DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Recent clashes in Kashmir between troops and students have wounded more than 100 people. The Himalayan border state between India and Pakistan is predominantly Muslim and has been in revolt against India's administration, and now those tensions are turning up in protest songs. NPR's Julie McCarthy met some young rap artists in Kashmir.
JULIE MCCARTHY, BYLINE: In a valley bristling with Indian security forces, a new generation vents its anger with songs like "Dead Eye."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DEAD EYE")
AAMIR AME: (Rapping) Dead eyes, brother, but my heart is alive like...
MCCARTHY: Rapper Aamir Ame recounts the eye injuries that thousands of Kashmiri suffered when security patrols fired pellet guns during demonstrations the past year. The song went viral. Roushan Illahi - stage name MC Kash - says that kind of raw material defines this music. The 27-year-old ushered rap into the valley with this song.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I PROTEST")
MC KASH: (Rapping) I protest against the things you’ve done. I protest for a mother who lost her son. I protest. I will throw stones and never run. I protest...
MCCARTHY: "I Protest" was released online in 2010 at the height of a major Indian army crackdown, when scores of civilians were killed in clashes with soldiers. The song became an anthem of dissent.
ROUSHAN ILLAHI: When I came out in 2010, I was really blunt. I was really direct. That anger stems from this hopelessness that nothing is going to change and nothing's going to happen to Kashmir, or that people are still going to get killed.
MCCARTHY: Many of the valley's hip-hop artists were born in the 1990s, when Amnesty International says there were grave human rights abuses committed by security forces and armed opposition groups. I asked 24-year-old musician Ali Saifudin how the violence influenced him.
Do you use your music as a political expression?
ALI SAIFUDIN: I will not go far to call it political expression. It's just a natural sentiment, the sentiments on the streets. I see news of young men being shot, I feel anger inside me.
MCCARTHY: A guitarist, Saifudin collaborates with rapper Mu'Azzam Bhat.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE TIME IS NOW")
MU'AZZAM BHAT: (Rapping) The time has come to set off the bombs, so pick up your guns, beat the drum. Whatever holds you back, knock it and command it. Music is the way. Sing and strum. Sing and strum (ph).
MCCARTHY: Their music reflects the alienation from the Indian state that many young Kashmiris feel, and they find inspiration in the everyday. Several weeks back, Bhat says they were puzzling over the lyrics to this song when they were stopped by police.
BHAT: So they just ordered us out of the car, they started frisking us and for no reason. So that's when these lyrics came, that these men in uniform are as cold as they come and they will fill your mind with fear, psych you out and hit you up. It's actually a real event that happened to us. And that's what's getting reflected in our music.
MCCARTHY: The audience for much of this music is online. Musicians say venues in Kashmir are controlled by the state, and that disqualifies most rappers from performing in public. Bhat's rap, "The Time Is Now," talks of setting off bombs.
BHAT: And it goes without saying that I'm not talking little bombs here. What I'm saying is that if you have a pen then you can write lines that are equivalent to bombs.
MCCARTHY: Veteran rapper MC Kash says he no longer directly talks against the military establishment. His dissent is now subtler to avoid arrest, he says. He's teamed up with a rock musician to capture the mysticism of Sufi Islam. But the subtext of the Kashmiri conflict is clear.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LIKE A SUFI")
MC KASH: (Rapping) And I feel swirl in my thoughts like a Sufi (ph).
MCCARTHY: Break free of the chains, go the lyrics, twirling freedom like a Sufi. Julie McCarthy, NPR News, Kashmir.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LIKE A SUFI")
MC KASH: (Rapping) Break free of the chains, twirling freedom like a Sufi.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.