Pakistan’s first female rapper, Eva B, who hails from an urban slum of Lyari, is known for constantly breaking glass ceilings with her powerful music. Her lesser-known fame came into the limelight after her recent collaboration with Coke Studio’s Kana Yaari with Kaifi Khalil and Abdul Wahab Bugti. Balochi’s folk song has racked up millions of views on YouTube for its groovy beat despite the theme based on rabid betrayal.
As the song plays over speakers in cars across the country, only a few are aware of the struggles the veiled rapper had to go through to get her voice to reach the masses. In an interview with T.he guardian, Eva B spoke about her collaboration with the Xulfi-run music webcast Coke Studio, her veil, the long chain of apologies and disapproval to create Kana Yaari, his beginnings and the importance of his hometown in his rap music.
The practice of wearing a veil originally began as a condition imposed by a brother to pursue music, but has now become part of Eva B’s identity and personality as a musician. “I don’t feel comfortable or I can’t perform well if I don’t wear it. The veil just covers my face; this can’t cover or take away the talent I have,” the rapper shared.
According to the publication, Eva B’s phone rang throughout the interview. Sneakily commenting on her recently gained fame, the Gully Girls crooner shared how she was approached for season 14 of Coke Studio. [Xulfi’s call] up,” the hip-hop rapper laughed. “He introduced himself and asked me if I wanted to sing for the franchise – I said who doesn’t want to work with Coke Studio?” and just like that, it became part of a franchise trending song for its new season.
However, recordings became a problem for her. Her brother never approved of her music although she followed her condition of wearing a veil. She even put her music career on hold from 2015 to 2019 due to the recurring arguments at home. But she revealed the tables had turned after her big break. “I would have to lie to my brother if I was going to go make recordings. I would say I was going to college. Even when I had to rehearse for Kana Yaari at Coke Studio, I lied at home saying I had to attend a friend’s wedding. I would ask everyone to schedule me before dark so I can find an excuse at home more easily,” she shared.
She later revealed that her brother no longer considered her passion “inappropriate”.
The young rapper’s musical journey began with a computer filled with Eminem songs. Inspired and curious by the refreshing style and rhythm of the music, she wonders about the genre. “It’s rap, and you gotta write your lyrics and sing,” she was told, and 2014 marked the start of a self-taught musician channeling her lived experiences and those around her as YouTube videos on his channel.
“Through my rap, I wanted people to hear my story and that of the women of Lyari. I come from a place where only a few girls have been able to work and my society doesn’t consider a rapping girl to be respectable – I wanted to challenge that,” Eva B.
While she interrupted her musical career following the strong disapproval of her brother, she did not stop writing. “I burned inside and continued to write about societal restrictions on girls, Lyari and more,” she shared. After a long hiatus, she was discovered by Pakistan’s largest music streaming platform, Patari, and asked to write and perform an original song.
Eager to seize the opportunity, Eva B ignored the lack of professional audio equipment and agreed to record The Gully Girl using only her cell phone. Overnight, the track made her famous as the Gully Girl. Her track tells the story of young women who want to succeed in hip-hop, a tale from Ranveer Singh’s famous starring film, Gully Boy.
Eva B, who says her name comes from Eve, the first woman on Earth, instead of being the country’s first female rapper, and the B is an ode to her Baloch origin. Writing in Urdu and Baloch, the young rapper touches on a multitude of societal issues, including the regressive image of Lyari. His songs include Qalam Bolega (The Pen Shall Speak), Tera Jism Meri Marzi (Your Body, My Rights) and Quarantine Baji.
She opines that while Lyari is also famous for its footballers, artists and musicians, but “the history of violence in the region has become our identity, unfortunately.” She says there are many women, just like her, who feel inferior to their male counterparts because they depend on them and their approval. Shedding light on the extra effort required to create a name outside of the branded violent identity, she shared, “Women have to work hard to claim their place in society. We must tear it away if it is not given.
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