Future is Not Female but Inclusive | Rapper Sofia Ashraf

“I use music and arts to talk about issues that matter to me.”

Sofia Ashraf calls herself ‘a content creator by profession and a rapper by digression’ as she talks about how her music is not mainstream and her identity struggles that shaped it.

“Rap, in essence, is a very angry medium.”

She says how her rap comes from a place of angst. The things that really move her are often personal issues. These issues may be linked to patriarchy or even oppression.

“I have had a very orthodox upbringing where a lot of opportunities were denied to me on account of being a girl.”

She is also influenced by issues like corporate negligence and industrial pollution, which concerns everyone else equally!

“Everyone’s angry about the state of the country today, not just the country, the world, everyone is just trying to find a channel for that anger. For me, music is one of the channels.”

She says that she does write fun stuff and claims to have done gibberish songs.

“But somehow the songs that stick, the songs that people most relate to, are the ones about issues.”

Rapping about issues such as these was not a conscious choice but something that came naturally. She says how interestingly before 2015, she was told how in mainstream media, they wouldn’t sell. But in 2015, when she released “Kodaikanal Won’t”, people actually pulled together and showed a collective voice.

“We care about things and this is us showing our opinion.”

She says how this woke mainstream media up and suddenly they too were talking about these issues. From gully rap to Dalit rap and folk musicians, suddenly these people were gaining traction! She says how ‘Kodaikanal Won’t’ didn’t just have an environmental impact but also an artistic impact. This is because people with an even lesser interest in being mainstream woke up to the fact that people care.

Talking about her own journey, she says for rap happened as a fluke. This is because she loved music and loved the attention she got when on stage.

“I just need the lights on me. So I would find any excuse when I was young to get on stage.”

However, her own upbringing was a contrast to it, they expected her to participate in college events but after that get married and be at home. “If you want the spotlight, get it now, and get it in an all-girls setting.”

So she would grab every opportunity to be on-stage. But these opportunities were dwindling as her college years were coming to an end.  “I couldn’t do sports ‘cause they were like you can’t wear shorts and go out and play because nice Muslim girls don’t do that.” Or whether it was dancing in front of people, so music was her only choice. But again, she couldn’t sing and instruments were banned. Eventually, she was put in the music team, and while all of this was happening, she came across rap.

“I got on-stage and I would write my own music. Back then I was in a hijab, so I would rap about my identity of being a Muslim, what true Islam is.”

“The idea of a woman from South India, the underdog of underdogs speaking about issues, stuck with people.”

She says how true art is when one speaks, people listen.  When art comes from some sort of truth, people relate.

“Even though I am an orthodox Muslim girl from South India singing about my issues, I will have a boy from the North walk up to me and say I so relate to what you’re saying because I am going through something similar.”

Talking about her breakthrough, she says how there was no epiphanic moment, it was just a lot of reading.  She was studying world religions and philosophy which just changed her perception, her old beliefs no longer made much sense. Choosing to move on, she says how she longed for a new setting and came to Mumbai.

“I don’t believe the future’s female.”

She feels that the future is inclusive, male, female, and gender non-binary. It’s about equity and equality. We need men as much as we need women. But she also acknowledgeshow we do live in a world of inequality.

“There is a millennium of oppression that we are fighting. Yes things are better, but it could get better.”

She says we do need to laud women who are making a difference, such that other women inspired to speak up.

“Go out there, get yourself there, grab a mike and get on stage.”


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