End of Decade Poll #1: Desi Popular Music

It only just hit me that this is the end of the 2000s decade — the “aughts,” as they are sometimes called, though mainly in meta-journalism articles about what the decade should be called. (Most people I know simply say “the 2000s,” and don’t think twice about it.)

Critics have begun posting their “best of” lists for the year and the decade, and I’m thinking that over the next two weeks we’ll do something similar (see ex-SM blogger Siddhartha Mitter’s “Best World Music” album of 2009 here, for instance). Only, I’m not so interested in explaining how great I personally think certain people are; I would rather hear opinions from readers. It’s a blog; we can do that. (To be clear, I don’t have anything against critics’ best of lists.)

The first poll is music. In the next few days, we might do: most influential desi novel, best desi film, most overrated celebrity, and most influential desi politician. (Suggestions for other polls?)

In the comments, please feel free to ‘write in’ the names of people who ought to be on the list but aren’t, or to discuss why you voted as you did.

Poll is below the fold.

35 thoughts on “End of Decade Poll #1: Desi Popular Music

  1. Um, love or hate her — and she has decent music cred (I think marketing her as “jazz” the first time ’round did her few favors as it pissed off the purists; she’s coming more from American roots music in general than jazz proper, if there is such a thing) — Norah Jones is honestly the “most influential” desi musician of the decade, far more well known and respected than most of the musicians you mention. Looking elsewhere to the “indie-verse” you might also add Munaf Rayani (Explosions in the Sky) and Ramesh Srivastava (Voxtrot), though by listing Jones and these two I am sorta betraying my bias toward Texan desi indie and mostly ‘half’-desi musicians. By including MIA (I’m not as familiar with some of the others), you are also suggesting non-American, so that might open things up to Nitin Sawhney, who is both well known and respected in Britain.

  2. Premiumschlock, I do consider Norah Jones “desi,” but I’m not sure I would put her on a list of influential desi musicians for the simple fact that her desi background isn’t important in the music — it’s not really relevant to what she’s trying to do with her music, or her identity as an artist.

    By that standard, of course Jay Sean himself might be arguable. Though in defense of that choice there are the earlier albums he did with Rishi Rich in the UK, many of which feature Punjabi/bhangra elements — especially the song “Who is Kamaljit?” which is all about the identity game in the record business.

    Incidentally, NONE of the names on my music list are American! Panjabi MC = British, Rahman = Indian working in India. MIA = British, Jay Sean = British. Benny Lava = space alien.

    Rudie, can you help me out? On a list of desi sports figures, I would be hopelessly out of the loop on one particular sport — cricket. Other sports figures do come to mind — Vijay Singh, Sania Mirza — but on cricket I am pretty much limited to Sachin Tendulkar. Other names who should be on my poll?

  3. cow deathing man eating skin cutting drum making nose mouthing nose mouthing nose mouthing nose mouthing nose mouthing.

    singer: madurai chinnaponnu md: vijay anthony lyrics: pv prasad audience for the song > 100 million times {Panjabi MC + M.I.A. + A. R. Rahman + Jay Sean+ Benny Lava} put together.

    so don’t even go there.

  4. “Other sports figures do come to mind — Vijay Singh, Sania Mirza — but on cricket I am pretty much limited to Sachin Tendulkar. Other names who should be on my poll?”

    From India:

    Tennis: Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi

    Cricket: Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Anil Kumble (The Fab Five – they should be included as a group in terms of the influence they’ve had in the last decade) plus perhaps Harbhajan Singh/Virender Sehwag/Zaheer Khan

    Golf: Jyoti Randhawa, Jeev Milkha Singh

    Plus there are others who’ve made their mark in shooting, squash, boxing, track etc., but as far as influential goes, even though it’s not a popular sport on this board or in the U.S., cricket would have to be the most influential sport in India and in most of the diaspora (especially the Caribbean, UK, Africa).

    For influential “desi”-descent sportsperson or someone outside of India, it would be Vijay Singh, in my opinion. He’s globally known and is the only person to have dethroned Tiger from the No. 1 position, a an honour he held (dethroning Tiger, not the No. 1 position) for a long time (until recently if I’m not mistaken). His achievements, especially after age 40, are impressive.

