Throw Me an Invitation

I was roped into the arms of the indie-rock band The Throws (then called Lovely) when I had first seen them perform a few years ago at the South Asian art festival Artwallah. I had been impressed by the chill post-punk polished sound and crushworthy lyrics. The band’s CD quickly became a regular rotation as I cruised the streets of Los Angeles that year.

After taking some time off, I was excited to hear that The Throws are back to making sweet music together again. I had the chance to sit down (virtually) with Adit Rao, lead singer of The Throws to talk about fears, hopes, and dreams. Instead of dropping a CD, the band is going release singles online, one at a time and for free. You can listen to the first song of the series, “Invitation” by using the player below, and you can read my conversation with Adit Rao just below that.

<a href="">&#8220;Invitation&#8221; by The Throws</a>

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview for Sepia Mutiny. I’ve been following you for the past few years, back when the band used to be called Lovely. It seems like you’ve been quiet for a bit… What has been going on with The Throws?

The Throws kinda disappeared for a minute, life stepped in and took the reins for a bit. We went back into the woodshed– writing, recording, and stuff. But recently, there’s been some rumblings; we’re jones-ing to do some touring, and get the new record out.

The Throws have recently released a single called Invitation. Why did you choose to release one song via internet verses putting together an album and pressing hard copies? Do you see the future of digital music moving away from concept albums and towards this downloading one song format?

Well, it’s just easier to get people to try one song, before they think about a whole record. There’s so much music out there. So this is our way of getting more people to listen and (hopefully) talk about what we’re doing. We’ll give away a one song at a time, and then when we put out the record maybe there’ll be some actual anticipation. I don’t know that albums will go away completely, but I suspect that only the diehard fans will buy full albums. Do I personally need Rihanna’s *whole* album? No. But I’m sure her core audience would disagree with me.

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Farewell to Ustad Ali Akbar Khan (1922-2009)


Yesterday Indian classical music lost one of its greatest, master sarod player Ali Akbar Khan. Those of you from the Bay Area will recognize his name in association with the school he founded in 1967, the Ali Akbar College of Music in San Rafael, CA, which has taught North Indian classical music to more than 10,000 students. Along with sitar player Ravi Shankar, Ali Akbar Khan was the face of North Indian classical music in the United States and influenced countless musicians around the world.

Guitarist Carlos Santana once said that a single note of Khan’s sarod "goes right to my heart," while classical violinist Yehudi Menuhin – who prompted Mr. Khan to first visit the United States in 1955 – once called the sarodist "the greatest musician in the world."

Grateful Dead drummer Mickey Hart, who took drum lessons at Mr. Khan’s college the first year it opened, said …, "All the people who studied there – it changed all our lives. Khan embodies the pure spirit of music; it’s not just the notes, it’s the spirit. Every time I listen to him, he takes me there."(link)

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No no no, she’s too fair for my parents …

Inter-racial couples face some very real obstacles but does anybody think that this guy’s conservative parents are going to be fooled at all by this “desi makeover”?

If turnabout is fair play, should she ask him to go blond when he meets her parents?

I hope y’all have some funnier, far less lame “Meet the Parents” stories. I know that most of what we see on reality TV is super-lame and hyper-toolish behavior (a combination of the people who are selected and the type of actions encouraged and edited for), but this clip gives me the serious heebie-jeebies. HT to Chick Pea for almost making me lose my lunch. Continue reading

YaliniDream / An Artist, Constantly Evolving

I first met performer/poet/dancer YaliniDream when I moved to New York three years ago. I was hunting for a profile subject for my Arts & Culture journalism seminar, and wanted to write about a Sri Lankan artist. A friend directed me to one of YaliniDream’s collaborators. I headed to a performance, thinking: wow, I live in a town where there are Sri Lankan/diasporic artists!

