Rap Your Dissent: Meet Kashmir’s First Rapper Haze Kay
Zubair Magray (Photo: Facebook/HazeKayKashmir)
Zubair Magray (Photo: Facebook/HazeKayKashmir)

Rap Your Dissent: Meet Kashmir’s First Rapper Haze Kay

Since its inception in America of the 1970s, political rap as an urban genre of dissent has an undeniably powerful voice. And Kashmir’s first ever rapper, Haze Kay, (real name Zubair Magray), who uses music to tell the story of growing up in a strife-torn state, testifies:

I believe it’s powerful enough to bring a feeling of insecurity within the spines of people who do wrong, and get away with it. Not just political rap, but socially conscious rap too, because if you know something went wrong and you are talking about it, then it’s definitely a threat to all those who did not want it to surface.
– Zubair Magray (aka Haze Kay)

Zubair Magray (Photo: Facebook/HazeKayKashmir)
Zubair Magray (Photo: Facebook/HazeKayKashmir)

Justice to the girls who were so innocent
Justice so our sisters can be roaming free
Justice to Aasiya and Neelofar
Justice to the girl from Delhi.
– Lines from a song by Zubair Magray

And here’s why the 24-year-old rapper feels the voice of the local citizen needs to be heard,

I think nowadays news channels have become more like daily soaps, reporting less of what actually happened and speaking more about the sponsors that are funding them. Most of the things that actually happen in Kashmir never even qualify to get displayed on a national news channel, what you see in news is more of what they want you to see.
– Zubair Magray (aka Haze Kay)

Zubair Magray (Photo: Facebook/HazeKayKashmir)
Zubair Magray (Photo: Facebook/HazeKayKashmir)

While most kids growing up in school play in mud and run around till they’re dizzy, Zubair’s story is a little different. “When I started rapping, it was mostly confined to our school corridors or the playground. The thing about rapping was that most of my friends used to come up to me in my class and check my notes, my lyrics, and they liked hearing me rap.”

These few friends made me realize that with the help of my songs, I could easily grab their attention for a few minutes and tell them anything in the form of my lyrics . That’s when I decided of taking music seriously and using it as a voice of the common people. This way I could reach the masses and spread my messages across the globe. I was not limited to a news magazine or an article, I had the internet.
– Zubair Magray (aka Haze Kay)

But, this journey has not always been as easy as rapping for classmates on a school bench. Taking on controversial subjects like AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1990) that grants troops special immunity, Zubair has faced his share of threats.

Zubair Magray (Photo: Facebook/HazeKayKashmir)
Zubair Magray (Photo: Facebook/HazeKayKashmir)

He shares his views about various attempts made to stifle his voice of dissent, “I always took criticism positively, because being criticized or talked about only meant that the message was spreading, it was getting heard. The problem was when criticism would come from your own people, because that would leave you in a state of confusion as to whose side are you on and who are you against.”

It took some time for everyone to understand the motive behind what I was doing, and soon I started getting the support that I always longed for. What I do is only me speaking my opinion , trying to tell you a story that you might have not heard about, a story which actually exists or which actually happened.
Zubair Magray (aka Haze Kay)

Fake encounters, enforced disappearances and civilian deaths as collateral damage are stories of the reality Zubair has grown up in, and his voice echoes the local lives of the people. But, as he learned the hard way, telling that story isn’t an easy fight. One of his early songs uploaded online, Azaadi, was taken down by the police for its lyrics. Still, the struggle continues as political rap artists like MC Kash, MC Youngblood, The Revolutionary strengthen the voice of open dialogue.

Zubair Magray (Photo: Facebook/HazeKayKashmir)
Zubair Magray (Photo: Facebook/HazeKayKashmir)

Graphic novelists such as Malik Sajad and other writers, cartoonists, poets and artists culminate in the politically-inclined artistic expression of local Kashmiris. Since the 1989 separatist violence, the movement for independence and a separate state has shifted from an armed one, to a more peaceful form of protest. On this, Zubair says,

Violence is not a solution to any problem. We need to make the whole world aware about the situation first, after that we need to give the people the right to decide what they want to do. The people need to be prepared for that, that’s what everyone has realized and that’s what they are moving towards. Too many lives have been lost and the same gets repeated every year, this can’t be a solution.
– Zubair Magray (aka Haze Kay)

With inspiration from artists such as Immortal Technique, Lowkey, Public enemy, and Mr Chuck D, Zubair who currently lives between Pune and Srinagar, broadened his horizons from rapping about the Kashmir conflict to talking about a national issue. “I hate crimes against women and hate it when women are blamed for the crimes against them.” His song about rapes in Delhi aims to criticize victim-blaming ideologies,

I have heard this a million times. The girl was raped cause she was at fault, she asked for it, her body language, her clothes - all gave us signs that she wanted it. This, and a lot other cases drove me to a point where this was really hard to ignore.
– Zubair Magray (aka Haze Kay)

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