  5. Damn, I was going to vote Talvin Singh (specifically Anokha) as the most influential of the decade, but then I realized it was released in ’97.

    So, I gotta go with MIA, for the following:

    • Clearly brings in that South Asian influence to her music, but in a way that’s different than someone like Panjabi MC. He took bhangra and made it accessible to the masses. She came with something we never heard before, but still could clearly feel had a South Asian influence
    • Despite the above, goes mainstream (and arguably changes what we consider mainstream music)
    • Put Sri Lanka on the map for a lot of people, in both negative and positive ways
    • Is visibly South Asian in a way that Jay Sean isn’t (how many of the millions who’ve heard “Down” would know he’s Indian?)
    • Dressed up like a pregnant ladybug and still held her own with some of the best rappers of our generation, in one of the most memorable awards performances of all time
    • Affected not just music, but movies. You can’t think about Slumdog without hearing her songs (especially the scene on the railroad cars)
    • Truly original. Not a desi dude acting like a rapper, or a desi lady acting like a diva.
    • She made dressing like a homeless person cool and even sexy.
  6. Plus people like Vijay Singh and the Fab Five of cricket are influential not only as “desi” sportspeople and influential to “desi” people but as global sports superstars in their respective sports.

  7. And if cricketers are added to the poll, then certain cricketers from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and the UK are influential as well as the Indian ones, with the Pakistani /Sri Lankan/Indian ones being the most influential of South Asian cricketers in the last decade.

  8. And if cricketers are added to the poll, then certain cricketers from Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and the UK are influential as well as the Indian ones, with the Pakistani /Sri Lankan/Indian ones being the most influential of South Asian cricketers in the last decade.

    at this rate, it might be easier to list those who weren’t influential.

  9. Cricket: Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly, VVS Laxman, Anil Kumble (The Fab Five – they should be included as a group in terms of the influence they’ve had in the last decade) plus perhaps Harbhajan Singh/Virender Sehwag/Zaheer Khan

    ganguly and dhoni. ganguly rebuilt the team after the match fixing devastation and led the team to the finals of the 2003 wc. dhoni has taken the team to the next level, with a combination of aggression and camaraderie.

  10. “at this rate, it might be easier to list those who weren’t influential.”

    Well, I realized that my suggestions were biased towards Indians, and that influence means different things to others. But point taken.

  11. “dhoni has taken the team to the next level, with a combination of aggression and camaraderie.”

    Dhoni. Of course. Smacks head. Not sure how I left him out, he’s ahead, in terms of influence, of Harbhajan/Zaheer/Sehwag.

  12. Sandeep, I’d have to agree with you about Talvin Singh for the 90s :) I’d have to say A.R. Rahman for this decade though – yes, he started in the 90s, but continued to compose into the 2000s with great success. His influence has been at home and abroad. He was working with Western symphony orchestras even before Slumdog Millionaire, and of course That Movie put “Jai Ho” on the lips of millions of Anglophones. He’s a household name in India and even now becoming moreso here and elsewhere. I don’t know if it’ll continue into the 2010s – some of his more recent albums (ahem, Blue) seem like he’s sort of jumped the shark … but i’m holding out hope :)

  13. although MIA and arr are obvious choices (for well-deserved reasons), i feel rahet fateh ali khan is a strong contestant. even though he’s a trained qawwali singer and started going solo in the late 1990s, this decade has seen him really enter the pop scene, both in indian and pakistani music, and he even lead the vocals on the apocalypto soundtrack. plus, that voice.

  14. Greatest Desi Sports person?

    How about a top 10 list for who has the best chance to win a medal from India’s Winter Olympic team in Vancouver in 2 months.

  15. Don’t forget about Vijay Iyer in the music category–I think we’re gonna be hearing a lot more of him over the next decade.