The performance was cool–and funny, and dark, and raw, touching upon issues related to the conflict in Sri Lanka. The combination of dance, music (particularly the exquisite, keening cello of Varuni Tiruchelvam), spoken word/poetry and visuals was deeply transporting and complex. Foolishly, I hadn’t expected a show–any show, really–to pull such an intense reaction from me. I left the show almost (okay, who am I kidding, actually) in tears at the power of what the performers had done, and their sheer bravery. (After all, I chose a profession where I spend most of my time alone in a room with a computer.)

While the blogosphere is a poor substitute for live performance (sorry, Internet, it’s true), here are some snippets.

Momma’s Hip Hop Kitchen Vol. II: YaliniDream from Jennifer Hobdy on Vimeo.

This work seems newly relevant now, and YaliniDream has a slew of performances coming up—-New Yorkers can check her out this weekend (including tonight, in the Bronx), and on other upcoming dates (see website). (Keep reading for an audio clip with the cello.) Continue reading

The play’s the thing! A new collection of plays from the South Asian diaspora

beyond bollywood broadway.jpg

For those of you who are still looking for something interesting to read this summer, I’d like to call your attention to a fantastic new collection, Beyond Bollywood and Broadway: Plays from the South Asian Diaspora. I learned about this collection after having the editor, Neilesh Bose, as my colleague in Colorado this past year. (You should know that although he’s not that much younger than me, Neilesh has distinguished himself as being the only person Stateside who calls me Nilanjana didi to my face, which is mildly annoying but also endearing.) Neilesh bhai moonlights as a modern South Asian historian focusing on Bengali Muslims from the 1920s through Partition, and leaving his elder "sister" behind in the alpine desert, he’ll be joining the history department at the University of North Texas next fall.

Beyond Bollywood and Broadway: Plays from the South Asian Diaspora will be officially launched August 10-11 at the Martin E. Segal Theatre Center (CUNY) in New York with many of the playwrights in attendance, so do save that date if you’re in the city.

The collection includes three plays from the United States, two from Canada, three from the United Kingdom, and three from South Africa. Even if I hadn’t met Neilesh this year, I would consider the collection a must-read for those of us who groan at the news of yet another novel evoking the heady scent of mangos. The plays from the United States include a seering sendup of two desi academics (identity politics, the postcolonial condition, etc.) in Anuvab Pal’s Chaos Theory and an adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice set in 21st-century SoCal by Shishir Kurup. The other plays cover broad territory including the Bhopal disaster, absurdist theater, the hypothetical meeting of epic heroes Odysseus and Ram, domestic violence, Gujarati British youth culture, South African apartheid, and Indo-African relations. The plays are divided into sections by country, and for each country, Neilesh provides a detailed (but very readable) introduction to the historical, social, and cultural factors that distinguish South Asian migration and settlement there. There are also helpful comments on the development and role of theater in each setting. I’m always suspicious whenever people start talking about the South Asian diaspora as something that can be lumped together in a coherent whole, so I particularly appreciated these introductions. At the same time, there are recurring themes across these different diasporic locations, and these introductions direct our attention to them.

What I was however most eager to read at the outset was Aasif Mandvi‘s play, Sakina’s Restaurant. (Yes, that Aasif Mandvi, the brown guy on the Daily Show). Continue reading

Twisters on Twitter

Author Arjun Basu of Montreal got on Twitter last fall and published a handful of “typically banal” tweets. Then inspiration hit and he created his first Twister. That’s what he calls his short short stories of 140 characters. Since then he’s written over a thousand Twisters and become a popular source for readers seeking a regular fix of micro-fiction.

Arjun_01_normal.jpgAs a child he delivered newspapers. As an adult he delivered bad news daily. Because he was a negative person. And the world’s worst surgeon 5:34 AM Apr 29th

Micro-fiction is not new to the web, as those of you who contributed to Sepia Mutiny’s flash fiction Fridays know. The shortest of the form might be six-word memoirs like the ones found at Smith Magazine. Links to more micro-fiction on the web are welcome in the comments. Continue reading

“I hope you feel better soon!” (Hello from Ireland)

We’re in Ireland for a little holiday. Some of it is a little bit of long overdue (for me) literary tourism around Dublin, but we also spent several days in some of the beautiful western counties, doing some cycling and hiking, and checking out live music in village pubs. For the most part, there’s nothing very desi going on out there — there’s a sizeable South Asian population in Dublin, but rural western Ireland remains much more ethnically homogenous. A lot of little villages have Indian restaurants, but that’s about it.

