Wild Nights with The Kominas

KOMINASWILDNIGHTSINGUANTANAMOBAY.jpg My favorite boy band is back with a punk new edition.

“A South Asian mother’s worst nightmare,” The Kominas is a Boston-based Bollywood punk band. Band members range in age from 22 to 30 years old and are a hodgepodge of middle-class, frustrated but fun-loving musicians, chemists, journalists, college dropouts (and graduates) who are trying to find their place in society. [Wiretap]

Wild Nights in Guantanamo Bay, The Kominas first full length EP dropped last month on CD Baby as well as on iTunes. I’ve been listening to the album on repeat while at the gym and have found myself jaw dropping on more than one occasion as the album took me on a lyrical journey intertwining Islam, politics, and profanity. The album is polished, with a clean sound and reflecting a range of punk sounds and complicated influences. Wild Nights reminds me of a NOFX album in composition — up beat crass punk while subliminally highlighting social and political complexities. But in The Kominas case, the added spice of intersectionality between Islam, American, Desi, South Asian, and punk rock.

I had previously introduced the The Kominas to the Mutiny, and Abhi blogged about a punk benefit concert that the halal punkers did for a Hindu temple. I like them, their music, and what they represent – they are a bunch of desi kids wreaking punk rock havoc internationally. Currently two band members are based in Lahore working on a new band, Noble Drew. For our Indian Mutiny, the guys plan on crossing the border to India for a punk rock blitz in New Delhi at the end of December, so be sure to check them out.

I sat down (virtually) with The Kominas band member Basim Usmani (a fellow blogger and SM reader) for a long talk about the album, what it’s like to be a Muslim punk, and the Taqwacores growing movement.

How would you describe The Kominas?

Like Madhuri’s belly during the Choli Ke Peechay Kya Hain video.

In a previous interview I did with your band mate Shahjehan, he mentioned that you guys met at the mosque and he didn’t grow up on punk rock. He said that you made him a mix CD called Punk 101. When and why did you start listening to punk? When did you start playing music?

It was 9th grade in this Suburb called Lexington – and high school was weird. I had an accent. I was unpopular. I wanted to go to big arena concerts all the time…but my parents thought they were a den of decadence. I was only allowed to attend local shows at VFWs and veteran halls, which were incidentally crust punk and d-beat shows. The first concert I saw was a band called CLASS ACTION, and the singer had the ‘charged’ liberty spikes. People were pogoing, stomping, circle pitting, and the charged singer let me get on the mic for a few songs. Suddenly I had cool friends, I cut class and took the train, I saw all-ages shows (most non-Punk shows are 21+ in Boston). I had friends who thought being foreign or unique was cool. I was no longer unpopular. I was legion.

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Visions of the Divine?

Via our tipline, Janeofalltrades sent us a story about a special garland of flowers that recently “appeared” in Queens. It isn’t quite as spectacular as the Virgin Mary appearing on a grilled cheese sandwich, but its still pretty cool:

To most people, the purple flower that sprouted between two concrete slabs in a Queens backyard would be just a hardy vestige of summer.

Sam Lal sees something more.

The Jamaica man is convinced the mysterious blossom is an incarnation of the elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesh – and neighbors and friends are flocking to see it.

The nearly 4-foot-tall flower grew in June and began to resemble an elephant’s head and trunk in August. Lal said that the ailments that had plagued him for months disappeared.

“This formation came to heal my illness,” the 60-year-old Hindu man said of his relief from pain due to a bone spur near his spine and bulging discs in his neck. [Link]

When a garland resembling Ravana appears, then I will become a true believer.

And speaking of “Divine Visions” SM Tipster Arul sent us a great Flickr portfolio of French stencil artist C215′s work. The portfolio includes pictures taken of his artwork in the Karol Bagh District of Delhi.

New Delhi between 7th -16th October 2008. (See map with each photo if you’re ever in Delhi) Sometimes threatened, usually uncomfortable with the large crowds that gathered for the spectacle of a couple of foreigners having strayed off the tourist trail somehow and ended up in their unimaginably poor district. These pieces were mainly for the children to see and enjoy, which hopefully you can see from the India Set, they did. [Link]
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Desis swinging Virginia (again)

At the DNC, it was clear that Asian-Americans were taking a far larger role in this election than in previous ones. There were more candidates running for office, targeted voter outreach programs, and entire unit of Obama’s campaign solely devoted to the AAPI vote. Taz recently wrote about the recent Asian-American Survey results released, and these results have been receiving wide coverage in a variety of contexts, often in articles highlighting Asian-American political involvement around the country, so I thought I would quickly highlight one which shows just how profound an effect a group of organized South Asians is having on this election.

The Washington Post highlighted Asian-American involvement in the tight presidential race in Virginia, specifically noting that of Indian-Americans who first were involved in the Webb election of 2006.

