British Columbia

Vancouver rapper bringing Desi sound to South By Southwest

Meet Horsepowar, a Vancouver-born rapper who fuses hip-hop with her Desi heritage to make a sound all her own.

Horsepowar performing at South By Southwest on March 16 in support of her latest EP, Out2Lunch

Horsepowar — a.k.a. Jasleen Powar — in a publicity photo. She will be appearing at South By Southwest on March 16. (Horsepowar/Facebook)

A Vancouver-born rapper is heading to the South By Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas next week for what will be the biggest performance of her young career.

Jasleen Powar, who raps as Horsepowar, has been described as "a Desi rapper who uses the theatrics of Bollywood — visually and sonically."

Horsepowar started out as a slam poet in high school, but made the transition to rap music.

"When I used to perform at Cafe Du Soleil on Monday nights, at the Vancouver poetry house, they would always say, 'You're so punk, you're so badass, but we hear this rap sound to you, you should put a beat over it,'" she told The Early Edition host Rick Cluff.

Bollywood has been a major influence on Horsepowar's sound, she says. Her mother is a "huge fan," and they listened to Hindi movie mixtapes in the car while she was growing up.

"I can tell you who played the character that sang that song ... and the singer of the song, and what movie it was from, and what scene it was from," she said. "I'm obsessed because of my mother."

WARNING: Graphic language

Family has always been a big part of her life, too, although her family hasn't been complete since the death of her brother, Jason.

Jason Powar died 10 years ago in a motorcycle accident at age 21. She was a young teenager at the time and described their relationship as still developing at that time.

Jason was interested in theatre, and she wonders if they could have become collaborators if he were still alive.

"I feel like I was almost there, and if he got to know me now it would be so different," she said. "We would be making music videos together, and he's half the reason why my music taste is that way, but he just doesn't know how much he's affected me."

Horsepowar will be performing at South By Southwest on March 16 in support of her latest EP, Out2Lunch.

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: Vancouver-born Desi rapper Horsepowar


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