Lyari Underground Not So Underground

  • 09 Feb - 15 Feb, 2019
  • Eman Saleem
  • Interview

In the midst of gang wars and shoot-out sprees, emerges talent, real and raw, which shatters the boundaries created by lack of opportunity and exposure. It’s no hush-hush thing, we all know Lyari to be one of the most notorious neighbourhoods, often associated with Narcos, but how do a few boys with no training, not being ‘polished’, end up on the biggest music platform of the country? Lyari Undergound was formed in anonymity, to bring forth the fact that not everybody in this town was a gangster, to tell the world through rap of the life and struggles of the Lyari youth and in the process, they put themselves on the map. In conversation with Abdul Ahad, otherwise known as ‘Anxiously’, we talked about how their art and the fact that Lyari Underground is anything but underground anymore.

Tell me about how LUG came into being? 

Some 10 years ago, I was taking language classes and my teacher encouraged me to listen to English music to enhance my language skills. In the process, I discovered rap and to my surprise, there were these American artists who were rapping about the brutal realities they had faced which seemed too close to home. Inspired by that, I started recorded using only my computer’s microphone and mixed it with this DJ software called virtual DJ. I had a virtual social circle and I shared some of my music with the boys. In was all happenstance; I met Asadullah (Danger Baloch) and Abdullah (DJ Khalifa) online and it turned out we all lived in the same area. Soon after, they got in touch with me and said they wanted me to teach them rap. 

Has your exposure on Coke changed your fandom?

Well, I believe fame brings fame, so yeah. Since Coke Studio is one of the biggest music platforms in Pakistan as we know it, it has inevitably helped in giving the band further exposure not just in Pakistan but also internationally.

How do you think you contribute to the image of Lyari?

We see rap music as a way of letting people know about our cultural reality, lifestyle, politics, you name it and the subject will exist in our raps. 

What would you say about your contributions to football considering so many of your raps revolve around the sport?

Our contribution to football in Pakistan is revolutionary; ever since we dropped the track ‘Players of Lyari’ through Patari it has become an anthem for sportsmen in the country, particularly for those who have been victimised, exploited and neglected severely in their career in football by the corrupt management of PFF.

Over the years, your rap and style has evolved. How do you practice/learn without professional training?

First of all, I want to enlighten those who want to become rappers. Start with researching about rap music from the beginning; only then will you be able to learn about the culture of rap music and that will become the teacher in the game for that artist. As it has been for us; ever since we came in this game we never needed any professional training because before writing any lyrics, we were well aware of the culture and it became our Holy Grail. We consider this culture our sole teacher in hip-hop and rap.

What would you say is THE dream?

Each person has his or her own definition of dreams. Mine is to experience different aspects of life. 

Do you think you would switch to Urdu to rap in instead of Balochi and English so that the masses can relate to your music?

In Pakistan there are a lot of people who can’t even speak their mother tongue and it’s a sad reality. Balochi is the mother tongue of most of the band members. Plus, we felt Balochi language needs to be introduced in the music scene on the national stage. As far as replacing Balochi with Urdu is considered, we don’t think it is a wise idea. English is a more prominent and most spoken language around the globe. This is why we incorporate English verses in our tracks too. We have started opting for Urdu verses but so far we haven’t gotten much acceptance for it. However, that won’t be a barricade for us. 

Do you think that presenting a better image of Lyari has made a difference?

Undoubtedly, it has! Prior to Lyari Underground days, when our people went out, they would face a lot of discrimination just because of their background. They were considered as gangsters, criminals, something along those lines. But things have changed for good post the crackdown and social media is also highlighting a better picture of this area. Now, when they talk about Lyari they relate it to footballers, boxers, rappers, musicians, cyclists, film makers and I believe we all are going good. 

Tell me the most interesting thing about Lyari.

Its historical relevance to Karachi. Lyari is the town that gave birth to Karachi, one of the largest cities in the world. Lyari is a town where people of all castes and religions reside in harmony. I would say people here are just as liberal, if not more than the rest of the city. 

Why did you choose the name Lyari Underground?

Because when we came in the game we were underground to such an extent that our close friends didn’t know that we were members of LUG. The reason behind all of this was to avoid being exploited by gangsters at that time, since there was a trend going on in the hood among gangsters. They used to force singers and rappers to make songs for their gangs. We were totally up against this fashion of making praise songs for gangs since our aim was to keep our youth away from joining them by telling them the harsh reality and bitter truth of the gangster lifestyle.

What is the next step for LUG?

Our next step is unpredictable.