Perhaps the most-organized Asian voters in Virginia are the Indian Americans, a highly educated and entrepreneurial group. They tend to vote Democratic, although they have applauded the Bush administration’s warm relations and recent nuclear technology agreement with India. Some of their leaders are active in Democratic Party politics, raising substantial funds for local and state candidates. Many initially supported Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and have now switched their allegiance to Obama.
Anish Chopra, a longtime Democratic activist who is the state’s secretary of technology, said the community has evolved politically in recent years and felt empowered by Webb’s victory. He said about 80 percent of Asian Americans who voted in that race, or about 50,000 people, supported Webb, far more than Webb’s 7,200-vote margin over Allen.

At the IALI fundraiser I had attended on day 1 of the DNC, Governor Tim Kaine had specifically mentioned the various Indian-American members of his cabinet, and how they were some of the most talented and capable members of his governing group. The article goes on to mention how young members of the community are playing the most prominent part in the current ethnic mobilization:

Community leaders said many first-generation Asian Americans, who came here as refugees or economic immigrants in the 1960s and 1970s and are now reaching retirement age, have tended to be business-oriented, insular and focused on issues in their homelands. Second-generation professionals and their college-age children tend to be more liberal, engaged in domestic issues and eager to join forces with people from other backgrounds.

Virginia is a crucial swing state, and as was echoed at the DNC, Asian-Americans now have the numbers and clout to swing states across the nation. Ashwin Madia’s race to Congress is looking stronger everyday, although he can still use your help, and in the end, it will be our participation and voting in the next few months which will determine whether South Asian mobilization will be a lasting trend or a disappointing case of chasing after shadows. I know that our younger generation is fired up and ready to go; at our campus here, almost many South Asian students know of and are excited about the Madia Campaign, let alone the enthusiasm over the presidential race. Now every South Asian immigrant in this country has to show they are up to the task and go (and tell all your friends, relatives, community-members, etc.,) to VOTE!

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Bring Me the Medicine Man

This Wired piece manages to combine 4 of my favorite topics into a single article –

  • Who You Gonna Call? The Medicine Man – Lokesh “Mulama”

    Law and Economics
  • Indian Governance & Modernization
  • The Tech Boom
  • Goondas

The story? The crazy things Bangaloreans have to do to establish title to a piece of property.

Let’s say that you or your company wants to build a tech office building on a piece of land currently occupied by a house in Bangalore. Normally, you’d just pay the homeowner for the property and tear down the house to start constructing your office building.

The problem is that actual legal title to land is a pretty murky problem in India (as well as many other parts of the 3rd world). In other words, the guy you bought the land from might not have owned it in a legally clear manner to begin with. His father may have simply squatted on it, and later his eldest son decided to build a nicer house on his boyhood plot of land. Or perhaps his backyard garden – the one you planned on turning into a Nano parking lot for employees – actually belongs to his neighbor?

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“…on the internet I can be just as tall as you.”

Australian-based Boymongoose is back with another video gem from their 2006 album Christmas in Asia Minor. You may remember the 12 Days of Christmas song we posted back then. Here is the video to Single Girls set to the music of Jingle Bells. Make sure to play this at your desi Holiday party. It will definitely be spinning here at our North Dakota headquarters come December.

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India Heading to the Moon

nyt chandrayaan.jpg

India is sending an unmanned space-ship to the moon, with take-off possibly as soon as Wednesday morning, Indian time [UPDATE: Take-off was successful!]:

The launch of Chandrayaan-1, as the vehicle is called (it means, roughly translated, “Moon Craft-1”) comes about a year after China’s first moon mission. The Indian mission is scheduled to last for two years, prepare a three-dimensional atlas of the moon and prospect its surface for natural resources, including uranium, a coveted fuel for nuclear power plants, according to the Indian Space Research Organization, or I.S.R.O. Allusions to an Asian space race could not be contained, even as Manmohan Singh, the Indian prime minister, was due for a visit to China later in the week. (link)

Most of the Times article on the event focuses on the “Asian space race,” between India and China. Some more coverage in the Indian newspapers here, here, and especially here. The ExpressIndia story has the most technical information about the trip I’ve seen:

Earlier in the day, Prof J N Goswami, director of the Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), Ahmedabad, who is also the principal scientist for the Chandrayaan-1 mission, spoke about the possibility of finding helium-3 on the lunar surface. “Although generating power through nuclear fusion of helium-3 is a distant dream, but the possibilities are immense,” he said. The samples brought to Earth by the Apollo mission have indicated that Iron titanium oxide traps helium-3 molecules on the lunar surface, he said.

Goswami said he-3 content is very low. For every 100,000 helium-4 molecules, there is only one helium-3 molecule on the lunar surface. Besides, the scientific community is yet to simulate the conditions necessary for nuclear fusion. But, if Chandrayaan-1 is able to locate probable areas for finding helium-3, that in itself will be a very big achievement. It will help eliminate the two stages of producing deuterium from hydrogen and then producing helium-3 from deuterium, he added. (link)

Though I can hardly claim to be an expert on the science, from what I’ve been reading I’m skeptical at the outset about the search for uranium or helium-3 on the moon, mainly because I’m not sure what they would do with these materials even if they were to find some — build a lab? Bring it back? (Can anyone find more detailed accounts regarding the specific scientific goals for this mission? What exactly is going in Chandrayaan-1′s various payloads?)

