August 29, 2008

Hear Them Roar

By TUTAKI, Denise

Nine women prove that hip hop is more than its gangster image.


A SHOWCASE celebrating the musical skills women have achieved locally comes to dance club 55 next month. The show, Bella Qween, features the best of hip hop, as well as dabbling in soul, the spoken word and dance.

Featuring top female artists from New Zealand's hip hop scene, it is an inspiring and empowering portrayal of the talent within the industry, and has been written by former New Plymouth break dancer Amy Raumati, aka Lady Sheeq.

Nine women, all renowned for their MCing or dancing, bring their different stories to the stage in a show that has been a year in the making.

One MC for the show, Shanti, has been in the business for five years and now lends her skills to help teenagers trying to break into the music industry.

"Amy had invited me to be a part of the production and all the MCs in the show I knew of and looked up to," Shanti says.

This is the first time the Auckland- based MC has been out on tour.

"The show is filled with female- oriented messages specifically dealing with hip hop.

"One song that I have in the show is about the wife of a hip hop artist who likes to promote the image of being a single man - so that female perspective comes through."

Shanti says women love hip hop, but the gangster image doesn't always fit women.

"This show is people-oriented and rather than just being a concert, it is a full-on show with interludes, dramatic pieces and different styles of dance. People won't have seen anything like it. They have become used to seeing the 40-minute sets of our male artists when they play in clubs. This is three times the length."

Shanti runs Shine School and mentors students at Tangaroa College in Otara, helping them write music and leading them in the right direction in the industry.

"Everyone hears of hip hop typically because of all the negative gang stuff, but what we do is go in and work with students there that are rappers. We teach them everything we know about the music industry - technical skills, contacts, being in the studio and recording," she says.

"We are in a partnership with the school to make a CD that will represent all the young people's efforts from their perspective. As with women, the youth perspective misses out in hip hop."

Beats are provided free to the children by producer Ice, which the children write over.

"They are so excited to get these beats because they have no computers or computer software. It is the first time they have had an instrumental to call their own. It enourages them to become independent - they don't have to sit round and wait for a label. We have a real grassroots focus and a can- do attitude and tell them to get out there and work, and they can do it for themselves."

* Bella Qween plays at 55 on Friday, September 26, and costs $20. Hip hop workshops for beginners, advanced and children will be held at Motzstar on Saturday, September 27, from 11am-3pm, at $10 a class.


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