Hyderabad: When 24-year-old rapper Mohammed Affan, aka Pasha Bhai, released his first single ‘Eid Ka Chaand’ with a music video in 2020, it caused a ripple in some music circles. The hip-hop artist from Bengaluru’s Neelasandra area wrote and sung his song in Dakhni, the language that he speaks in (like most others, especially Muslims, in south India).
Pasha Bhai’s Dakhni single ‘Eid Ka Chand’ was special because it resonated with his surroundings and is in a language that the masses actually speak in – Dakhni. And a year after releasing his maiden Dakhni music video, Affan last week released his first music album ‘Bangalore Ka Potta’ (now available on Spotify). The release of his album from the Deccan region and Bengaluru is significant, as it is probably the first ever complete album released in the language, which is the spoken vernacular in Deccan cities (and not Urdu as perceived).
Dakhni, wrongly mistaken as Urdu (or Banglori Urdu or Hyderabad Hindi/Urdu), is the spoken language of the Deccan and south India, especially amongst Muslims. For historical reasons, it stopped being the written language, but has continued to be the spoken medium for at least four centuries (aside from Urdu also developing and getting established eventually from the 18th century onwards).
The release of ‘Bangalore Ka Potta’ by Mohammed Affan aka Pasha and team is also likely to raise the oft-repeated but factually incorrect debate of whether Dakhni language is a dialect of Urdu. Along with Affan, his fellow rappers or partners Demix, Marwan, Circle Tone (mixing), Manas Sharma, and others also helped him create the album. I was introduced to Affan and his group in 2020 through Bengaluru-based multi-disciplinary artist Amshu Chukki, who also helped the group.
Being older than Urdu itself, Dakhni, in spite of a literary decline over two centuries, is still the spoken language all across the Deccan and south India. It is widely spoken in cities like Hyderabad, Aurangabad, Bidar, Gulbarga, and is the mother tongue among some, especially Muslims, in cities like Bengaluru, Chennai, Guntur, etc.
Dakhni and upcoming hip-hop songs
Prior to the release of his new album, Affan also released the official of the song ‘Pasha Bhai’ (from album) a few months ago on Youtube. The song is essentially about his life. Devoid of any fancy locations of Bengaluru, in the video Affan is rapping in the back alleys of his area with his own people in Neelasandra. What sets it apart from any other generic Dakhni song is the message that it sends – that he is comfortable is his own skin.
Affan’s album ‘Bangalore Ka Potta’ was done with help through a grant from the India Foundation for the Arts (IFFA) which he released this year.
Dakhni in Bengaluru is a little different from how it is spoken in Hyderabad and other parts of the south. From pronunciations to the tone, the language however will resonate with a native speaker. A son of the soil, Pasha’s songs in Dakhni have some very strong lyrics, especially about his life. Here are some of the lyrics (note the usage of Dakhni, featuring very less Persian words as against in Urdu) :
Chorus: Pasha Bhai, Pasha Bhai, Pasha Bhai (Pasha Bhai, Pasha Bhai, Pasha Bhai)
Gaun bharko inke toh saathiyan hain (All around the village/ town, they’re his comrades)
Bhout karte sabke saat chaaliyan bhai (Many tricks he plays on everyone around)
Woh chodko dusra kya b’ aata nai (Other than that, he knows nothing else)
Kya b panchata’n yhan aako kar nakko ma (Please don’t come here & stir shit up)
Chubak’ kaad daltin aata ni chamkak’ chodna (We cut through & pull out (a knife/blade), don’t keep pushing us)
Hammech roll karne wale, tume hamnach roll-an? (You think you’re conning the conmen? Well think again)
Screw dheela dista lek’aa 15-16 (You ou’re out of your senses, go tighten the loose screws)
Chokri wale pareshaan ye kab ba chodra? (The bride’s side is troubled (sick of my habits) They ask, “When will you change?”)
Bole chain se kamaa mai b ashraaf hoga Ratti paisa jamaak’ jaako rishta mangyat’ (“Take it easy,” they said, so I mended my crooked ways Saved up as much as I could, & went asking for a hand)
Pooche kyetta kamata? Bolya Pacchas Tolaaaa (Got asked “how much do you earn? Told them this chain is 50 gm gold)From the song ‘Pasha Bhai’
‘Bengaloor Ke Dastan’
The other rap song that has strong lyrics and a take on our social milieu is ‘Bengalore Ke Daastan’ (you can listen to it here on (Spotity). A very catchy tune, his lyrics are in fact very poetic, and about his city or area that he has grown up in. It’s a very different idea of the city, one that doesn’t feature today’s IT hub that it is. The lyrics are so evocative that if you remove the music from the background, it would be perhaps mistaken for a poem in Dakhni.
And that is in fact the very essence that sets is apart. Devoid of the usual ‘aesthetic’ that Urdu is associated with, especially for being a “nice sounding language”, Affan’s Dakhni hip-hop is graceful, but not in the way one would expect it. It’s on your face, and questions everything. He and his group Clan Bokka Phod have in fact come a long way since 2017 when they began getting active and researching what their spoken language is called.
Affan and Bokka Phod are also part of a larger group called Wanandaf (after the one-and-a-half fare auto drivers ask at night), which also includes artists who rap in other languages (and not just Dakhni).
