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Kyrgyzstan: Inside the Burgeoning Rap Scene

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A small nightclub in central Bishkek recently hosted the city’s first-ever “Freestyle League” competition.

Two skinny teenagers in oversized sweatshirts bound onto the stage, each wearing New York Yankees caps, nodding their heads in time as they call to the crowd: “Put your hands in the air! We want to hear maximum noise!”

On a recent Sunday afternoon, nearly 200 paying patrons, almost all teenagers, packed into a small nightclub in central Bishkek for the city’s first-ever “Freestyle League” competition. Performing in Russian, 16 contestants rap-battled for three hours to decide who would be crowned king.

Although rap and hip-hop in Kyrgyzstan is nowhere near as popular as pop ballads and dance music, a vibrant scene is growing in the capital. “It’s a parody of what people are doing on television in the West: ‘Oh, we’re in a club, we’re so cool,” said a member of LeeMitT, a local group.

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Nate Schenkkan is a Bishkek-based journalist. David Trilling is EurasiaNet's Central Asia editor and a long-time photographer.

Kyrgyzstan: Inside the Burgeoning Rap Scene

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