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Hard Kaur
We are waiting in the lobby of a suburban hotel for our interview with rapper Hard Kaur (isn’t that the best stage name ever?!). The place is crowded; India is playing Pakistan in the final of the T-20 series and the energetic audience is glued to every available television set in the place. There is no sign of the petite rapper and we’re wondering if we’re missing her in the crowd. A few minutes after the match ends, a fast moving blur in a blue Team India jersey storms in through the main entrance of the hotel shouting, “We won! We won! Chak de phatte!” Yes, that’s Hard Kaur, just walking into the hotel from a late video rehearsal. We needn’t have worried about missing her in a crowd; with this feisty rapper, that just isn’t possible.

Half an hour later, we’ve settled into the interview and she shows no sign of slowing down. She fills us in on what she’s been up to since we last met her in 2006. “I’ve practiced more Hindi because I want to be perfect! And today I’ve come back from the Amul Voice Of India show where I got to perform with Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy ~ I’ve done two tracks with them so far. One is Move Your Body off the Johnny Gaddar soundtrack. The director Sriram Raghavan watched me in Delhi in January in an interview and he said ‘We have to work with that girl.’ I got together with them, worked on the beat, wrote the lyrics, and you have Move Your Body on the soundtrack! I’ve also done another track for the Breakthrough project which is for the prevention of AIDS and HIV, and against domestic violence; so I am the brand ambassador for women. If you want to mess with women, come and mess with Hard Kaur!” We suggest you don’t take her up on the challenge.

Born Taran Kaur Dhillon in 1979 in North India, she lived the life of any ordinary Indian girl until 1984. In the riots that followed Indira Gandhi’s death that year, her father was tragically killed and her mother was left with the task of raising Taran and her brother by herself. In 1991, she packed her bags and moved the family to England with the hope of giving them a better life. These became Kaur’s formative years not just as a function of her age but also the new life she had to settle into. She recalls the bullying and the alienation at school, the stepfather that abused her mother until Taran lashed out at him, the work ethic that her mother instilled in her through months spent assisting in her beauty parlour ~ “I didn’t understand then why I had to wake up at 3 am to help, but I’m grateful for it now. I don’t shy away from hard work and I can shape the best eyebrows ever!” she laughs now. And then there was the music ~ she discovered hip-hop and something fell into place. When she announced to her mother that she wanted to be a rapper she got her unwavering support.

The folks in the music business, on the other hand, were not going to be easy to convince. She doesn’t shy away from admitting that even today the industry is extremely male-dominated and difficult to break into. Back-stabbing and politics are the order of the day and being a woman, she says, only makes it harder. She recalls an incident in India itself from 2006, “When I came here in 2006 ~ Glassy [the hit song she had with collective Sona Family] wasn’t out yet. I was in India with Bobby Friction and everyone was like, ‘Who’s the girl?’ A couple of people, after my first live performance here with Bobby, came and said, ‘Your hip hop isn’t going to work here okay.’ They said to me, ‘F*$% off with your bhangra. Take your hip-hop and go away.’ I went ‘What do you mean? It’s doing really well in India. Punjabi MC just won Best Dance Act at the MTV Awards. We’ve never had an Indian person win an international award! I said to them ‘If it was 50 Cent, you would have never said that!’ But because I’m an Indian woman trying to bring you something…” She pauses, looking serious and then breaks into a smile, “But whatever people say, they can’t stop us. India is going to take over and I am the rap queen when it comes to that. So anyone who was disgraceful to me or disrespectful to me the first time I came to India, look out.”

Despite the less-than-warm welcome she received from certain people in the country when she first came, she is still firm about where her loyalties lie. She says, “Whenever I come here and people call me a foreigner, I say I’m not a foreigner. I was born in India. I left here in 1991 for England. I’m a proper Indian. We have to take over the world ~ and if we can’t get the jewels back, at least get our people in the charts! India has a lot of talent to offer the world. The last time a gora said to me, ‘Go back to India,’ I said to them, ‘You know you have a keyboard that has black and white keys?’ We are in between those black and white keys’. I’m so proud to be Indian, so proud to be back. It makes me feel happy.”

You can read the rest of our feature on Hard Kaur in the November 2007 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.


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