Tiny Hip Hop Enthusiasts in Cambodian Suburbs

Af Kiki Hynding Hansen

By first glance KK and Shhort seems, with their gang tattoos, mostly like somebody you would prefer not meeting in a dark alley alone. Nevertheless they are two very ambitious guys with a lot of passion for what they do. When I first visited Tiny Toones, I immediately fell in love with the place.

Driving through a neighborhood that for sure doesn’t see a lot to the rising tourism in the city of Phnom Penh, and then in the middle of all the brown and grey, the colorful graffiti painted walls of Tiny Toones appear. With more than 400 kids and youngsters using the center it is impressive how chilled they are and how everything just seems to work out great.

The day I met Shhort he told me that just today he had six kids coming in from the street asking if they could join, and of course they can, he answers. And it is not because this place is being run down by donors. Nevertheless, it is impressive what they manage to do with the little money they have. Every day a minibus and a tuk-tuk, drives around to pick up the kids from the area and bring them to class. In the morning the teachers at TT, teaches regular materials as English, Math, Khmer etc. In the afternoon the more creative teaching takes over. This is when the pens starts to sketch in the art class, the turntable starts spinning in the Dj and Vj class, and the beat starts pumping making the b-boys do the craziest things and the rappers spit their lines.

More than a hip hop center

With all these activities it’s clear that TT needs quite some space. Which luckily they got, not only do they have lots of different small rooms for teaching, they have a recording room, a breakdance room with soft floor and mirrors, an amazing yard in the middle where the kids play all kinds of ball games further more they have great office facilities for all the people behind the scene.

The place does not only function as a hip hop center but it seems more like a community center, with small children as well as old ladies wandering in and out, feeling at home. I love it! When the b-boys and girls started out I couldn’t help myself, I just had to stay and watch them do their thing. Entering the room, at my right I had what I believe to be some of the best b-boys in Cambodia, and on my left the b-boys and girls to-be. A group of small kids have circled up and are taking turns in the center, being coached by some older B-girls. At the outskirts of the circle a little kid not more than 3 or 4 years old is trying very hard to do a headstand, without wearing any pants, but nobody seems to care, because here is room for anyone. Meanwhile the b-boys are still doing the most amazing things, now glistening of sweat, not only because of the exercise but just as well because of the 35 degrees and the high humidity that Phnom Penh has. To be honest I couldn’t stop smiling, this is such a great place!

Kiki Hynding Hansen
is a member of the RAPOLITICS’ board. She was involved in RAPOLITICS-projects in Bolivia and Denmark, and has recently studied the rap scene in Vietnam and visited Cambodia. kiki@rapolitics.org