“I wrote Bengalore ke Daastan in 2017 itself, back when we did not know the language is called Dakhni. I wanted to write something but I could never complete it…whether it is my story or something else. The song was done but there were a lot of things still undone. Eid Ka Chand (in comparison) was done in a just a few days,” Affan, or Pasha as he is known, said.
While some youngsters in Hyderabad like Ruhaan Arshad earlier created their own songs (like ‘Miya Bhai’), which some argue are earlier attempts of creating hip-hop songs in Dakhni, there is however a stark difference. Pasha’s work is more socially conscious. Tired of arguing with people who call Dakhni as a dialect of Urdu, Pasha now says he writes his songs simply for himself.
“All I want to do is to talk about it through my music. “Dakhni has already been revived. You look at Instagram and YouTube, so many young content creators are now writing Dakhni. Lyrics wise, I have strictly kept it 95% in Dakhni. Wanandaf shows the cultural mix of Bangalore. For my next project, I am planning to use Dakhni, Urdu and some Farsi also,” Affan asserted, when asked if this will help other Dakhni artists.
“I have a North Indian audience also, which has been following me since my Hindi or Urdu days. Now when I sit to write something, I can’t go to Urdu. It goes to Dakhni itself. In Bangalore, some people ask why I don’t say Urdu or call the language Urdu,” Pasha told me in a phone interview from Bengaluru.
Here’s a part of the lyrics from ‘Eid Ka Chand’ as an example:
Gutter’an se uthko mai abar’an tak aaya,
Khadaman se uthko mai khabr’an tak aaya
Kachra samajhko ghinn aati thi jinku ab
Dhagad’an ke jhuk’ko hin, tagad’an khamaya
Dakhni – History
Dakhni, the language spoken in Hyderabad and the Deccan, has always been associated with classic literary works that go back to the mid-15th century when it was first born as a vernacular at Bidar. While it is widely spoken in south India even today, it has never has been a part of other modern mediums or pop culture.
Dakhni (or Deccani) is usually mistaken to be a ‘dialect’ of Urdu, especially among north Indians. In Hyderabad, we speak in the language (our version can be called Hyderabadi as it is more of Urdu peppered with Dakhni words), but learnt the standardised Urdu in reading and writing. There are historic reasons for this.
Words like ‘Kaiku’, ‘Nakko’, ‘Manjhe’, ‘Haula’, etc, are all imports from other regional languages (Marathi, Kannada, Telugu) to create Dakhni. It evolved from Dehalvi, which formed in the 14th century when Persian mixed with the spoken languages in and around Delhi. However, this had not taken shape as an established language fully at the time.
Sufis had used Dehalvi freely, but that spoken idiom was unestablished. Dakhni’s origins go back to the mid 14th century when ‘Dehalvi’, northern India’s spoken idiom, mixed with Marathi first when Mohammed Bin Tughlaq decided to shift his capital from Delhui to Daulatabad (in Aurangabad today) in the late 1320s. Tughlaq had to go back up north, but those who had moved to the Deccan remained.
In 1347, one of his generals broke-off, leading to the creation of the Bahamani empire (1347-1518), under which Dehalvi (which had mixed with Marathi), further came down south and migled with Kannada. The Bahamani empire changed its capital from Gulbarga to Bidar around 1426. It was there that mixing with Kannada and Telugu at Bidar, the langauge called Dakhni was born around 1460. Kadam Rao Padam Rao by Nizami was its first written literature.
Fall of Dakhni
Note that by then there was no such language called Urdu. Dakhni is a mix of Dehlavi (known as Old Urdu or Hindvi as well), Kannada, Marathi and Telugu. It was the main literary language of the Deccan, especially in Hyderabad and Bijapur until they existed till 1686 and 1687. The fact of the matter is that Hyderabad’s founder Mohd Quli Qutb Shah (1580-1611) himself was a Dakhni poet, having written thousands of lines of poetry in his lifetime.
Modern Urdu as we know it, by then did not exist. Anyone who goes through medieval texts of literature will see that Mohd Quli’s own writing is filled with Marathi, Telugu and Kannada words as well (Dakhni, and later Urdu, also use the same Persian script that is used today in India).
The standardised Urdu we learn today, was created in Delhi in the 17th century in Delhi’s Shajahanabad. It translates to army camp in Turkish. It is believed to have come from ‘Urdu Bazar’ and evolved when Persian and Hindi speaking officials in the Mughal armies mixed. Dakhni by then however was widely written in and also spoken in the Deccan.
Urdu came to the south after the Mughals fully conquered the Deccan, after Hyderabad (Golconda Sultanate) was the last kingdom to fall in 1687. The entire Deccan eventually came under the Mughal-appointed Nizams in 1724 (with Aurangabad as its capital), who first made Persian and later Urdu the official languages replacing Dakhni, which however continues to be a spoken language, till today.
As Urdu was used the prime medium of instruction, the elites took to it. However, the general masses, especially outside of urban centres, continued to stick to their spoken language – Dakhni. Hence, in certain parts of the south like in Andhra Pradesh’s Guntur or Prakasam, Muslims speak in Dakhni but call it Urdu due to lack of awareness. Even if one argues that it is in fact Urdu, the spoken words are likely to fly over the head of a native Urdu speaker.
Today, there are several content creators, especially on Instagram, who have in fact begun using the term Dakhni Urdu instead of simply calling it Urdu earlier. Rida Tharana, Zoha Sanofer and Danish Sait are a few to name of the popular creators on social media.