India: hip-hop, source of inspiration in the slums

13 février 2013
03m 26s
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Summary :

In Bombay, in the heart of one of the largest slums of Asia, against the backdrop for "Slumdog millionaire", the younger generation turns to American and hip hop breakdancing to escape their harsh reality. We follow Pankaj Shivpur, breakdancer, Akku, founder of the dance group SlumGods, and Ashish Kanoujiya, professional breakdancer and a dance contest judge.

Media type :
Broadcast date :
13 février 2013
Source :
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The gods of the Indian slums

From Ramallah to Bombay and Dakar, hip hop continues to gain ground geographically. It is popular among all the young people living in slums, ghettos, and areas on the outskirts. This dance, born in the mid-70s in the Bronx, has crossed all borders. It offers free access to a culture where an official one is lacking, to those with little or no money, and who have the misfortune of not being born in the right place. Here in Bombay, youths have founded a group to better cope with their shabby daily circumstances, where they are often doomed to a life of brawls, alcohol and drugs. They have christened themselves the "gods of the slums». One of them, Akku, a student, may not actually end up doing his profession, but he knows that practising several times a week with 40 other youths in the team (Mumbai, New Delhi and Bangalore) is a challenge that he cannot lose.

Social revenge? Certainly but not only. The location they have chosen to perfect their style is somewhat emblematic: the ruins of an old fort which overlooks the whole town. They need to reclaim the space, assume their place. From his small room in the slums where he rehearses daily, Akku reaches for the heights. It has another point of view. Like his B.Boy friends (B stands for break), he already teaches younger people who watch and have ago at some of the dance figures. "These boys, as one of the founders says work very hard and you can see how much they train so they can improve. Some will say that they come from the slums, but for us, dancers, it doesn't really matter.»

What will they win? A small stamp here or there, a certain recognition, perhaps a small role in a Bollywood film. That's not what's important. What's important is dancing together, getting off the unsafe streets of their neighborhood, and make a naming for themselves, not by copying the American pioneers, but doing it in their own reality. Starting out dancing at home on his domino, black and white tiling, Akku now dances from the top of the city.

Marie-Christine Vernay


This Indian student dances whenever he can. He is a real fan of hip-hop, he is what we call a Bboy,a nickname given to breakdancers. But when you live in the most populous slums of Bombay, you don’t always have enough space to fully experience your passion.
Unknown 1
My house is very small, I don’t have a lot of space to practise so I come here. My friends do the same, so we can dance together.
The Bboys meet up several times a week at the top of a hill overlooking the city. The ruins of this old English fort have been transformed into a dance floor where everyone can show what they can do. The goal of these young people is to prove that life in the slums is more than poverty and the desire to escape.
Unknown 2
Before starting to learn to breakdance, some of the boys drank, got into fights, and stole. But now, they dedicate their body & soul to dance.
The group, called SlumGods consists of 40 young people from poor neighbourhoods in Bombay, New Delhi and Bangalore. More than just a hobby for many of them, this passion is also the opportunity to participate in contests, earn a little money and enjoy a few moments of fame; or even to get a part in a Bollywood film.
Unknown 3
These boys work very hard, and you can see how often they train so they can improve. Some will say that they come from the slums, but for us, dancers, it doesn't really matter.
The Indian slums are thousands of kilometres from the ghettos of the Bronx where breakdance first appeared in the 1970s. But the approach used is the same for these young Indians as it was for their American predecessors: dancing allows them to forget the difficulties of their everyday lives, at least for a while .