“We were playing in New York.”

“We were playing in New York.”

Breakdancer, writer and actor Henk Bakrad (61) was on the verge of ending up in the criminal department in the early 1980s. It was a time of economic decline with few opportunities for a boy like him, the son of Surinamese parents in Amsterdam South. “My father said, ‘We came here for opportunities, and we won’t stop working.’ But there were no opportunities. I was depressed, in danger of failing my final exams, and I didn’t know what to do with my life.”

Until he got his hands on the VHS tape on which his brother had recorded an American movie from German television: Wild style. “About young people from the New York Bronx who are similar to me in terms of skin color and social status. They have found a creative way to assert themselves. With rap, music, dance, graffiti and DJing – under the name of hip-hop.

“I was supposed to be monitoring a robbery that evening, but the video caught my attention. I kept rewinding the tape, obsessed with exactly what New York kids were doing in the yards and parks. At three-thirty in the morning my mother knocked on my door: Shouldn’t you be sleeping?

“How do the guests do it?”

It was the bombastic aggression inherent in dance and music and the effort you have to put in to translate that into your body – and that’s what Backboard addressed: “How do these guys do it, how do you get into such a decline? You’ve been so busy practicing the skills that there’s no No room for crime or depression anymore. The great thing was: everyone could find something to their liking in hip-hop; if you didn’t want to go broke, you started rapping or DJing or spraying graffiti.

Take bus number 26 at Amstel station and follow the route Black kids – This was the road to the center of De Boock in the hot summer of 1983, the place where the Amsterdam hip-hop scene came together. Henk Pakrade was taken on the shoulders of Surinamese boys after he showed off his breakdancing skills. “We rehearsed together in Oosterpark because it looked a lot like Central Park. With a tarpaulin to dance on and a cassette recorder playing a beat, just like in the movie. We adopted the language: Yo! Actually we were playing in New York.”

Henk Backpas

Bakbas has wonderful stories from those early days. It’s a good thing he’s going to write it all down: his book on the history of hip-hop in the Netherlands is due out next year. He tells us one delicious story after another.

Perform on a piece of kitchen tarpaulin

For example, a performance in Leidseplein, on a three-by-three-metre kitchen tarpaulin coupon grid for ten euros in the Carpet Hall, turned out to be quite a spectacle. Photographer Patricia Storr passed by and took a picture of the boys (break dancers): Let’s go in Telegraph. Port: “I realized: I am someoneI felt like I no longer had to be on the lookout. In this positive rush of adrenaline, I received my HAVO diploma.

After Alex & The City Crew performed in front of 2 million viewers TV program By Ivo Niehe (“The Madness Came From America”) Breakdance troupes have been popping up all over the Netherlands, from Groningen to Den Helder. Backboard: “In the eastern Netherlands – Enschede, Oldenzaal, Almelo – crews like Electric Force started shaking the ground. They were close to the border with Germany and learned skills one-on-one from American soldiers stationed in discos in the border area. Zeist’s Space Crowd was also great , where these boys were taught by the Americans at the Soesterberg military base.

Bakdrad says that the competition between the crews was fierce. “You teased each other during battles, which is a peaceful way to challenge each other, and you didn’t want to be inferior to each other.”

In MAS I found the true spirit of hip hop

Rotterdam crews have a very special reputation. They thought Rotterdam was the New York of the Low Countries, and it was in the Maas River that they found the true, melancholy spirit of hip-hop. There was a dangerous rumor that the youth of Rotterdam were sleeping under bridges, eating raw meat and screaming at the moon on Fridays.

Aruna Vermeulen (47 years old) was introduced to hip-hop at the end of the 1990s. In her hometown of Rotterdam, she was one of the first b-boys, and danced alongside Rotterdam b-boy pioneers such as Paulo Nunes and Hakan Aslan “Heavy Skills”, so called due to his stature and famous head spinner. Vermeulen: “Break dancing had become ‘obsolete’ for a few years in the late 1980s. People like Paulo and Hakan helped revive it in the 1990s. Hakan drove to the house of the first intruders and rang the doorbell without warning: Pack your things, we’re going to practice!

Rotterdam has grown to become the focal point of the Dutch hip-hop scene. “I was 21 when I started breakdancing, and it hit me like a bombshell: as if I suddenly saw color in a black-and-white world. Nothing was rejected, you were embraced with all your sides. I loved the sport, and there was always a coach and a standard; And now I was the norm. It was about adding something to the group and developing your own signature. It felt like an environment of unconditional empowerment.

Photo by Aruna Vermeulen

Aruna Vermeulen

Vermeulen encountered her cultural background in a positive way through hip-hop music for the first time in her life. Hip-hop music contains samples of songs by Ben E. King, Sam Cooke, and James Brown. My father used to play that music. This also applies to dance steps that contain elements of Caribbean styles such as merengue and salsa. “I knew them well from our Hindustani weddings.”

Local residents called the police

Vermeulen’s Freezone crew performed everywhere: jams, battles, and company parties. Crew members also increasingly taught classes, created training spaces and honed their skills in the spirit of hip-hop.Each one teaches one” To move forward. “Under the participation policy of State Secretary of Culture Rik van der Ploeg, the field of hip-hop slowly emerged. For example, Arts Center Rotterdam has created a dance space in Kralingen. However, local residents called the police when they saw us walking down the street: the dark-skinned people in a Mercedes with a sports bag thought it was suspicious.

In 2002, Vermeulen, along with Benny Semel and Lloyd Marengo, founded Hiphophois in Rotterdam West, where no agent had visited for ten years. The social impact of the Hiphophois Foundation, which has grown into one of the most important cultural institutions in the Mastad region, gradually becomes evident. “At that time, we wanted to expand the hip-hop movement. Push young talents to reach the global top. But in Hip-Hop, people also learned self-discipline, made friends, gained self-confidence, and also to get internships. Whereas we thought we were just teaching them how to scratch DJ and head spin.

In the 1980s, when a hip-hop crew knocked on the stage door asking for permission to rehearse, they were turned away, because hip-hop was “from the streets.” Now every arts establishment wants “something” from hip-hop. Makes sense, because hip-hop became the dominant cultural expression in the 1910s and 1920s, especially among young people.

Olympic event

Director Hiphophois Vermeulen criticizes: “We must ensure that hip-hop is not used as a tool for inappropriate purposes. For example, to meet diversity standards. Starting next year, Breaking will be part of the Summer Olympics, based on the desire to reach a younger audience. Depends Judging by fixed standards. What appeals to me about breakout is that there is no standard. This is the power of hip-hop. Will authentic hip-hop values ​​like community, group learning, and critical thinking be preserved?

This is very necessary, according to Hank Backdrad, now that hip-hop has become mainstream and there is no longer a need to dance on a tarp in the park. “Hip-hop has always been about going against the grain, aiming to break out of the establishment. I was this immigrant boy, small, with glasses, on the side of the dance floor. I also wanted to be on stage. But how was I supposed to do that? Hip-hop was As a libertarian.”

Fifty years of hip-hop

Dutch Dance Days (September 29 to October 5) focuses on Dutch hip-hop in the festival programmes. This edition of the festival program features established and emerging dancers and makers from the hip-hop scene, including ISH Dance Collective, Robin Chi, Dalton Jansen and Simon Bus. www.nederlandsedansdagen.nl.

Read also:

Where are all these rappers suddenly coming from?

Dutch hip-hop is bigger than ever, but who matters in the scene? Music critic Clas Knoyhuizen offers a short course for readers who have lost the thread. TODAY: Where are all these rappers suddenly coming from?

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