‘Who are you to stop me?’: the hip-hop group speaking up for India’s women

Rappers Wild Wild Women use their searing lyrics to highlight the treatment of their sisters in a socially conservative country

It’s not easy being a wild woman in India – as members of what is believed to be the country’s first female rap group can testify.

The eight members of the Wild Wild Women collective have had to deal with knockbacks from the men who dominate the music industry and press. They have had to cajole and fight their parents for permission to play and travel to gigs – once they’ve convinced them that hip-hop is suitable for women to perform. And they have to juggle full-time jobs with their music.

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‘Our identity lies in these songs’: saving the music of India’s Biate

Forgotten Songs Collective aims to preserve ancient hill tribe’s music by bringing it to a global audience

It was five years ago, as he sat around a fire lit deep in the forests covering the hills of Dima Hasao in Assam, that a shadow of sadness came into the eyes of Lallura Darnei. Now in his seventies, Darnei was one of the oldest members of the Biate community, an ancient hill tribe living in north-east India. The songs he sang around the flames that night, speaking of great floods and the birds that flap their wings at sunset, dated back so many generations the tribe said they were as old as time.

But, said Darnei, when he died these songs would probably die with him, and with it the history, the knowledge, culture of the Biate, would be gone for ever. The younger generation of the tribe had fallen in love with guitar music and K-pop and had not learned the traditional songs. They could not pick up the ancient melodies and he was the last of the Biate who knew how to play and make the siranda, the tribe’s traditional violin crafted from wood and the dried skin of an iguana.

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Superheroes, jazz, queer art: how Pakistan’s transgressive pop culture went global

Freed from the shadow of 9/11, the country’s artists are building on a rich heritage – to international acclaim

In August, Pakistan’s three censor boards cleared Saim Sadiq’s award-winning film Joyland for release. Shot in Lahore, the film is about a young married man from a conservative family who finds work at a dance theatre and falls in love with a trans woman struggling to land her moment on stage. It was the first Pakistani film to screen at Cannes and it won the Un Certain Regard prize, receiving a standing ovation nearly10 minutes long.

Even though the film was then subject to various bans in Pakistan, after being accused of pushing an LGTBQ+ agenda and misrepresenting Pakistani culture, it finally appeared in Pakistani cinemas in November, with Malala Yousafzai signing on as executive producer.

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Canadian pop star Kris Wu sentenced to 13 years in jail for rape in China

Beijing court finds Chinese-born singer raped three women in November and December 2020

A Beijing court has sentenced the Chinese-born Canadian pop star Kris Wu to 13 years in jail after finding him guilty of crimes including rape, just over a year after his arrest in China, where he was born and built a lucrative career.

The court in Chaoyang district said investigations showed that from November to December 2020, Wu, also known as Wu Yifan, raped three women.

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K-pop band NCT 127’s Indonesia concert halted after 30 fans faint in crush

Police say they stopped show at venue near Jakarta when fans surged forward to get closer to the stage

The K-pop band NCT 127 were forced to end their first concert in Indonesia early after 30 people fainted in a crush, police said.

Indonesia is still reeling after more than 130 people, including more than 40 children, died in a stadium crush last month – one of the deadliest disasters in football history.

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Post your questions for Freida Pinto

The actor will answer questions on Thursday on anything from her new film Mr Malcolm’s List to her career in movies such as Slumdog Millionaire

Mumbai-born actor Freida Pinto found fame after being cast in 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire: she had been working as a model for Wrigley’s Chewing Gum, Škoda and Vodafone, and was picked by Danny Boyle to star as the love interest to British-born star Dev Patel. (Boyle, meanwhile, cast Patel on the recommendation of his daughter who had seen him [and his naked bum!] in Skins.)

After Slumdog cleaned up at the award dos, Pinto went on to become a household name, with the unusual career trajectory for an Indian actor of having not featured in any homegrown Bollywood movies, skipping straight to Hollywood, where she’s stayed ever since. She featured as James Franco’s primatologist love interest in 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and one of the few human characters in 2018’s Jungle Book update, Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle. The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw described her latest film, period drama Mr Malcolm’s List, as “engagingly silly and self-aware”.

