Tamil Step in Hauz Khas Village
It would be almost criminal to begin a post on Wazulu The Ill Dravidian without mentioning how extra dope his name is. It brings together the conventions of golden age hip-hop with an unexpected southy twist, and yet manages to sound as if it would have fit right in as part of a mid ‘80s New York crew.
But, of course, here at Border Movement, we’re more interested in sounds than words. Specifically, we’re interested in the sounds of cultural transmission, and this is something that Wazulu brings in spades. In fact, just trying to summarize them has left this blogger staring a blinking cursor for the past fifteen minutes. Wazulu’s tracks draw so many diverse strands into a coherent sound that picking each apart is not only highly reductive, but also challenging. The Ill Dravidian seems to recognize the futility of conforming to traditional genres, tagging his tracks with amusing but ultimately unhelpful genres such as “Tamil Step”, “Dravidian Dance Hall”, and “Hipstep Zulu”.
If we are to take a stab at describing the music, our first frame of reference would probably be the guiding lights of the instrumental hip-hop wave of the nineties: DJs Shadow, Krush, and Wally, with healthy doses of Cut Chemist and Dan the Automator. At times, he drifts into Madlib’s Beat Konducta territory, but pulls of the material with a bit more flare – and a bit more electronic sheen – than the maestro himself.
Familiar old school drum breaks share a sonic palette with golden age bollywood samples, Tamil film vocals, original Hindi vocals, dubstep reminiscent wobble bass, and desi folk rhythms that sound raw enough that Wazulu may just have headed to the village with a field recorder. This is hip-hop, for sure. But it’s hip-hop that doesn’t feel the need to bother about whether your casual listener would recognize it as such or not.
Later this month, Wazulu The Ill Dravidian will be paring up with another Border Movement favorite, DJ HeRa, to perform at TLR. HeRa, Slum Gods impresario, Indian B-Boy evangelist, and New York-Bombay-Delhi internationalist, seems a perfect fit for Wazulu’s ecumenical approach to beatmaking. We’re looking forward to the collaboration.
Wazulu’s new album, Passage to India, is available for streaming and purchase here
He will be performing with DJ HeRa (and, if experience holds, assorted posse members) at The Living Room, Hauz Khas Village, Delhi on Friday, August 24th.
written by Kerry Harwin/ New Delhi