Anonymous Crew: hip hop in Bangladesh

Hip hop is new in Bangladesh. Until recently, break dance was something we have seen in the music video of Michael Jackson. Those who are interested took an extra step to read and know the history of this dance form and how it is often marked as subversive form of cultural expression among the afro-descendents across the world. Anonymous Crew, a group of young breakdancers introduced this dance form to their generation and intends to take it to the generations to come. Rashad Mustafa writes on the endeavours of this b-boying group. Photo by Tasin Zulkernail.

 

A group performance by Anonymous Crew.

A group performance by Anonymous Crew.

Hip Hop. What does it mean to you? Let me guess, rappers singing about the bling-bling, money and narcotics on a repetitive yet catchy beat? Saggy pants that hang so low that they are lower than our grades in school? Well, what if I were to tell you that isn’t hip hop! Hip hop is a culture born out of the ideologies of peace, unity, love & fun, infused with knowledge, wisdom and understanding. Hip hop has been a medium of self-expression with its four elements – graffiti writing, DJ-ing, B-Boying and emceeing since its birth. The element of b-boying/breaking, which is more commonly known as breakdancing to outsiders of the hip hop culture, is said to be born in the block parties of the father of hip hop, DJ Kool Herc because people had to match their dance to the then new form of music. The dance form exploded from the parties in Bronx, NY to the entire globe and became a much loved art by its practitioners and admirers alike. In Bangladesh however, the dance took a long time to grab a hold. Breaking/b-boying (breakancing) in its truest form was first brought into the view of the countrymen by Anonymous Crew which the Bangladeshi hip hop community unanimously agrees to be the pioneers of breakdancing in Bangladesh.

It was 2011 when the first real hip hop dance crew of Bangladesh, Anonymous Crew was formed. The idea of forming a streetdance crew, which would later be titled as Anonymous Crew, was contemplated by three guys fresh graduated from school, Tousif, Shaad and Pial. Shaad and Tousif opened a Facebook page called ‘Street Dancers (Bangladesh)’ in the hopes of getting the hip hop dance-heads of the country to a united virtual hub. Tousif aka MR.T worked as ‘the main guy’ in recruiting other dancers to join his goal of forming a crew.  He soon found Adnan aka Bboy AMKK and Rashad aka Bboy Rads through Facebook and the first five members of Anonymous Crew were finally together. The group was then officially named Anonymous Crew in September 15th, 2011. However, in a few months, Shaad and Pial left the crew and Swagata aka Bboy Krazy Phyx, Ismail aka Bboy Smile and Bboy Olive joined the crew to create the main roster which shaped the B-boy and streetdance scene in Bangladesh.

The Anonymous Crew.

The Anonymous Crew.

When the crew was formed people had very little idea about hip hop and even less idea about hip hop dance. The crew considered the dance style as a person who, to the public of Bangladesh, was unknown or anonymous. Thus it was named Anonymous Crew. Since then, the group has been working hard in order to get the dance better known to people. And that has been Anonymous Crew’s mission: to spread the dance form.

The crew knows very well that for any art to survive and expand it has to be passed on to contemporary or the next generation properly. In the hip hop community there’s a saying, ‘Each one, Teach one’. This means, each artist should teach an aspiring artist. Anonymous crew has taken this saying to heart and has started the first ever workshop of this kind in the country in the hope of spreading the art form. Through the workshops they have found, rather, cultivated two new talented dancers who joined the crew after two years of training, BBoy Zidan and BBoy Payer. Anonymous Crew has brought breakdancing/breaking out of the shadows of the underground scenes and into the mainstream media and made it to the big stages.

The crew has represented the hip hop dance community in over a hundred shows so far. Anonymous Crew has been a beacon of inspiration for a lot of dancers in Bangladesh since it was the first crew to show everyone that Bangladeshis can do this too and a ripple effect spread across the youth and more crews were formed since then as a result.

During an entertaining performance.

During an entertaining performance.

Getting the success they have acquired was not an easy task though! Each member struggled with getting support for dancing from their families. They have faced situations where respected members of the society thought the dance they perform was not even a dance form, let alone considering the form worthy of being practiced! One of the main obstacles the crew feels that chokes the future of hip hop in Bangladesh is the social system of the country which allocates very small amount of time to young kids in practicing performing arts. The ever growing trend is to rush out of their extracurricular activities and rushing back to coaching centers. This infused with other factors make young kids lose interest in dancing after a certain time.

As all of the members of Anonymous Crew are nearing the end of their student lives, it is apparent that they cannot be as active as they are now or wish to be. But they want to give back to the next generation of hip hop dancers in Bangladesh by giving them a permanent stage to look forward to. With that view in mind, they organised a street dance championship tournament that took place on the 23rd of February, 2018, called ‘The Cypher – Bd Hip Hop Dance Championships’. This is the first ever hip hop dance championship tournament in Bangladesh. Thousands of people witnessed history in the making as Breakers (Breakdancers) & Poppers were ‘battling’ to earn their bragging rights and a sweet prize money of 10,000 taka. The event brought together a huge pool of dancers from all across the country. With the success of The Cypher, Anonymous Crew plans on hosting the tournament every year with the goal to make it an international competition.

It was always inevitable for hip hop dance to spread to Bangladesh because of what it gives us. It gives us freedom. We express our truest selves through the dance. As long as we hear the beat pulsing through our entire body we break free from the shackles of worrying about the next exam, the next payday, we can leave all our worries behind and achieve a sense of freedom, we must never forget that no matter how old we get we always have a little kid inside of us who wants to have fun, to break free. This is why I always say, ‘The floor is my playground, when the music starts, my inner kid comes out to play.’

The crew’s next mission is to open a dance studio where young dancers can practice their craft and grow as artists rather than indulging in harmful or stressful activities. With that being said, we can say for certain, Anonymous Crew will be dancing for years to come but we do not know how well the crew’s plans will work out. We can only be certain that future is anonymous.

 

Rashad Mustafa aka Bboy Rads is one of the founding members of Anonymous Crew and a student of North South University

 

 

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