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Meet India's 'Burqa Rapper' Sofia Ashraf

Sofia Ashraf Source: Sofia Ashraf - Youtube

Sofia has been labelled many things over the years - protest rapper, burqa rapper, raptivist, feminist, fundamentalist, and narcissist.

You might know her best for her protest-cover of Nicki Minaj's 'Anaconda' which went viral on social media.

Born into a traditional South Indian family, Sofia Ashraf – or Sofie –tells SBS Hindi that she “grew up with a spark of rebellion in her eye.”

Sofia has been labelled many things over the years – protest rapper, burqa rapper (or burkha rapper), raptivist, feminist, fundamentalist, and narcissist.

Around a decade ago she started rapping clad in a burqa about prejudices against Islam in a post-9/11 world.

WATCH VIDEO: Justice Rocks - 02

Today, she has become well-known internationally for her firebrand rap songs on issues like Kodaikanal’s pollution, Bhopal gas tragedy, objectification of women in Indian films, and political protest against AIADMK laeder Sasikala.

For her first hit protest song, Ashraf reworked Niki Minaj’s "Anaconda" and gave a fantastic “Kodaikanal Won’t”.

The factory at Kodaikanal, which was owned by Hindustan Unilever, closed in 2001.

It is alleged that more than 1,000 former workers have been affected by mercury poisoning.

WATCH VIDEO: Kodaikanal Won't

Ashraf says that “this video takes an undisguised jab at Unilever for its failure to clean up mercury contamination or compensate workers affected by its thermometer factory in Kodaikanal.”

Soon, Ashraf came up with a video that, she says, turns the Bollywood’s ‘item song’ upside down and Southside up.

“This song – “Tam Brahm Boy” – is a love song objectifying a typical Tamil Boy.

This song uses hilarious southern stereotypes and focuses on how women in the country are denied their sexual urges,” adds Ashraf.

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Ashraf says that this “song is an unapologetic expression of primal desires.”

“I hope that over time it becomes acceptable for Indian women to speak out about their passions and their sexuality stops being demonised,” she adds.

Recently, Sofia was seen in a protest video against Sasikala.

She can be seen protesting to resist the ascendance of Sasikala Natarajan as the chief of AIADMK and the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.

The video – “Democracy is Dead” – went viral.

WATCH VIDEO: Democracy is Dead

When asked if she is the future of protest song in India?

Sofia says that “we can’t just all protest . .  .India needs doctors, engineers, teachers, entrepreneurs and many other trades people.”

Sofia definitely belongs to the brand – Angry Young Woman, who is vocal and angry about the things that are wrong.

With special permission from acclaimed Indian artist AR Rahman and Imtiaz Ali, Sofia created Sadda Haq’s female version and promoted it using #IWillGoOut.

WATCH VIDEO: Sadda Haq Female Version

In 2010, Sofia gave up the burqa and renounced Islam.

“I began looking at religion in a whole new light and lost my faith,” she says.

Sofia Ashraf
Sofia Ashraf
Sofia Ashraf - Facebook

The burqa is gone but Sofia can be seen rapping with equal ease in a traditional Indian sari and a t-shirt.

Sofia was recently in Melbourne to participate in the Jaipur Literary Festival 2017.

To know more about Sofia Ashraf, listen to her exclusive conversation with Amit Sarwal.

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