For those who don’t speak Hindi, allow rapper Hard Kaur to give you a crash course that you are not likely to forget. She is better known as India’s first female rapper and has been spitting rhymes for over 2 decades now. Her latest single is a fierce, female empowerment anthem called ‘Sherni’. Here’s where the Hindi lesson comes in – it means “lioness”.
If you thought Katy Perry’s ‘Roar’ was your jam, prepare to take things up a notch with this track! Although it was released in July this year, she told the Hindustantimes.com that it is a song that was in the works since 2012, after hearing about the horrific gang rape of a young woman in Delhi in December, as documented in the ground-breaking film ‘India’s Daughter’.
“The idea actually came after that incident and I had written the first verse of the song after that. But I didn’t want to release this song just after the incident. I didn’t want it to look like I am selling myself or the song. So, I decided to not do anything about it then and kept on working on all these years,” she said.
But none of the big music labels in India would go near it, forcing Hard Kaur, aka Taran Kaur Dhillon, to release it herself. When we read this aspect of her story, we’re not surprised, especially given that the Indian government have placed a ban on the ‘India’s Daughter’ documentary being screened, as if they are frightened of the ugly truths of gender violence being spread far and wide in a democracy.
Thankfully, because Hard Kaur is a Sherni herself, there will be nothing stopping this badass from getting her message out to the world. In an interview with Vineeta Kumar from Catchnews.com, she said ‘Sherni’ is about all of us and how we need to be one to survive.
“I can’t believe that it’s still 2016 because women are still dealing with inequality — getting paid less for doing the same job etc. It just struck me that I’ve had enough of all this. I now want all girls to become sherni. Let’s just stop accepting that we are less than anyone else,” she explains about the motivation behind this song.
In the wake of being rejected from major labels who refused to release the song (what’s the worst that could happen? Women and girls get super empowered?? Oh my…) Hard Kaur formed her own independent label called Future Records and ‘Sherni’ became its first release.
And like many female rappers around the world who have crafted their identity and image as an antithesis to the well-worn misogyny and objectification found in many male rappers’ music videos and lyrics, Hard Kaur is claiming her place in this rebellion with ‘Sherni’.
“I think Sherni is an answer to a lot of things. Sherni is like a revolution. Now things will have to change. There are a lot of good rappers but yes, this (Sherni) is definitely like a middle finger to the fake a*****s,” she said.
For many who are familiar with Hard Kaur and her journey, they have waited a while for her to release this track. She took a break for 3 years and decided to enjoy life for a bit, taking time away from what she describes as “the fake things going on (in the industry)“. After struggling with a drinking problem then getting back on track creating music, she felt she was ready to make this next phase focused on hip hop that educates.
In an interview with The National, she went further to explain that most of her career she was known for creating popular dance tracks which is what the major labels expected. But the push to return to music after a break (which partly came from her mother’s urging) became the catalyst in changing focus toward meaningful lyrics and messages.
“If it ain’t a party track, [the labels] don’t really be interested in me. I’ve been waiting years for people in India to be ready for real hip-hop. I’ve been sugar coating it and spoon-feeding it to them. This is the first track on my label, first track the way I want it, first track about female empowerment, first track to represent real hip-hop. It’s the most important track of my life,” she said.
The British-Indian rapper has an advantage in perspective in that she straddles two completely different societies when it comes to gender equality. While the UK definitely has not reached the pinnacle of gender equality, it is certainly not as conservative as India. This seems to have strengthened Hard Kaur’s opinions on the need for women’s empowerment and feminism.
She certainly doesn’t shy away from associating herself with feminism, and eagerly shares her definition:
“Don’t take anyone’s s**t. You are as important as anybody else in the world. Don’t think you should have limits — like ‘Oh I am a girl, I can’t do this’ or ‘I am Indian, I shouldn’t be behaving like this’. You are a human being like everybody else and life is too short to worry about these things,” she said.
While having a powerful voice, a platform, and not being afraid to use it is something she is known for, Hard Kaur wants to see other women step into their power, especially other female artists, so that there is a collective empowerment going on.
“I have already stood up for a lot of people on a lot of issues. But, how much of me standing up for other people is going to make a change unless they themselves start standing up for themselves? I am not going to sit and fight for everybody…I can’t help all. We all need to be a part of this change,” she states.
Indeed we do, and if it takes a ‘Sherni’ like Hard Kaur to bring out the lioness in all of us, then we will happily give her credit where credit is due! Watch the full music video below: