The four pillars of hip-hop — a culture and art movement that originated in the 1970s in a borough of New York City — are rapping, DJing, break dancing and graffiti art. The fifth element among many others is street fashion and style, which two youngsters from India are hoping to revolutionise.
Meet Bhargav Sidagam from Chennai and Jayanta Samaddar who hails from Kolkata, the co-founders of a break dancing troupe called Break Guruz and a brand of street style clothing known as Kollab. The duo has worked tirelessly over the past decade to popularise these varied elements of hip-hop in India. “Break dancing is pretty new here and only handful of dancers of this style could be found about a decade ago. I happened to come across a bboying video in 2008 or so and I was hooked,” begins Bhargav about his love affair for hip-hop.
The birth of Break Guruz
He wanted to connect with people from the country who shared his quest to learn more and came across Jayanta through Orkut. “We began collaborating our ideas about dancing and once we had a solid understanding, we began Break Guruz in 2009,” he says. Given that they are from different cities, Jayanta, whose bboying title is Hotshot and Bhargav aka Bravo, were teaching a few dancers in Chennai and Kolkata respectively, and eventually made their students a part of the crew.
Says Bhargav, “We currently have nine members between the age group of 18 and 28 from across the country. Before any event or competition, we meet up a few days and practice our moves before performing.” While some of the members have full-time careers in other fields and pursue dancing alongside because of their passion for it, many of them are professional break dancing teachers.
One symbol to represent them all
The idea to launch their clothing line originated due to two reasons. Bravo shares his side of the story, “Launching Kollab, a street style clothing brand, was actually Jay’s idea. I expressed interest in it because I wanted to contribute something to the art industry from which I’ve taken all these years,” he says. His involvement eventually grew and both of them became partners in the business.
Going back in time to when hip-hop first began, the socio-political scene wasn’t culturally homogenised like it is today. The Black and Latin communities were segregated so rapping and dancing became means for them to tell their story of suppression. In Jayanta’s case, “I’m from a small town 50 km outside Kolkata. I grew up with big dreams and wanted to speak my voice in a lyrical way with movement and expression; I always had poetic thoughts and artistic ambitions. So hip-hop and break dancing resonated with me and fuelled this fire,” says the youngster.
Since hip-hop artistes worldwide play a huge role in the street style fashion industry, he thought of creating a similar brand in India that would unite rappers and dancers; thus was born Kollab a couple of years ago. “Our logo designed by Bravo is splashed across every product we sell because we would like it to become a symbol for artistes that they can wear like a shield on their chest,” explains Hotshot. The clothes are based on ‘90s hip-hop fashion, which one can see in rap videos. He adds, “Oversized clothing with a rugged look is our forte; we sell T-shirts, sweatshirts and joggers predominantly, to caters to the hip-hop, skateboarding, street and youth cultures at large.” The garments are made out of a cotton blend and are priced between Rs 1049 and Rs 3249.
When asked where they see the hip-hop movement going in India over the next few years, the boys reply, “Over the next 10-20 years, it’s going to become larger than life. Many big brands and international artistes have already begun stepping in to back the movement and it’s exciting to see where it’ll go.”