*”Bouncing Cats” tells the story of a young brother named Abramz, Abraham Tekya to be exact. Why is his story worthy of being told? He is a small voice of reason in a hurricane of sadness that exists in his native Uganda. One can only imagine what it’s like to be a child there.
No matter how tough you think you are, places like Uganda will break even the mightiest of men, so imagine what it’s doing to children? The documentary takes place in Northern Uganda, home to the notoriously brutal rebel group, Lord’s Resistance Army.
Though Uganda has had some successes, such as reducing HIV and AIDS infections at a rate that could be a model for the world, it is still a place where otherworldly poverty and violence persists. Tekya is a b-boy from Uganda who is using Hip-Hop culture to build bridges between the children of ethnic groups and tribes that were once in armed struggle against one another. Abramz, one of Uganda’s many A.I.D.S. orphans, created the Breakdance Project Uganda (B.P.U.) in 2006.
His goal was to empower, rehabilitate and heal the children of Uganda. Last year he reached out to Crazy Legs of the world famous Rock Steady Crew and asked him to come to Uganda see the peace and beauty that is being wrought in the name of Hip-Hop. The 8-day trip was taped and made into a documentary that has already won several awards.
“It’s one movie I recommend you see because it gives us a whole different perspective on our lives by seeing what they’re going through,” he told EURweb.com. “But I think it’s going to alter the way we approach everyday life and how we take it for granted.”
From its inception critics have accused Hip-Hop culture of being less than random noise, and being little more than a nuisance with no redeeming qualities whatsoever. But Tekya’s struggle is yet another example to the contrary.
“It’s inspiring because of what Afrika Bambaata has been telling us through his teachings with the Zulu Nation as far as taking Hip-Hop and utilizing it as a tool to further us; to build bridges between cultures,” he explained. “These brothers and sisters are using it to build bridges between former warring tribes. Also using Hip-Hop, primarily dance, to build capital for themselves and to get kids to school that want to go to school. You’ve got kids living in the slums and ghettos over there and they want to go to school. They don’t want to be in the hood like that.”
Though he did not elaborate on what “like that” is one could easily imagine that he is speaking on how brothers and sisters within the culture in the United States are in the hood “like that.”
“These kids are saying ‘Thank you for not buying diamonds’ and they’re using Hip-Hop to say something completely the opposite of what commercial Hip-Hop over here is saying,” he continued. “These people are rapping about ‘Thank you for letting us know that we exist. We’re happy to know that you know we’re here.’ They don’t want a handout. They want to work for theirs. It’s a beautiful thing going on over there and they’re using Hip-Hop to do it. We were in Uganda and it was the longest 8 days of my life.”
The story being told in “Bouncing Cats” is one that has been told, to varying degrees, across the globe. A few of our readers out there may remember when the Zulu Nation was among the most ruthless street gangs of New York City. If not for Hip-Hop, and the teachings of Afrika Bambaata, who knows what sinister actions its members would have perpetrated upon the unsuspecting masses. Thanks to Hip-Hop, Crazy Leggs has been making a living for himself and his loved ones for over 25 years.
“I am definitely fortunate to have been appreciated by a lot of people,” he humbly said of his notoriety. “I definitely got my bumps and bruises in order to get those props. I’m four surgeries deep and probably need three more. But that comes with the territory. You want to be a warrior in the pit, and there are bumps and bruises that go along with that and I don’t mind it for the sake of art.”
Looking at Crazy Legs one can easily forget how long he’s been breaking, head-spinning, hand-standing and performing moves the names of which have been lost to time. He tells EURweb.com that he’s done it all for the love, and that love has been costly on his body.
“The medical bills are disgusting. One of the biggest ones was a torn Achilles. That’s the big dog of them all when it comes to your legs. My doctor was like ‘You would have been better off breaking your leg in four places.’ When I blew out my Achilles that threw me out of the loop for six months, I’m 44 and about to be 45 January 1st.”
It’s amazing to think this brother has been going strong since 1977. This writer is feeling rather aged in light of that realization, recalling when every party had at least two breaking crews squaring off for hood glory. That nostalgia isn’t lost on Crazy Legs either. But the legacy lives on in kids breaking and popping for money on New York City subway platforms, in the slums of Manilla, along the shores of Venice Beach, California, as well as in Africa across the globe.
“I never got into this just for the sake of getting into the business,” he explained. “I got into this because it was something that was cultural for me and about expression. No industry existed for us. It was organic and for the love of music first, then allowing that music to translate through your bodily movements. If you learn how to dance the right way you don’t need all that acrobatic stuff. Sometimes people want to feel what your doing as opposed to just seeing it.”
“Bouncing Cats” is directed by Nabil Ederkin and features narrative from Common, as well as appearances from Mos Def, K’naan and Crazy Legs, of course. It recently won the award for “Best Documentary Feature” at the Urbanworld Film Festival in New York City and the award for “Outstanding Achievement in Filmmaking” at the Newport Beach Film Festival. Yeah, it’s that good. Crazy Legs told us he’s still doing his thing too. If you still like that original Hip-Hop flavor, or if you prefer to call it Adult Contemporary Hip-Hop, you can catch him online at 2:00 p.m. weekdays at www.crazylegsworkshop.com. Titled “Lunch Breaks,” it’s one part cooking show and one part celebration of Hip-Hop culture, 100% fresh!
“Bouncing Cats” is currently making it’s rounds. Get more info here: www.bouncingcats.com/.
Check out the trailer:
BOUNCING CATS film trailer from nabil elderkin on Vimeo.