We checked out the The Culture, the anniversary B-boy jam of the Underdog Kombat crew, and came away with a little more insight on the growth of the scene.
The Culture has been around for a while, as have the Underdog Kombat Crew. While the best Indian breakers have come together several times this year to compete, most of the events this year have been qualifiers for international b-boying championships. The Culture, however, is a homegrown, semi-underground jam that takes place every year at the games hall of the Andheri Sports Complex. For their fifth anniversary this year, the crew wanted to make a splash, and legendary Korean b-boy Physicx was brought down to judge the event. This in itself was enough to bring down a massive crowd to the venue on a Sunday afternoon.
Competitions at the jam were divided into several categories, with the Crew championships, Solo b-boy championships and the Solo Popping championships taking the fore. The day’s events began with the popping championships. Popping is one of the original funk dance styles, and while it doesn’t require the raw energy and stamina that b-boying does, it does need extreme control, flexibility, creativity, and some unique style. The finals of the battle saw young popper Tushar Kapoor’s stage presence win over the crowd favourite, Saddam.
The Culture also attempted to showcase different aspects of street culture, and the Indian finalists of Red Bull Street Style showcased their freestyle football skills. Freestyle football… well, it’s basically what most rookie footie players do while mucking around on the field during practice, but better. It’s an art form in itself, with the ball being used as a prop that’s manipulated in every way by the player’s body.
The b-boying events kicked off with the solo qualifiers, and it was great to see several new faces in the mix of 60-odd aspirants. Participants had only one throwdown to showcase the best of their talents, and while there were a few hits and misses, one could clearly see that no one was messing around. Eight solo b-boys were selected for the semis and finals, which were conducted later in the day.
After this, the crew battle events began. 16 participating crews were required to do a 90-second long showcase. Out of these, eight would go on to the quarterfinals. A crew showcase should ideally be a display of the best of the group’s combined talent. However, several of the showcases at The Culture saw individual members of the crews come up one by one and do a short set. This, combined with the time limit, meant that the best talents and qualities of the crew may not have been showcased, and some of the crews seemed disappointed by this. That being said, we did see some excellent moves and practised routines. The crew semifinals saw Roc Fresh Crew and Whoz Who Crew qualify to battle it out at the finals.
The next showcase for the day (which was now turning into night, I don’t know really, I hadn’t seen the outside world in like three hours) was a performance by the high-flying Fictitious Crew, the first Indian hip-hop crew to represent the country in the World Hip Hop Dance Championship in Las Vegas earlier this year (we wrote about them here). The crew performed the routine they’d prepared for the championship, delivering a power-packed performance with several aerial moves to a hugely appreciative crowd.
We’ve seen a growing trend in the b-boying world recently – skilled b-boys as young as ten and twelve years old are winning over their much older opponents. To settle the score, so to speak, The Culture held an exhibition battle between the IBF (Indian B-boying Federation) All-Stars, and the Young Ones. Suffice it to say that the youngsters gave the all-stars (who comprised, among others, b-boys Ghost, Killjoy and Pogo) stiff competition. They’ve got some serious moves backed by an attitude that’s more confident than arrogant, and I’m quite eager to see the heights they’ll reach with a few more years of practice. Young’uns to watch out for – B-boys Acid and Chosen One (aka Sai).
After the solo b-boy semifinals, which saw B-boys Gani and Kid (both of Roc Fresh crew) qualify to compete in the finals, The Culture held its Seven To Smoke battle. This is a new and interesting battle format wherein eight invited participants battle each other in quick succession, and the winner stays on the court to battle on till he’s smoked (has lost a bout). The b-boy with the most bouts won at the end of a specified time limit wins the event. B-boy Bunny of Roc Fresh crew won the round with four “smokes” or wins. B-boys Nevermind and Immortal came a close second with three smokes each.
B-boy Physicx took the stage to perform a much awaited set, which had the assembled crowd very quickly rush to the front of the stage. The Rivers Crew B-boy is a legend in the knowledgeable community, and while he was originally a powerhead (a B-boy who focuses more on power moves like flares, windmills and aerials), his style has gradually shifted over the past few years to incorporate more style and foundation into his sets. The well-respected B-boy has been competing for over a decade, and has won titles in several tournaments including the UK B-boy Championships, and R-16. Physicx had to take a hiatus from competing due to a shoulder injury, as well as his military service. Having finished his duty in the military service, Physicx now plans to make a comeback into competitive B-boying.
Sadly, a large portion of the crowd filtered out after Physicx’s showcase, which is when the Crew championship finals took off with Roc Fresh crew facing off against Whoz Who Crew (who won the UK B-Boy Championship India Showcase) in an intense nine-minute battle. The solo finals saw a fierce battle between Roc Fresh B-boys Gani, the defending champion of the solo championship at The Culture 2011, and Kid.
Results were announced, and B-boy Kid won over his opponent. Roc Fresh seem to have spent a considerable amount of time honing their skills, and it showed when they emerged victorious in the crew finals.
To sum up, The Culture was a classic B-boy jam in pretty much every way. The event started a couple of hours behind schedule which is quite normal at these events. However, the organisers made sure that the event wrapped up on time. This was quite a feat, considering that there were seven battle categories (four of those included qualifiers, semifinals and finals) and four showcase events lined up for the day. A large part of the crowd preferred to jam, practise and show off moves in the ample space available in the hall behind the judges table, and everyone just seemed to be waiting for Physicx to perform. While seasoned b-boys and crews ended up qualifying for the solo and crew championships, it was heartening to see so many new faces finally getting down to battle. What The Culture also proved is that more and more, Indian b-boys are starting to take both the art form and themselves much more seriously. Cheers to that.