DIWALI: Hip hop, classical Indian music fusion group set to entertain in Vancouver

Published: November 8, 2012


Hip-hop, beat-boxing and a classical Indian sitar seems an unlikely combination.

But the warm wale of the sitar washes over you, building images of India in your mind as it blends into the electronic beats that you can’t help but tap your foot to.

The unique sound is a product of freshly formed musical group, LAPIS, with Mohamed Assani, North Indian classical sitar player and local hip-hop artist, Rup Sidhu. They met while performing at Vancouver Celebrates Diwali last year and created the project in June.

The pair work off each other as Assani sits cross legged on a stage in the Sarah McLachlan School of Music, wearing full Indian dress and strumming the sitar; Sidhu seated beside him, the light from the laptop reflecting off his glasses. The two go back and forth, looking at their instruments and back at each other as they improvise a mesmerizing sound.

“LAPIS is a place where contemporary sounds meet a traditional world,” described Sidhu.

Assani believes this creates a “universal appeal” because his classical Indian music and Sidhu’s urban hip-hop both reach a wide audience.

Mohamed Assani and Rupinder Sidhu (right) form LAPIS. Submitted photo

“Fusing them both we reach a much wider audience,” he said.

But no matter the reach, the music will always remain deeply rooted in their culture.

“Everything we do somehow the music is related to that,” said Assani. “This music is like part of my life.”

“(And) improvisation is a very important part of South Asian music.”

While Assani comes mainly from a classical background, Sidhu is just as rooted in Bhangra as he is hip-hop.

“That’s also a another place where we meet,” said Sidhu. “(And that music has) always been a part of me and a part of my life and a part of my family.”

But for Sidhu, he won’t simply identify as South Asian or Indo-Canadian.

“Both of those are very vague and don’t specify who we are as individuals,” he said. “This is a massive diaspora that is so many different cultures — and even Indo-Canadian, if we start saying that it’s putting this simple brown paste over a light understanding of our identity.”

“I would consider myself Punjabi, definitely.”

And Assani identifies with his Pakistani roots.

While it’s their culture that moves them to perform, they believe it’s that passion that will reach all listeners.

“Whatever stirs you will stir the audience,” said Assani.

LAPIS will be performing at Yaletown’s Roundhouse Community Centre for Vancouver Celebrates Diwali on Saturday.



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