Paradise Sourouri is the first female rapper in Afghanistan. She told Madame Rap about how she founded the hip hop duo 143Band with Diverse and her fight for gender equality and freedom of speech.
How and when did you discover hip hop and how did you and Diverse found 143Band ?
Diverse and I both discovered hip hop at an early age when we were growing up in Iran. We mostly listened to 2Pac, Eminem, Jay Z, Kanye West, Black Eyed Peas, and other great artists. It was in the 2000s, and we were teenagers at the time. Back then there was a hip hop revolution in Iran.
Then we met in Herat, Afghanistan, and formed 143Band in August 2008. It was so hard to do it in a very religious city like Herat, but we managed to have a very low quality home studio. We didn’t have much equipment and knowledge but it was better than going to other studios because it was less dangerous and risky.
You live in Berlin now. Why did you leave Afghanistan?
We’ve been living in Berlin for about a year and half. We received a lot of serious threats in Afghanistan and were physically attacked by random people on the street. Some religious TVs promoted our photos and videos in a bad way and some extremist religious people started to take serious actions against us. We lived there with no security and with the risk of being killed at any second. In order to keep fighting for gender equality and humanity, we decided to move to Germany and be stronger than ever.
How is the hip hop music scene like in Kabul? Are there a lot of female rappers?
In 2010, Diverse came up with the idea of having me release the first-ever female rap song in Afghanistan. At the time, it was not very well accepted. However, after some time, this new scene grew. It’s very difficult, especially for women, but now we are so happy to see more girls engaged in this musical scene.
In the beginning, we performed in front of audiences of small as 10 people, just to promote hip hop in Afghanistan. But recently, some events gathered thousands of people. And the number of female artists is increasing every day.
You are the first Afghan female rapper. How are you perceived as a female artist and how do people respond to your music in your country?
When we released our track in 2010, we had a lot of positive responses from our family and relatives. We decided later to publish it online and it went viral. We had a lot of positive responses on an international level as well and, of course, some negative responses from the Afghan society. However, the positive energy was much stronger and we decided to release our second song called “Nalestan” dedicated to the elimination of violence against women. The most difficult part was that we asked a lot of media to support our work but they refused! Facebook and YouTube have always been our best friends from the beginning.
What do your songs talk about? Do you think rap can be a political tool?
Our songs mostly talk about the elimination of violence against women, gender equality, early marriage, education rights, children rights, and most definitely about spreading love all around the world.
Because hip hop is a direct language of society, it is easily understandable for normal people so it can definitely be a tool of change and revolution. Women’s roles have evolved in the Afghan society, especially thanks to hip hop.
Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why?
I do consider myself a feminist and have already participated in several events, gathering and concerts. But together with Diverse we have another term, which is “couplism”. It is much easier to change mentalities and men’s behaviors than to encourage women to stand up for their rights. Violence against women is not only a female issue, it is also a male problem. We are here together to save humanity and spread love. So couplism seems like a better idea and we are working very hard to promote it everywhere.
What are you listening to these days?
We’ve been very busy and focused on two projects that we have, a full album and an EP. We are listening to our music to get it done as soon as possible in 2017. It is very hard, but we believe we can manage.
What are your new projects about?
On the EP, one song is about refugees and the other one about encouraging people to stand up for “Stop war and start love”. On our full album, we are working on several songs about humanity, gender equality, and promoting love!
What do you think of Madame Rap? What should be changed or improved?
We do believe Madame Rap is already a great platform for all female hip hoppers! But having female artists to perform in front of a big audience would be an opportunity to make more collaborations. In the end, we both wish you great success in your future plans!