Sofia Ashraf

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Sofia Ashraf (born 1987) is an Indian rapper and singer. Her songs address the negligence of corporations that fail to clean up industrial disasters. Her 2008 song Don't Work for Dow criticizes Dow's failure to compensate victims of the 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy in India. In 2015, she released Kodaikanal Won't, a music video addressing mercury pollution in Kodaikanal from a thermometer factory owned by Unilever, a multinational consumer goods company.

In June 2016, she released "Dow vs. Bhopal: a Toxic Rap Battle".[1]

Early life[edit]

In 1987, Sofia Ashraf was born and brought up in an orthodox Malayali Muslim household in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Sofia was part of a Muslim youth group in Chennai, and studied Islamic History and Philosophy ardently. She studied graphic design in Stella Maris College, Chennai, where she used to zealously participate in extracurricular activities. She began rapping on stage during a college festival, where she donned a Hijab and rapped to her own lyrics in which she questioned the people's attitude towards Muslims after September 11 attacks. The press referred to her as "The Burqa Rapper" after the incident.[2] Despite this she now identifies as atheist and has several tattoos.[3]


Ashraf worked as a creative supervisor for Ogilvy & Mather, a global advertising firm that counts Unilever as one of its clients. She quit the firm in 2015, a few months before making the hit single "Kodaikanal Won't". O&M executive chairman Piyush Pandey said the firm had wanted Ashraf to stay on, but that she left to pursue a new career path in 2015.[4]

In 2008, she sang "Don't Work for Dow" while wearing a hijab to criticize Dow for its response to the Bhopal disaster in 1984.[5]

In July 2015, she released the single "Kodaikanal Won't" to protest the pollution of a river in Kodaikanal.[6] In the song she appeals to Unilever to help former workers in Kodaikanal, whose river was contaminated 14 years before with mercury from a thermometer plant owned by Unilever. Ashraf released a YouTube video of the song to campaign against the mercury poisoning. Ashraf used the Nicki Minaj tune "Anaconda" as the beat for "Kodaikanal Won't."[5][7] In 2015, she collaborated with Chennai-based singer Maalavika Manoj and Sapta on the song Deen. The song was written by Ashraf to combat moral policing and insist the faith must be a choice, not an imposition.[8]

Ashraf has recorded a song each in the Bollywood movie Jab Tak Hai Jaan and the Tamil movie Maryan (film), for music director A. R. Rahman,[9][10] and also for Santhosh Kumar in his Tamil film Inimey Ippadithan.[11]


  1. ^ "Indian Rapper Targets US Chemical Giant in Bid for Damages". AP. 10 July 2016. Retrieved 10 July 2016 – via The New York Times.
  2. ^ "Meet firebrand rapper Sofia Ashraf who is all set for her maiden performance in Mumbai". Daily News & Analysis.
  3. ^ "bpb's Book of Tattoos: Sofia Ashraf, Copywriter, O&M". Brown Paper Bag. 19 February 2015.
  4. ^ Balakrishnan, Ravi (4 August 2015). "O&M ex-employee Sofia Ashraf takes on Unilever's Kodaikanal plant for alleged "environment pollution"". The Economic Times. Retrieved 4 August 2015.
  5. ^ a b Mackey, Robert (31 July 2015). "Indian Rapper Calls Out Unilever to a Nicki Minaj Beat". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 August 2015.
  6. ^ Larson, Selena (1 August 2015). "Indian rapper protests corporation's toxic waste dump with "Anaconda" remix". Daily Dot. Retrieved 4 August 2015.
  7. ^ "Unilever poisoning Kodaikanal with Mercury". Business Standard. 13 January 2013. Retrieved 14 July 2013.
  8. ^ Fathima, Hafsa (20 November 2015). "Sapta and Sofia Ashraf create a tuneful conversation". The Hindu. Retrieved 20 August 2018.
  9. ^ Ayub, Jamal (3 December 2012). "Sofia Ashraf: Rapping for a cause". The Times of India.
  10. ^ "'Burqa rapper' Sofia Ashraf is face of viral Nicky Minaj parody video". The Indian Express. 7 August 2015. Retrieved 25 October 2015.
  11. ^ Srinivasan, Karthik (23 May 2015). "Hitman". The Hindu.