Indie rapper Feyago on his latest self-funded album, Woke
Feyago asks if we can hear him on the phone, over the booming bells of a monastery, located right next to his home, somewhere deep in the hills. A well-established trailblazer in the underground hip-hop scene, the rapper and music producer was born in Kolkata, raised in Darjeeling, and trained in England. He has now retreated to a remote hamlet in North India, to explore his connect with ‘folk rap’, an umbrella term he coined, to classify the diverse sounds and rhythms that he was coming across in many small towns of the country. “I have explored this in Bhutan, Manipur, and Bengal, and now I’m studying it in Nepal and Darjeeling. From the Bauls in Shantiniketan to pan-Asian folk instrumentation, like the taiko drums from Japan, and the sarangi from Nepal. We travel to these places and pick up the instruments used in that area, and take really old native folk songs that have a connect with the people. We blend in modern beats, and newer influences, and re-package it in a way that would appeal to the young crowd,” the rapper explains.
Feya go is one of the most relevant names in Indian rap; he won the Best Hip Hop Artist trophy at the VH1 Soundnation Awards in 2014, and has stormed festival stages such as of the Ziro Festival and NH7 Weekender. Now, the rapper has come up with a fullfledged eight track debut album, titled Woke, which was entirely self-financed. As empowering as it is to selffund a project, financing one’s own music comes with its set of challenges. Feyago explains that he has been saving up over the years, so he can produce something he truly believes in. “I’ve been touring for six years, I’ve performed at all kinds of festivals, and I’ve been saving up. You know, self-financing is hard, but I did not want to be tied down with a label, as it always comes with its own conditions. Also, original English music is a niche, especially if it’s folk; people don’t exactly listen to folk music in pubs. It took me years to bring myself here. I would hitchhike, travel by trains and buses, and do shows everywhere... Now that things are better, I want to put the money back in the business. Look at how well the Korean and Japan are doing, in terms of independent music. I want the same for the sounds of this country, and I want to use the best cinematography, great cameras and good choreography,” says Feyago, who conceptualises and edits all his videos by himself.
A number of tracks from Woke are already out on YouTube, and have received an incredible response. His number Browntown, for one, actually takes a hit at the fairness cream industry! Feyago tells us that as of now, he is soaking up the atmosphere, far from the demands of overpowering urbanity. The rapper plans to make use of instruments and rhythms used by the monks residing near his hilly home. Feyago is aware of the tricky space in which Indian rap rests at the moment, and he stands resolute about carving his own path of resonance.
“Right now, rap is polarised — it’s completely club or it’s gully, and the latter is booming right now. But being from Bengal and growing up in a boarding school in North East, it has been tough for me to relate to either of the two genres. I wanted to focus on Bengali culture. Even before Tagore, we have had such literary treasures... I wanted to make rap that acknowledges its influence,” remarks Feyago.
The album is available on Feyago’s channel on YouTube