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K-everything: the rise and rise of Korean culture

From music to movies, technology to food, the world has fallen in love with everything South Korean. Ahead of a big London exhibition, Tim Adams visits Seoul in search of the origins of hallyu – the Korean wave

Last week, I was standing in a huge dance studio – one of 12 – near the top of a funky new office tower just north of the Han River in the South Korean capital, Seoul. The building is home to a company called SM Entertainment, which has strong claims to have invented one of the most potent cultural movements of the 21st century, the phenomenon of Korean pop music – K-pop.

Each generation creates hit factories in its own image. The “SM Culture Universe” was originally the vision of a Korean pop entrepreneur called Lee Soo-man who, after a brief career as a singer and DJ, studied computer engineering in the States in the 1980s. He returned to Seoul “with the dream of globalising Korean music”.

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South Korea considers survey on boyband BTS members’ military service

K-pop band’s oldest member, Jin, faces enlistment in December when he turns 30

South Korea may conduct a public survey to help determine whether to grant exemption to the mandatory military service to members of the K-pop boy band BTS.

The question of active military service for the band’s seven members has been a hot-button topic in South Korea as its oldest member, Jin, faces his enlistment in December, when he turns 30.

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‘To sing in Kashmiri is political’: Ali Saffudin, the singer-songwriter who smuggled his album to the world

Influenced by Led Zeppelin, the 29-year-old’s debut album almost didn’t get made because of a communications blackout. He talks about the blues, the Kashmiri spirit and the fight for freedom

‘If someone like Neil Young or Bob Marley were born in Kashmir, who do you think they would have supported?” Ali Saffudin asks. “The oppressed. These are my inspirations.” For Saffudin, a Kashmiri folk singer-songwriter, his music is a way for people to understand the plight of Kashmir, a volatile state in the Indian subcontinent which has been the subject of territorial dispute, separatist insurgency and resistance against Indian rule since it was split during partition in 1947. It was only in 2020 that the parliament of India recognised Kashmiri as an official language. “We are living in the most militarised zone [in India],” Saffudin says. “To be Kashmiri is to be political. To sing in Kashmiri is even more political.”

On the eve of Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar, Saffudin is calling from his home in Srinagar, in Indian-administered Kashmir. The 29-year-old is weeks away from the release of his debut album, Woliver, a politically urgent record addressing the Kashmiri people’s continuing fight for a life free of persecution. Underpinned by punchy guitar indebted to Led Zeppelin and Rage Against the Machine, Saffudin sings with anguish and intensity about resistance, existentialism and spirituality, capturing the anxieties of a generation that bears the burden of carrying on the fight for azadi (freedom) in the future. “Geography is political,” he sings on Vaidyon, a song written on a long bus journey from Delhi to Kashmir as he noticed “how many mountains I have to cross to reach my home, how geographically separate Kashmir is from India. It is a plane while we live in the Himalayas. Even the nature in Kashmir is making a political statement.”

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From garage to charts: how Māori strum helped shape the sound of New Zealand

The distinctive guitar pattern informs many of the country’s biggest hits, and remains an enduring cultural touchstone

In late 2021, a series of videos started circulating social media: a gifted singer belting out R&B and hip-hop tunes with a uniquely New Zealand take. The songs were stripped back to their barest guitar basics, peppered with Māori words and New Zealand in-jokes. Behind the renditions, there was something deeply, immediately recognisable: a guitar sound musicians call the “Māori strum”.

It is perhaps New Zealand’s most distinctive and enduring musical sound, strummed on guitars across the country and often nicknamed jing-a-jik or rakuraku, after the cadence it produces. It is a strum heard not only at marae (meeting houses), family gatherings and competitive kapa haka (action dance) performances, but in some of the country’s most beloved hits, including OMC’s How Bizarre and Crowded House’s Don’t Dream It’s Over.

