Hip hop in India

Hip hop has become the go-to style for many kids around the globe.  It represents a lot to those who listen to the music and adopt the lifestyle.  A lot of people understand that hip hop is a culture, a way of life.  There are four main parts– MC, DJ, graffiti, and break dancing.  In India, I saw a lot in the way of dancing, and break dancing, or hip hop dancing was definitely the mode by which hip hop culture has assimilated into the lives of youth there.  Not to mention the attitude and style that goes with it.

I happened upon this group one day as I was walking back from my art class on a Sunday afternoon.  It was busy in the park.  People were exercising, chatting, playing.  It was super hot, too.  I could hear the faint music trickling out on to the sidewalk, and decided to stop and take a look.  At first I watched from afar, not wanting to interrupt their flow or seem like a crazy tourist.  But they invited me to sit down and watch.  I sat next to a couple of kids who spoke some English and we talked about hip hop, and dance.  One of the guys said that the group who was dancing were taking classes and come here almost weekly to hang out and practice.  And that’s what they were doing.   There wasn’t even a lot of talking happening, just dancing.  It flowed as the music changed as they were just trying a variety of movements out.

I talked to the guys some more and asked them if I could take some pictures and video.  They seemed ok with that, so I did.  After they finished a long session of dancing, I just thanked them for letting me watch and chatting with them.  They were super excited.

Dancing has a long tradition in Tamil Nadu.  Mostly known for a particular South Indian style that merges with storytelling and pantomiming.  Hip hop is a freedom of movement for them, a chance to experiment with their own style.  Because if there’s one thing that hip hop culture allows, it’s: personal style.

I tried going back to see if I could catch them practicing again, but I never saw them again.  I wish I had, because they were so fun to watch.  But, it was getting super hot throughout March, and I never ran into them again.  Here are a few videos that showcase the guys just hanging out, practicing, and trying their best to move to the music.


Spontaneous Performance

When I visited this school, I had no idea that these students were so apt to show their talents.  The students were so eager to show off their dance moves and singing.  We had a whole evening of pre-dinner performances. Many of the students improvised and made up percussion with the objects around them.  These two kids were really quite amazing.  It just goes to show you, that no matter what your background is, your circumstances, art transforms the space.  On first glance many of us may look at the state of the classroom and think nothing can be accomplished in a grey, uninspired room.  Sometimes it just takes a single action to transform the space.  The students who shared their talents that evening made the environment warm, joyful, exciting, and playful.

Yep, more Kerala

It was definitely a nice retreat to stay in Kerala for a few days.  It was extremely cool, quiet, and fresh.  We had great meals everyday, and had a very leisurely time.  We played games, ate food, walked around and basically felt like we were taken care of.  The quietness can be shocking after being in the city for a time.  I was used to the city traffic and constant hum.  However, once you refocus your senses to listen to the natural settings of the babbling brook, the bird calls, the monkey knocking at your door (really, they did), you then begin to feel like yourself again.

This dancer was one of the employees of the hotel.  She performed twice while we were there.  Her expression and movement we amazingly controlled.
South Indian dance tells traditional stories.  All of the performers I saw when I was in India had studied this particular kind of dance as children.
The monkey knocking on the door.  You  MUST lock your door at all times, or they will come in.
Just waiting.


We took an evening walk through the old tea farms.  Such a peaceful place and nice vantage points.


Before we leave, one last photo.


Don’t know the name of this game, but we played it.  Made our own rules too.
Daily treats and tea time.  Yum!

Healing through the arts

In February I had a chance to visit Nandhivaram, Panchayat Union Primary School, Kancheepuram.  NalandaWay organized volunteer educators, therapists and social workers to go to this school to provide a regular therapeutic program using movement and visual arts.  This school is in rural Tamil Nadu, about 2 hours south west of Chennai.  This area was heavily effected by the monsoon floods from December 2015.  Students used multiple forms of art for expression; including storytelling, dance/movement, song, and visual arts. It was one of the best experiences of my life.  Although these kids had witnessed a lot of tragedy and hardship the school was clearly a respected structure within the community and students could feel safe enough to enjoy being children once again.  The pictures below share what the children were involved in on the day I observed.  I found the kids to be friendly, fun, happy, and introspective.  These kids loved the arts workshop and it was written all over their faces.

Almost like a game of head, shoulders, knees and toes.
A group of primary students waiting to get started.
After movement, students go to visual arts where they can draw in response to their movement activities.
A smiley group.  All of these students wanted to take lots and lots of pictures.
Upper primary school kids getting to work in art class.
Taking a moment for the camera.
The combination of movement and art are a great combination for these kids.  All of them seemed to enjoy the whole experience and really value the time they had in the art classes.
A walk around the school building.
Primary group and movement.
A upper elementary student sharing her work with me.  During the movement activity, the therapists told a story about animals and how they helped each other cross the river on the backs of turtles.


Looking at the building you can see how far the water may have come up on the side.


At the end of the upper elementary art class students made small bracelets and exchanged them with someone else.
The room got quiet as they exchanged bracelets with other, students really showed how much they cared for each other with this small sentiment.




Sorry! Festival is on!

This Saturday I was fortunate enough to know that a festival was happening in one of the oldest parts of Chennai.  We made our way down to the area at sundown to the Kapaleeswarar Temple. It’s located in the Mylapore section of India. Mylapore is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city.  There are a lot of temples and a church in the area. So it makes for good history lesson (for another post).

The reason we came to Mylapore this evening was to explore and see what was going on.  Part of the exploration turned out to be a pretty long tuktuk ride.  This festival appeared to be the celebration of the arts with different demonstrations happening throughout the day. We walked in on a traditional dance performance.

It was a great Saturday night and can’t wait to spend more time at festivals.  Everyone seemed to be in a good mood, people would stop and say hello to practice their English, and also share a smile as we passed through the area.

Here are a few highlights from the night:

hashtag – sorry not sorry?
This girl loved watching the dancers.


He sells fun.
Before the show.
The explanation before the dancers appear.
Of course– a tuktuk
…and we have night time tutuks, even this guy’s light works.
Because billboards catch my attention regularly.
This gem in the middle of everything.
The dancing begins.