One could argue — and I’m sure some will — that it’s hard to justify spending lots of money on a mission to the moon, when India obviously has lots of other issues to contend with right now.

I can see the objections, but I still think it’s pretty cool. Events like this can have huge symbolic significance, and I hope the launch tomorrow goes well. [UPDATE: It did. The rocket is supposed to reach the moon in fifteen days.] Continue reading

Local ads, local candidates

In the run up to election day I need help from our readers. I want to know about all the desi candidates running for elected office this Nov. 4th. In the comments of this post please provide:

1) Name of candidate and party affiliation

2) City, State

3) Office they are running for

4) Their website, a news article about them, or a commercial by them

In the early days of SM I had the time to do all this myself. These days I am just too busy to do all the research. More importantly however, there are many more desi candidates running. Let me get you guys warmed up by posting Ashish Mahendru’s television ad. He is running for judge locally here in Houston. That’s right, in Texas you elect your judges so that laws get interpreted just the way you like .

Big bonus points for anyone that finds a desi candidate running for office in the state of North Dakota, where SM’s world blogging headquarters is based.

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What’s in a President’s Name? Ask a Wordsmith

Election fever is on the rise. (I don’t know about you, but none of my favorite TV shows quite have the same appeal these days and anytime I pick up a newspaper or hop on a website or facebook, I’m more likely to click on a election story or link than anything else.) It’s even hitting Anu Garg, the software engineer turned wordsmith and the brain behind the immensely popular (600,000 people in some 200 countries) A.Word.A.Day newsletter.

Garg is asking a simple question this week: What’s in a name (of those whom we call our presidential hopefuls)? obambulate.jpg

“The effect of the actions of a president last for years and eponyms (words coined after someone’s name) enter the language that reflect their legacy, such as Reaganomics and teddy bear (after Theodore Roosevelt),” Garg wrote earlier today in his daily newsletter. And, although the five words for this week’s A.Word.A.Day all appear to have been coined after this year’s presidential candidates (Obama, Biden, McCain, and Palin). they have been in the language even before these candidates were born.

The first word for this week: obambulate

(o-BAM-byuh-layt) MEANING:
verb tr.: To walk about.
From Latin ob- (towards, against) + ambulare (to walk). Ultimately from the Indo-European root ambhi- (around) that is also the source of ambulance, alley, preamble, and bivouac. The first print citation of the word is from 1614.
“We have often seen noble statesmen obambulating (as Dr. Johnson would say) the silent engraving-room, obviously rehearsing their orations.”
The Year’s Art; J.S. Virtue & Co.; 1917.

[In case you're wondering, the image to your right was generated using the above definition, courtesy of Wordle, a wonderfully obsessive site that generates word clouds for a chunk of text, url, or RSS feed.]

The remaining presidential words will be posted here everyday for the rest of this week. And, a Q&A with Anu Garg follows below the fold. Continue reading

Xenophobia Judo (updated)

Last week the Sacramento County GOP, which is the local party for the state capital of the most populous state in the union, had image below on their the official website!

If you had any doubt that the GOP was promoting the message “Obama = Arab = Muslim = Terrorist!” this should put your doubts to rest. (To their credit, the state level party quickly had the material removed but that doesn’t undercut the broader campaign.)

One minor personal consequence of this tactic is that I am unable to go canvassing door-to-door in battleground states for either campaign. Can you imagine the reception I would encounter knocking on doors for the Obama campaign in West Virginia? Or how about ringing doorbells for McCain in Missouri?

Sure, I might be able to overcome the xenophobia and fear of certain voters, but that would make the exercise more about me than the candidate, with each minute spent explaining who I am taken away from time avalable to make the case for a particular campaign. No, that would be immensely selfish on my part.

Unfortunately, this leaves me with only one option if I want to participate in face-to-face persuasion of voters. I could pretend to be working for the opposition.

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In the long run …

What impact will the banking crisis and subsequent stock market collapse have on the developing countries of South Asia? According to one economist, not much. According to Michael Clemens at the Center for Global Development, no economic crisis has been very consequential in the medium to long term:

In historical perspective, many of the most worrisome recent crises are small bumps on a very long road. The entire effect of the 1994 so-called “Tequila” Crisis on per-capita real income of the average Mexican… was erased in exactly three years. In Thailand, epicenter of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, it took all of six years. In Indonesia, the poverty rate in the population was back to its pre-crisis level within just three years. Even the big, bad 1982 Latin American debt crisis … [had no long term effect]

Bad years are typically followed by offsetting good years, and good years by bad. The good years get smaller headlines, or none at all. The point is that in the long march of development, some financial crises amount to rounding error relative to the real economy, and the real economy affects welfare. [Link]

Clemens claims this is even true about the mother of all financial crisies, the Great Depression. Even this seemingly cataclysmic event, he argues, had no real impact on long term American growth.

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