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Artiste Sofia Ashraf on her upcoming projects and what her art means in the digital age.

Chennai rapper, Sofia Ashraf, is one of the few artistes who has managed to keep her art popular and socially relevant.  With a strong following—ever since her take on Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda song, called Kodaikanal Won’t, on mercury poisoning as a result of Hindustan Unilever’s (HUL) plant, went viral last year—Ashraf came out with a similar video on the Bhopal gas tragedy a few months ago. She is currently working with Blush, a YouTube channel started by digital media company, Culture Machine, on her own series called Sista from the South. “I have finally been given a canvas to get my message out. And trust me, I have a lot to say. I have a few pieces coming up about gender issues and the identity of the modern Indian woman,” quips the 29-year-old, who believes that “poetry and prose will always be tools of dissent”.
Spreading the message
Talking about holding her own on social media, Ashraf opines, “So your competitors in this even playing field aren’t just other NGOs. It’s Hollywood, Bollywood, ad agencies with multi-million budgets and sometimes one teenager with Photoshop making a meme in his parent’s basement.” The singer-songwriter tells us that to stay relevant one needs to present the message in the most palatable format and never stop being an active audience. “Go for gigs. Watch videos. Laugh at silly jokes,” shares the artiste, who has covered themes from moral policing and patriarchy to being jobless — even a song about ice cream sandwiches — and feels that rappers ought to write about anything that inspires them.
Ashraf was a part of a group of city-based people who travelled to Germany and The Netherlands, as part of the Visitors Programme organised by Goethe Institut in July, where they got the chance to see innovative projects concerning water, art and culture. Ashraf shares that this experience showed her the effect of art on the community and how viewers can be made a part of an art piece. “This, in essence, is the real point of immersive community art and something that I aspire towards,” she shares.
The road ahead
Ashraf feels that while music with a message is great, “music with an actionable outcome is better”. Currently working on two spoken word pieces (on neurodiversity and on domestic abuse faced by Indian women abroad), she will also be out with another video on the Kodaikanal plant issue, as a response to HUL’s report on the project. Inspired by Mark Steel (comedian), John Oliver (TV host) and John Green (author), for the format, Ashraf says that there will be no dumbing down of the information in her video. “The writing though, is still fun,” she promises.

Follow facebook.com/BlushChannel for updates on the Sista from the South series

—Simar Bhasin

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