On the occasion of Children’s Day, the Social Nation team decided to celebrate this special day with the super talented kids and mentors from The Dharavi Dream Project (TDDP). A hip-hop movement started in 2014 running for the last 6 years in the bylanes of Dharavi – TDPP is Asia’s largest Ghetto to discover, nurture, mentor, and showcase emerging Hip-Hop talent from Dharavi and across the world.
Where music is a healer and hip hop is a movement, the idea is for under-resourced kids in Dharavi to have free and easy access to the “After School of Hip-Hop”. The values derived from this art form empower them to share their thoughts and express themselves freely through music, dance, and graphics. With TDDP’s initial success at Dharavi, they now plan to take on this movement globally.
The TDDP Timeline
In December 2013, the idea of the project was sown by Samir Bangara and Dolly Rateshwar along with two of Mumbai’s Hip-Hop crews. In January 2015, Universal Music Group came on board as one of the CSR partners, and the Dharavi Project was officially launched with A R Rahman, Shekhar Kapur, Max Hole, Devraj Sanyal, and Samir Bangara. AfterSchoolofHipHop was initiated in April 2016 with 3 classes under it. Six months ago, in June 2023, TDDP inaugurated its first high-quality recording studio, TDDP Studios dedicated to giving a voice to underprivileged Hip-Hop Talents.
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Today, the TDDP’s family has grown and developed with 150+ students nurtured by 8 instructors in 5 fields. We spoke to the beatboxing mentor DCypher, breaking mentor Bboy Kancha, break dancing mentor Bboy Vikram, and content writer Aarti Konar from The Dharavi Dream Project. Read on!
DCypher, what was your motivation to join this project?
My main aim here is to educate as many kids as possible with the art called beatboxing and to train the existing ones to be better.
How does it feel to mentor such young and talented minds?
The happiness I get out of seeing somebody learn some sound or beat for the first time is really special.
How many students are there in your classes and what are your timings like?
DCypher: We have these sessions two days a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 7 to 8 PM. Usually, the student count ranges from 10-15 people.
Bboy Vikram: Currently, I have three classes in a week – Friday, Saturday evening 7 to 8:30 PM and Sunday afternoon 12 to 1:30 PM.
Do you have any favourite students? Who would that be?
DCypher: Haha, it would be really unfair to just pick 1 but if I had to, there’s this one kid Chandan, jo Vashi se aata hai Dharavi. I’m taking his name because he did not know beatboxing at all and since April he learned quite a lot of sounds very quickly.
Bboy Vikram: Bboy Mayur has been with me for the last three years. I have been teaching him since he was 6, he is 10 years old now. Kaafi maza aa raha hai uska journey dekh ke.
What do you think about the TDDP project/initiative?
DCypher: I think it’s a wonderful project kyun ki hip hop ki koi school nai hai India mein per se. Given that it is in tie-up with Universal Music, there are a lot of artists that keep coming here like Badshah, Rajakumari, Baba Sehgal, and many more. The speakers you see here are gifted by some of them. Ye studio bhi abhi khul chuka hai toh inn log ke liye kaafi achi opportunity hai. Now with social media, you can put up videos and this school helps the students create content free of cost which is great. May many more branches of this school open up all over India.
Bboy Kancha: This is a very fresh initiative. India mein hip hop school ka concept hi nahi tha jahan pe saare elements ek saath sikhaye jaaye. Those who did breaking, only looked into that, those who supported rap, only did that but here, everything is being taught with proper guidance. The mentors we have here are one of the best from their respective area of expertise so it’s a great opportunity for the kids to come here and learn.
Bboy Kancha, when we spoke to all the kids and asked them who their favourite mentor was, they all took your name. Why do you think that is?
Main shayad bache log ke saath bacha hi bann ke rehta hoon isi liye. To teach a kid, I feel I can only do that by being a kid rather than teacher banke strict hoke sikhana. It’s just that they enjoy in my class, probably why they called me their favourite.
Do you now see this art form as a career or is it still perceived as a hobby?
Bboy Kancha: As a teacher, main career option ki tarah hi dekhta hoon. Ab Olympics 2024 mein break dancing bhi add on hua hai. I wish that my kids go ahead and represent India in the Olympics. Initially, we could represent our country on a global stage only through international competitions but now the Olympics is here so that will be the best platform.
Bboy Vikram: It used to be a hobby/passion but now we have a whole school. Pehle hum road pe naachte the ab hum school mein nachte hain. Earlier, we were 10-12 of us who did Bboy-ing now there are 50-60 kids doing it. In some years they will win battles in Mumbai and go perform outside Mumbai and the country which means this won’t be the only school, many more such school will also open up.
Do you think that has had a positive impact on your mental health?
Bboy Kancha: Yes, it has. Mere paas pehle mera koi identity nai tha, Bboy-ing gave me that identity. Main pehle bohot introverted tha but Bboy-ing se main open up hua. Ab logon se baat kar sakta hoon. It has made me strong in life. When I’m trying to learn new moves, I keep practicing them till I nail it so I have brought the same mindset to life. Whenever I want something in life or face any struggles, I believe that I will conquer them and I feel this mindset is ideal for the kids as well.
Bboy Vikram, what is the impact of the Dharavi Dream Project’s Hip Hop school?
It’s had a huge impact. Earlier, no one knew what hip hop is, aaj apne paas pura school hai. Society main bhi bohot change aaya hai, Pehle hum Dharavi logon se koi baat karne nahi aata tha, ab hip hop ke vajah se log humare paas aate hai. When I started break dancing, people in my society would disallow it. They would worry what if I break my hands or legs, and how will I earn and help run the house. Aaj main ussi se kama raha hoon, ab society se nikalta hoon toh log bolte hai ki bhai humate bhi bache log ko le jao naa saath mein, kuch karva.
Aarti, can you tell us how does this school benefit the students?
We create an impact on every talent that gets enrolled in the school. The age is free flowing like anyone from 8-10 years old can join us and learn whatever they want. Recently, we have also launched music production and Bollywood dance classes. The school teaches the kids empathy and how to collaborate with one another. We don’t fixate on teaching just one skill, it is an amalgamation of rapping, beatboxing, breaking, and more. One needs the other. All of this creates an impact on the talent to enable them to perform at a gig or event.
Can you name some ex-students of yours who are doing really well now?
MC Josh is one of them. He used to be really shy initially and wouldn’t always show up for classes. He was with TDDP since he was 14-15 years old. Seeing his journey makes me really happy. MC Josh worked with the core team, he was also a part of the on-ground team and helped bring in various collaborations.
Anpther example is Saniya MQ. She is an amazing rapper. In our vicinity, there are no girls who perform rap so after observing our talents at an event, she got the courage to do this and contacted us. Today, she has been creating a great impact by performing at various stages.
This interview more than sums up what the Dharavi Dream Project and the After Hours Hip Hop School are all about. We were stunned and proud to know the extent to which the hip-hop movement has grown and the abundant talent we have. Kids as young as 6 years old are learning beatboxing and break dancing which goes to show the impact of this culture.