Our best night in terms of live traditional Irish music was in a town called Clifden, in County Galway — and it was also the night where we had what you might call a ‘desi moment’. Continue reading

South (West) Asia

I’ve been transfixed for the last three days by the news coming out of Pakistan’s neighbor to the west, Iran. And I’ve really really wanted to blog it, but honestly, there just isn’t a desi angle.

Unlike Burma, which is similarly just outside the region, South Asian countries don’t play a large role in Iranian politics, and what’s happening in Iran is unlikely to have direct consequences for either Afghanistan or Pakistan. While Surinder Singh Karkar played an important role in the Burmese democracy movement, there seem to be no desis involved in the Persian protests; a difference most likely due to the fact that there are close to 1 million Burmese desis and only a few thousand desis in Iran:

Between the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many wealthy Parsis began to travel to Iran to revive the Zoroastrian faith and traditions among the stagnating Zoroastrian community in Iran at the time … In 1950s, more Indians migrated to Iran and settled primarily in Tehran. They consisted Sikhs and some Gujaratis. In the 1960s and early 70s, about 10,000 Indian Doctors, Engineers and Teachers moved to Iran as a response to the open policies initiated by the Shah of Iran, but most of them left Iran after the Iranian revolution.

Now, there are several hundred people each concentrated in and around Tehran and Zahidan, primarily engaged in various businesses. A majority are still Indian citizens. They continue to maintain strong links with India, especially in matters of children’s education, marriage and property acquisition. [link]

Over at Ultrabrown, Manish does a better job of connecting to recent events from a South Asian perspective, including this useful observation:

Mir-Hossein Mousavi is the political hero of the moment. But he’s recycled, and his reform credentials are suspect, like Nawaz Sharif in Pakistan. He served as prime minister in the ’80s, during which he was implicated in a massacre of 30,000 political opponents, supported seizing hostages from the U.S. embassy and wanted Salman Rushdie killed. [link]

but honestly, there’s still not a lot of brown in these recent events. If you’re interested, I suggest The Lede and Andrew Sullivan’s blog (The Daily Dish, but nobody calls it that) for breaking developments. Juan Cole’s blog has some good analysis, and I suggest FiveThirtyEight for a fairly geeky analysis of why the official election numbers are fairly improbable. Lastly, the best photos I’ve seen (warning, some are quite graphic) are at the Boston Globe.

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SM featured artist: Namita Kapoor

A while back we asked for artists to submit their work to SM for inclusion in our new site redesign. We have decided to dedicate the header area of our website to feature South Asian American artists (up-and-coming or well established). Within the next month our website administrator Chaitan will be integrating the artwork of two artists, the first of whom is Namita Kapoor. As luck would have it, Kapoor’s exhibit is opening in San Francisco in just a couple of weeks:

…Kapoor draws from her backgrounds as a South East Asian and American. “I use imagery from Indian myths, Bollywood posters, and vintage commercial advertisements and abstract them with a variety of materials such as sari fabric and appliqué, henna prints, silkscreen and acrylic and oil paint.” Kapoor works her way in and around these various materials, infusing a dance between mediums that explodes off the canvas in a rhythm of brilliant colors. In these paintings, remnants of traditional Indian iconography contrasts with her expressionistic modern brush strokes, creating new environments for her dual cultures to co-exist, thematically and stylistically.

LOCATION: BoConcept: 101 Townsend, San Francisco, 94103

EXHIBITION DATES: June 27-July 31, 2009

OPENING RECEPTION: Saturday, June 27, 6:00-8:00 PM

VIEWING HOURS: Monday through Friday 10am-7pm; Sun 11am-6pm

You can view some of her additional work here. If you want to go to the reception with other SM readers then you guys can use the comments area to plan. Please forward to your friends in SF.

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