Return of the Raw Barz

By Prajita Shrestha | Photos by Satyan Shrestha Make-up by Prajina Shrestha, Lavish Salon Location courtesy of Electric Pagoda, Thamel Wardrobe courtesy of Mfashionista, Labim Mall

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It takes a lot of courage to break stereotypes, especially when it’s embedded deeply within the mindset of the people in the society. However, some people are born trendsetters who strive to bring a wave of change for good no matter how difficult the road to the destination is. One of such personalities is Kolin Bikram Rana, the CEO and founder of Raw Barz.

Raw Barz started its journey from Nepal, and since its inception, it has brought many talented artists into the limelight. Continuing its legacy, it has spread its wings in the international realm, and now with its fourth season, Raw Barz is ruling a myriad of Nepali hearts. One can’t help but admire the stage that Raw Barz has created for new Nepali talents, but we can imagine how hard it must have been for the initiators to challenge every obstacle and put Raw Barz in a commendable position that it holds at the moment.

So, WAVE catches up with the man behind Raw Barz, Kolin Bikram Rana, to know what the journey actually is.

How would you describe Raw Barz to a stranger?
Raw Barz is something much more than just a rap battle. It is a platform for people to express their raw talents. Raw Barz is a movement to bring out the talented rappers in Nepal and give them the opportunity that they truly deserve.

What was your motivation to start Raw Barz?
Hip-hop has never failed to impress me. As a child, when I would listen to hip-hop music, I would always feel connected to the world. In no time, the hip-hop culture became a crucial part of my existence. Ever since then, I had always wanted to bring hip-hop music into the bigger picture of our Nepali music industry. As I worked to achieve this goal, we (my friends and I) became the pioneers of Nep-hop, a Nepali hip-hop form, and continued working further in the field.

With what aim did you start Raw Barz?
We were four friends: Dipan Karmacharya, Adeel Manandhar, Yama Buddha, and I. We were determined to promote hip-hop culture in Nepal and provide a platform to all the Nepali rappers within and outside the nation. Being great fans of rap battle leagues like ‘KOTD (King of the Dot Entertainment)’ and ‘Don’t Flop’, we dreamt of organising rap battles of same quality. And with the success of Raw Barz back in 2013, we are happy that our aims and objectives are falling into place.

What are some of the major obstacles that you’ve faced in Raw Barz’s venture?
The list of the hindrances—me and my team has faced—is a never ending one, but getting people to accept the rap culture and getting all the negativity around the music off the ground were some of the most severe obstacles we have faced so far.
Meanwhile, we also had to make sure that the rappers that we bring into spotlight is someone who could be looked upon by the youths of my nation. Honestly explaining, it’s a difficult task.
Some rappers at Raw Barz use too much vulgar words and many people have complaints in this regard.

Do you have plans on reducing vulgarity in the language used in the rap battles?
Yes, we’ve tried to filter out the profanity; but in the end, we also need to understand that Raw Barz is all about raw expression of frustration people have, thus, expressions using vulgarity is obvious. It is just the way they express themselves and their inner dilemmas. We are Raw Barz, and it absolutely has to be raw. We just can’t help it although we’re working on ways to tackle this problem without limiting the artists’ horizon of self-expression. Also, we highly believe artists must mind how they represent themselves and the responsibilities that they carry. We, at all times, encourage creativity over impropriety.

What kinds of expectations did you have from Raw Barz when starting the show and how many of these expectations have been met?
To be honest, we did not have any expectations at all.
All we had were goals that we knew we had to achieve at any cost. And thus, here we are trying out every angle possible to keep our venture on the right track. We, obviously, haven’t achieved all our goals yet. But that is what keeps us going stronger and better into our journey. Every failure takes us a step closer to success.

How do you intend to clear the stereotype held by society about rappers?
Rap culture has really been misrepresented in Nepal and there’s no doubt about it. However, we’re hopeful that the exposure that we provide through Raw Barz will be a
stepping stone towards clearing the deep-rooted stereotype. So far, the responses have been pretty positive. We intend to keep on going forward with this spark of change and slowly but surely, we will have a flaring fire of change in the mindset of Nepali music lovers.

How is Raw Barz Season 4 better than the earlier seasons?
This time, we organised auditions all over the country. Moreover, we organised several workshops to encourage wannabe rappers and helped them showcase their talents. I believe these efforts make the new season better and more inclusive than its previous counterparts.

What kind of expectations do you have from this season?
In this season, we aim to introduce new and talented rappers to the Nepali music industry. And like the previous seasons, we have a bigger goal of taking hip-hop to every nook and corner of the nation.

What are your plans regarding the expansion of Raw Barz in the US and Australia?
Through Raw Barz USA, we are trying to connect and collaborate with international hip-hop community. We are trying to bring international rappers together under the same roof and help Nepali rappers share knowledge with like-minded icons.
Regarding Raw Barz Australia, we aren’t in a rush. We want to work out to fill all the loopholes before taking another step. If things work out the way we have planned, we will definitely go for Raw Barz Australia, Raw Barz UK and Raw Barz India in our near future.

What is Raw Barz doing to participate in international competitions?
We are currently in touch with the KOTD, an American/ Canadian Rap Battle League. We are trying to identify Nepali rappers who could ensure meritorious representation of Nepal and Raw Barz. 

Make-up by Prajina Shrestha, Lavish Salon
Location courtesy of Electric Pagoda, Thamel
Wardrobe courtesy of Mfashionista, Labim Mall

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