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‘Hope is essential’: Afghanistan’s silenced musicians find a new stage

A British orchestra will this week play, for the first time, a programme of Afghan music, featuring exiled Afghan musicians on traditional instruments

The musicians of Afghanistan have again been silenced by the Taliban. Other than specific religious and patriotic forms and contexts, the group believe that listening to or making music is morally corrupting. If there is anything to the Taliban’s credit here, it is that they recognise music’s potential to shape our subjective experiences, transmit ideas and build and strengthen communities. Since the group’s return to power in August last year, musicians have been murdered and brutalised, wedding parties have been raided, and centres for music learning have been closed.

I first visited the country in July 2018 to meet the members of the Afghan Women’s Orchestra at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music, the specialist school set up in 2010 by Ahmad Sarmast and which – before its forced closure last July – had 350 students. For three years I gave weekly online lessons to the young conductors, men and women, at the school. These lessons had their challenges, not least the regular power cuts and slow internet speeds in Kabul, but they gave me a tantalising insight into the orchestras, repertoire and rehearsal practices of the young ensembles at the school, opened my ears to the unique sounds and forms of Afghanistan’s orchestral music. Above all, I was reminded yet again that orchestras can and do change lives.

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‘I was crying’: rocker Randy Bachman reunites with stolen guitar 45 years later

Guess Who member gets back the Gretsch that he used to write American Woman, after fan tracked it down in Tokyo using photos of woodgrain

The Canadian rock legend Randy Bachman’s long search has come to an end with him being reunited in Tokyo with a cherished guitar 45 years after it was stolen from a Toronto hotel.

“My girlfriend is right there,” said Bachman, 78, a former member of the Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, as the Gretsch guitar on which he wrote American Woman and other hits was handed to him by a Japanese musician who had bought it at a Tokyo store in 2014 without knowing its history.

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Pop star Kris Wu tried in China for alleged rape

Announcement of closed trial coincides with uproar over unrelated assault at restaurant in Tangshan

The Chinese-Canadian pop star Kris Wu has gone on trial for alleged rape and other offences in Beijing, as China is in uproar over a video showing a group of men physically assaulting four women in the city of Tangshan.

Wu’s closed trial on Friday at the Chaoyang people’s court was reported late on Friday night by Chang’An Net, which belongs to China’s Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, in turn controlled by the ruling Communist party.

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Indian singer KK dies aged 53 after falling ill while performing

Krishnakumar Kunnath, a star Bollywood singer best known as KK, complained of feeling cold and unwell before collapsing

Star Bollywood singer Krishnakumar Kunnath, popularly known as KK, has died of a suspected heart attack at age 53 after a concert on Tuesday, prompting a flood of tributes from fans including Indian prime minister Narendra Modi.

“His songs reflected a wide range of emotions as struck a chord with people of all age groups,” Modi said on Twitter.

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Sidhu Moose Wala: a rapper of fascinating contradictions who aimed to uplift Punjab

Killed in a shooting this week, the 28-year-old Punjabi Sikh MC offset gangster bravado with a keen sociopolitical awareness

Five years ago, Sidhu Moose Wala announced his arrival with So High. Using flutes and a faint tumbi, producer Byg Byrd roots the track in hip-hop but makes it evocative of Punjabi bhangra; on the hook, Sidhu’s voice soars. Racking up nearly 500m views since 2017, the viral track allies the audience as co-conspirators: Sidhu is our boisterous friend, whose bravado is a through line across his most popular songs. In So High, the Punjabi rapper – one of the most successful ever to emerge from the region – prophesies “copycat lyricists”, gangsterdom, a prolific release schedule and living on the precipice of danger. Every theme came to fruition over his career, which has ended with a fatal shooting at the age of 28.

Sidhu Moose Wala, originally Shubhdeep Singh Sidhu, was born on June 11, 1993, and began singing in the fifth grade with folk songs of Baba Banda Singh Bahadur, a legendary Sikh commander from the early 18th century. In 2015, Sidhu started writing songs for others in the Chandigarh-based Punjabi music industry while a college student, finding early success as the writer of Ninja’s track License, but soon vowed to write only for himself. He moved to Brampton, Ontario in December 2016 after completing his degree in electrical engineering and moonlit as a musical artist.

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