(AFP) – The music videos of Eva B, the latest Pakistani rap star, have garnered millions of views online, but when she walks the maze of streets in her Karachi neighborhood, she remains anonymous.
With her body and face covered in a long black Islamic veil that reveals only her eyes, she escapes the attention of her fans and detractors alike.
“It’s funny that people don’t recognize me. They play my songs, but when I’m in front of them they don’t know it’s me,” the 22-year-old rapper told AFP. the port megalopolis of Karachi (south).
Inspired by American rappers Eminem and Queen Latifah, she began writing lyrics in her bedroom, before posting her rap tracks on Facebook.
For fear of insulting those close to her, she secretly went to the recording studios to record her compositions, under the pretext of going to study.
But when one of her siblings figured out the pattern, her family didn’t like it, considering that this genre of music was not suitable for a little girl and that she would have a hard time getting married in a still deeply conservative country.
“Later they realized I was very stubborn, so they gave up. They realized I couldn’t be stopped,” she laughs, adding that her mother is now by her side in the studio or concert to support her.
His rise to fame was accelerated this year by his collaboration with the Coke studio, named after the music program produced by Coca-Cola, one of the most followed by Pakistani television.
In the hit “Kana Yaari”, a story of betrayal in love, she appears in a bright orange hijab, her face almost completely veiled. The song reached 16 million views on YouTube. But unlike other artists who have gone through Coke Studio, she struggles to escape her newfound stardom.
“It’s weird to live two lives. People know me, but at the same time they don’t really know me,” she says.
She likes to see herself nodding innocently during conversations in cafes or at friends’ weddings, when people talk about the latest Eva B pieces.
– The hijab, ‘is normal’ –
From time to time people recognize her from her eyes, but she always denies that she is the artist.
“I’m fine the way I am. I can’t take care of everyone,” she said, thinking of the attention she would surely attract if her identity were known.
Although in Pakistan, a conservative Islamic republic, most women are veiled in one way or another, few performers dare to wear the hijab on stage.
When he first started going to the studio, the producers and music directors were initially “stunned”.
“They reacted as if they were saying to each other: + What is it? +” He says. “But soon everything became normal.”
The veil has always been part of her identity as a Muslim, at the same time it defined her image as a rapper.
“Today I wear more elegant clothes for music videos, so people notice me. But I still keep the hijab,” he adds.
But now she admits she is tired of the conversations about how she dresses.
“The media has focused on my hijab rather than me (…) I’m more average,” he annoys. “It’s normal in my society. It doesn’t have to be in the news.”
On the other hand, she is happy to receive messages on Instagram from girls who are happy to see a singer in hijab representing them.
– ‘Silence doesn’t work’ –
“I am happy to serve as an inspiration to them (…), who are proud of me,” he admits.
But for a veiled rapper, the disapproval of those who think she’s not a “good girl” is never far away, she admits.
“There’s nothing wrong with what I do. I sing songs and there’s nothing wrong with it,” she replies.
Eva B grew up in Lyari, a Karachi neighborhood whose population is predominantly Baloch, and has long been known for its poverty and gang violence.
But the improvement in safety in recent years has given free rein to creativity and has given birth to a hip hop scene.
“We did not take lessons from prestigious music schools, we learned everything by ourselves, driven by our passion. So I continue to propose Lyari and I am proud of it”, continues Eva B.
Lyari’s rise to hip hop echoes the birth of the genre in the 1970s in the New York Bronx, with her street performances and lyrics that evoke the harshness of life in urban ghettos,
The rapper does not hesitate to talk about the difficulties encountered by Pakistani women and to address issues such as wealth inequality in her country or the delicate issue of corruption.
Her favorite song, “Bayani Rog”, in her native baloch language, chronicles her journey from a shy and nervous teenager to the confident and outspoken woman she is today.
“I realized that keeping quiet doesn’t work, so I might as well talk.”