’s discography presents itself as an apt representation. From rapping about loneliness in his 2022 English-language track titled BT, and turning to colloquial Marathi in self-exploratory 2023 single Uddhat, to switching between the two seamlessly in multilingual single Remember me, the artiste’s style transcends languages.

Deshpande, who lays down the foundation for various artistes in Pune, quite literally, with his music production and sound engineering, gives us another perspective. “Furthering the use of Marathi in hip-hop is undoubtedly one of the end goals, simply because there exists a void in that territory. When I make beats, for instance, I revisit Marathi classics, chop them in my digital audio workstation and add them to the final product. When we play it in a club, audiences, both native speakers and otherwise, jam to it,” he elaborates.

The quartet’s enthusiasm is contagious, and it reminds us of Mumbai’s hip-hop collectives like SlumGods and Mumbai’s Finest, that championed the genre in the mid-2000s before hip-hop became a popular genre. 

We ask Sumeet Jadhav, the artistes’ manager, where Pune’s hip-hop scene stands right now on this roadmap. “We’re at a crucial stage right now. We need more listeners, supporters, and people willing to take a bet on us. That’s the only we we can grow rapidly. I see that happening sooner than you’d imagine,” he reveals.

We notice the artistes itching to get back to writing music, and bid them adieu with one last question. While rappers from Mumbai have given us some peculiar slangs like the popular ‘bohot hard’ over the years, what catchphrases one must learn before heading to the show tonight? “The 

Marathi equivalents would be ‘vaadhiw’ or ‘vishay khol’. They are the quintessential Pune slangs you’ll hear across the city,” the group shares excitedly. With the quartet slated to make it big anytime soon, we’re adding these to our vocabulary right about now.

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