Cyprus Mail

Peaceful hip hop

By Alix Norman

This week it’s all about hip hop which, according to Wikipedia, “emerged as a means of providing a reactionary outlet from urban hardship, and a form of self-expression that could reflect upon, provide an alternative to, or merely evoke the mood of the circumstances of its environment”. Appearing first in New York in the 1970s, it’s a broad conglomerate of artistic forms characterised by four distinct elements representing the different manifestations of the culture – music (oral), turntablism or “DJing” (aural), breaking (physical) and graffiti art (visual) – and a mixture of styles that follow in the footsteps of earlier American musical genres such as blues, salsa jazz, and rock and roll, as well as taking inspiration from soul music, funk, and rhythm and blues.

These days, hip hop has become one of the most practised genres of music in existence worldwide, sweeping the four corners of the globe. So it’s no surprise to find that it’s a musical lifestyle that has long been flourishing in the Greek-speaking world, the earliest indications dating back to 1987. The road has not always been easy, however, for Greek exponents of the genre hip hop seems to be a field that inspires rather more than its fair share of violence and antagonism, especially among the fans of rival groups. As American hip hop lyrics – as part of the gangsta rap genre – became more widely violent, so did international hip hop lyrics, and Greece was no exception – rapping about guns, drugs, violence and sex soon became the norm and hardcore rap swept the genre, with commercial hip hop quickly following suit.

However, not all bands have succumbed to the prevailing perception: this Tuesday will see a band with a difference – proponents of a more peaceful way of life – arrive on these shores: Active Member. From their inception in 1992, this band have been prolific in their output, quickly releasing two independent albums before working on further material in collaboration with Warner and EMI. While albums such as Megalo Kolpo, Mythoi Tou Valtou and Diamartyria brought them fame in their homeland, the band’s musical output has also allowed them to further their reputation for promoting peace and cooperation in a genre more usually characterised by violence and infighting.

And with their fame and reputation spreading well beyond their homeland, they’re heading to Cyprus this week with the promise of a “unique performance” at Savino Live. With their founder – rapper and producer BD Foxmoor – in charge, the band comprises an ever-changing line-up of hip hop stars including female rapper Sadahzinia (regarded by many as the first female rapper to enter the hip hop scene in Greece) as well as artists Xray, DJ Booker, Dimitris Kritikos and Real D – so while there’s no telling quite who might be on stage for the night, it’s sure to be artists pretty central to the Greek hip hop scene.

Presently one of the most widely recognised groups in their homeland, the band admit to keeping their distance from the worst excesses of the Greek hip hop scene, advocating a lifestyle that supports cooperation, artistic expression and the nurturing of talent. Known for fostering young talent in deprived areas, they’re a group whose ethical involvement in society promotes collaboration and self-respect within the artistic and musical communities of Greece during these financially challenging times. And this is clearly a band who have put their fame to good use, specifically aiming at increasing employment through the setting up of a number of performances and festivals, including the annual five-day Christmas Low Bap festival and the newly inaugurated Pan-European Low Bap festival.

Confused by all this talk of Low Bap? It’s a term coined by the band themselves to describe their unique music and way of life. Described as ‘to suggest your word to life and vice versa’, the name low bap refers to the slow bass rhythm and importance of the lyrics in the overall experience. Emphasising the value and weight of words in hip hop music, the term refers to bands that not only pay particular attention to their lyrics, but also advocate a certain lifestyle: in this case, a peaceful and harmonious existence based on helping the communities around them.

So, if hip hop – or even Low Bap – sounds like your sort of musical lifestyle, take yourself down to Savino Live this Tuesday evening for a concert with a conscience.

Active Member
Performing at Savino Live in Larnaca on Tuesday, April 15. Doors open at 9pm and tickets cost €10. For more information visit [email protected] or call 24 620861

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