Houston hiplomats hit India

Hip hop hangover

Houston hiplomats hit India

It’s not merely the first letter in its name that links HaviKoro to hope. For, the American b-boy, rap, hip hop and beat boxing outfit comprising six young men from Houston, Texas, is like a beacon of hope to the most vulnerable group in any society: the youth.

And from all accounts, kids all over the world swallow HaviKoro’s message of hope even as they gape at the dancers’ contagiously cool moves. HaviKoro, the ‘Hiplomats’, zipped through India recently on a US Consulate-sponsored five-city tour, stopping to display their art and wow crowds at Chandigarh, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Kolkata.

In each city they interacted and workshopped with aspiring dancers, sharing their break and hip hop moves along with their ‘can-do’ guts. And in each city they were cheered on by street kids, college crowds, visitors at fairs and mall crawlers alike as they danced, flipped around, beat boxed, rapped, spewed poetry, bantered and uninhibitedly played the fool.

“We were brought up in hard-up, single-parent homes in bad areas of Houston where young people got sucked into drugs and were part of some gang or the other in the neighbourhood. But our passion for our art kept us away from the scene and urged us to work hard on our talent. We only hung around with our kind, trying to practice as much as we could,” says Mario Jaramillo, one of the b-boys in the outfit that today represents the unique contribution of hip hop to American culture.

The HaviKoro are the pioneers in hip hop in Houston, with a mission to be the “Salvador Dalis and Picassos of their generation”. It was this positive spirit of their art that kept the stench and squalor of their surroundings from touching their souls. And so it was that they found positive energy in the jumps, single hand stands and head spins of hip hop, alongside some energetic impromptu rapping, break dancing, heady music and beat boxing that grabbed eyeballs wherever they went.

And everywhere they went, ever since they started functioning as a group in 1999, they urged kids to make positive life choices, no matter what environment they lived in.“If we could, so can you,” they said to anyone willing to listen. And given the electrifying nature of their communication, they had large audiences wherever they performed.

“You don’t need much to change the world,” maintains Marlon Lizama, adding that their no-prop performances effectively spread the message they wish to. “We never even dress up for our shows, choosing to look the way we normally do,” he adds. Their look is all about the tattoos, dreadlocks, skull caps, bandanas, and the piercings that one associates with hip hop.

They pepper their performance with a lot of talking and joking. You get the feeling of being present at an ad lib street play as Chris (who deadpans about his last name being  ‘International’), Marlon and Mario engage in a little dramatic exchange involving some exciting dance moves in which the trio seem to be competing with one another.

But the performance is about education too, as the hip hop genre is introduced as a coming together of elements such as graffiti, DJ, rap and b-boy. There are dishy demonstrations of each, with beat boxer Steven Cantor putting in his act as well. And not before long, Steven is heard belting out a familiar tune. Sheela ki jawani... he croons to the delight of his animated audiences, doing a close imitation of the accompanying music. Chris does a fairly authentic reproduction of some hot Bollywood dance moves too, sending the crowds in raptures over them.

All the crew members of HaviKoro feel that confidence is the greatest gift of hip hop. And it is this gift they wish to bring to the youth of the world, no matter where they are from. “Hip hop is a structured, free-style movement pattern that encourages spontaneous creativity. It is generic education.

At a workshop, all we do is teach some basic moves and urge kids to take off from there, developing their own style,” explains Mario. And while HaviKoro’s performances are a lot of fun, they display robust acrobatics which cannot be accomplished without hard work even though they make their movements look very simple.

It is this aspect of discipline that they like to highlight in their workshops and training sessions. “After all, we call ourselves professional hip hoppers. It is important for us to keep our act dynamic.”

The HaviKoro also feel that cultures as rich as India’s should influence a hip hopper working in this country. “It is easy for a dancer to mimic the moves of another dancer,” points out Marlon. But since clones cannot take an art forward, it is important to innovate, improvise and imbibe influences.

Committed to expanding the horizons of the international hip hop community, the dazzling ‘Hiplomats’ sure networked with some of India’s own swingers and shakers, getting them to perform along with themselves. It may not be long before some of these outfits take to the streets of India with their own brand of hip hop and rap. They sure would have the HaviKoro experience to thank.

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