  16. ‘t forget about Vijay Iyer in the music category–I think we’re gonna be hearing a lot more of him over the next decade.

    i agree, and think we shouldn’t forget him for the 2020 polls :) he’s good but this certainly isn’t the decade of iyer, either in jazz or in mainstream music.

  17. Does Norah Jones even talk about her South Asian heritage? Does the American media even view Jones as South Asian? I don’t think so. I think in America the USA media view Jones as a white woman. Yes I know Ravi Shankar is her father but she definitely doesn’t talk about her South Asian heritage a lot. Jones isn’t marketed by her record company as a woman of colour she is marketed as a white woman in order to reach a wider audience. I think M.I.A. and Jay Sean have a more positive impact in American culture than Norah Jones. Yes, Jones has sold a ton of records but she’s so boring and plastic. Jones comes across as a woman that is indifferent about race she just doesn’t talk about it. M.I.A. and Jay Sean always talk about race and how it influences their music.

  18. cow deathing man eating skin cutting drum making

    THALAIVA!!! Thangoo verri much for this. song and video are separate level.

  19. MIA. I first became aware of her in July 2005 when she appeared on the Conan O’Brien show singing Galang. In the back ground video to this performance, I saw Deva Nagri script, which my friend told me reads as “Tamil Tiger”. Her performance was great.

    Fast forward to 2008: Her song “Paper Planes” was perfectly brilliant. It was my favorite song, or definitely my top 5 favorite songs, of this horrible decade that we’re going to end soon. I ALWAYS envision India when I hear this song, and this song brings me peace since I think of India.

    Second on the list would be AR Rahman, but he only appeals to Indians mostly. He’s a great musician, but MIA is much more of a cross over. He’s only very recently famous in the USA.

    Jay Sean is a great, but he’s only now getting famous.

    Engelbert Huperdink is great, but he was so ’60s, and only half Indian.

    Freddy Mercury was even greater, but he’s so ’70s, and he hates his Indian heritage.

    Could John McLaughlin count? He’s a Hindu these days.

  20. I ALWAYS envision India when I hear this song, and this song brings me peace since I think of India.

    wah, wah, kya bat hai. course, if somehow, say, hears Sri Lanka or some other formulation of identity from the subcontinent? no peace?

  21. Freddy Mercury was even greater, but he’s so ’70s, and he hates his Indian heritage.

    and thus, the greatest sin. nevermind he might have had a different conception of his heritage. parsis? national or anti-national? let’s let the bjp decide.

  22. Could John McLaughlin count? He’s a Hindu these days.

    Wendy Doninger may have read more of the foundational texts than him, but that’s for another issue

  23. 1.The 100th year of the 20th Century and last year of the 2nd Millennium was definitely and indisputably 2000.

    2.The 1st year of the first decade of the 21st Century and of the 3rd Millennium was definitely and indisputably 2001 – obviously. The clue is in the number ‘1′.

    3.The 10th and last year of the first decade of the 21st century will be 2010 – obviously. The clue is in the number ‘10′.

    4.The last day of the first decade of the 21st century and 3rd millennium will definitely and indisputably be December 31st 2010.

    There is an ongoing concerted and fraudulent effort by the BBC and other major media players to deny these facts for cynical commercial branding and packaging purposes. This is an abuse of their position of information stream control domination.

    Clear thinkers will ignore them and respect and express true and honest chronological facts and conventions.

    1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,and one more to go… This survey clearly shows it so:

    http://management.about.com/gi/pages/poll.htm?linkback=http%3A%2F%2Fmanagement.about.com%2Fb%2F2009%2F11%2F25%2Fwhen-does-the-decade-really-end.htm&poll_id=9160570248&poll=2

  24. I’d add Nitin Sawhney. He’s a masterclass in making exciting, modern, relevant music with roots and influences in Asian tradition but without the perceived worthiness or stuffiness or some ‘world music’. His most recent album, London Undersound, heavily influenced by the July 7th bombing in London, contains some beautiful and heartbreaking music, particularly Ek Jaan, featuring the wonderfully fluid-voiced Reena Bhardwaj, and Charu Keshi Rain, featuring Anoushka Shankar.