Top Fifteen of 2010

F5D864A1-4E0E-D007-2655-AFBD3F49CEE8wallpaper.jpg What happened this year? Will it be known as the year that Julian Assange brought down the Western World? A year rocked by such high unemployment that it allowed “creative types” like Das Racist, The Kominas and Sunny Ali and the Kid the time to put out new albums? Will 2010 be known as the year of Sarah Palin’s Nikki Haley? Or is it the year of Joel Stein-ism? Let’s take a look. Continue reading

Even North Koreans Bend It Like Beckham

Korean Bend It.jpgYou have to wonder… In a country like North Korea where the nation is stuck 1950s time warp and Western influences have officially not been allowed in… Why the 2002 film Bend It Like Beckham? Why now?

The 2002 film starring Keira Knightley, Jonathan Rhys Myers and Parminder Nagra aired Dec. 26 — a break from the regular programming of news, documentaries and soap operas in North Korea, where Western films are largely off limits.

“This was the first Western film to be broadcast on North Korean TV, and as well as football covered issues such as multiculturalism, equality and tolerance,” British Ambassador Peter Hughes told The Associated Press from Pyongyang, where his embassy helped arranged the Boxing Day broadcast.

Britain has been seeking to reach out to North Koreans through football, a sport that has connected the two nations since North Korea first sent a team to the World Cup in England in 1966. [yahoo]

I get it. Soccer can unite the world, teaches sportsmanship, crosses boundaries of nation states, blah, blah, blah. I can understand why the British government would choose this movie to develop ties with North Koreans. What I’m curious about is the South Asian hyphenated identity and pop cultural references. I would think that in a nation sheltered the way North Korea is, that a lot of these subtle nuances would be totally missed. In a nation where immigration simply doesn’t exist, how much of the immigrant experience story line did the North Koreans actually understand?

But typically of the censoring Communist state, eight minutes were cut from the 112-minute show….The Boxing Day screening was a rare treat in a country whose TV normally focuses on docum­entaries about farms and others glorifying its leaders and Army. [mirror]

Of course, they had to censor something. But I wonder what exactly those eight minutes of censored scenes were in this fairly PG rated movie. Was it when the girls were at the club? Religious references? Who knows. All I can say is thank goodness they chose this movie instead of Bride and Prejudice. Continue reading

The Absolutely Sick Sikh Knowledge

Sikh knowledge 2.jpg

On his right forearm he has this tattoo. I didn’t recognize it at first – a four by four of solid black squares. “It’s the squares to my drum pad,” Sikh Knowledge said, pointing casually to his arm. It made sense – he was a reggae dancehall musician that loved to produce music. You may not know who he is but you will and I guarantee you’ve heard his beats. His tunes are the base music for many of the up and coming hip hop Desi artists of the day – Humble the Poet, Mandeep Sethi, and Hoodini have all used tracks produced by him.

Hailing from Montreal and well known on the Canuck Desi scene, Sikh Knowledge made his way to California for a mini-tour in December, hitting up cities all along the coast. I met him in Sacramento, where he was doing a show with his Sikh hip-hop posse at the Sol Collective. The show was live and it was intense to see a whole scene of brown underground hip hop heads. I sat down with Sikh Knowledge aka Kanwar Anit Singh Saini before he jumped on the mic at the Sacramento show. Here’s what he had to say.

Sikh Knowledge got his start young, singing at the temple when he was a child. But he got into hip-hop also at a young age. “I was one of those kids that would beat box going to school… I was the only grade 3 kid bringing mixed tapes to school. I lost Bobby Brown’s “Every Little Step” on the playground and that’s when I cried at school.” It was when he heard the Sound Bwoy Burill track in 1994 that he knew he was going to make music his life.

But what really made an impression on me was Sikh Knowledge’s confidence in pursuing his life. At the age of 20, he decided to stop being what other people wanted him to be, dropped out of engineering school and re-started honestly. “I dropped out, came out, and rearranged my whole life,” he stated. “I reapplied and did my undergraduate degree in music with a minor in linguistics. It was the happiest time of my life. I felt good about the decisions that I made.” He’s currently pursuing his Master degree in speech language pathology while having the dual career of mixing some of the ill-est beats in North America. Continue reading

Trigger Happy Sub Swara

A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending one of the most bass booming dance frenzy inducing parties I’ve been to since moving to the Bay area. Held at the dope new venue Public Works, it was a record release party for Trigger the latest out of the electronic/hip hop/dubstep/desi beat making duo, Sub Swara. Originating from a NYC club night, Dhruva Ganesan and Dave Sharma have turned Sub Swara into an electronic dubstep music touring machine. Performing that night were also San Francisco’s own Surya Dub DJs Kush Arora, Maneesh the Twister, Jimmy Love and DJ Amar. Almost all of these folks are tied in with the sound barrier breaking Dhamaal Soundsystem.

But enough about the party that you missed. Let me give you something to listen to on this Music Monday. Check out the Triggers Mixtape Volume 2, opening up with a track co-writ by Dead Prez. That’s right, it’s a Dead Prez meets Sub Swara – an unlikely combo but somehow it works. Also check out minute 9.00 for the Ceelo remix, my personal fave.

Sub Swara — Triggers Mixtape Vol 2 by Sub Swara

The above Mixtape is the second in what I can only imagine to be a series – bookmark the Sub Swara soundcloud page to keep track of other mixes that may be coming from their crew. Just in case you were the OG type, below you can listen to Trigger in it’s entirety and original form.

I’ve never been a huge fan of electronic music (though I did attend my fair share of raves in my college days) but I find the music coming out of Sub Swara and their associated DJ crew different. There is more bass, more beats, amazing obscure dancehall and reggae finds that blend seamlessly with bhangra and deep bass beats. I’m a big fan of dubstep and love how this team of musicians can spin to take listeners on an audio adventure.

I’m sure Sub Swara will be doing a show near you very soon (looks like CT, NY and CO are in luck). Keep your eye on their website, and their twitter to keep posted on when the bass goes boom. Continue reading

That’s Santa Singh to you …

Always remember, as you track Santa’s travels around the world, that Santa is South Asian.

Yes, we’ve posted this before, but I’m going to post it every single year on Christmas Eve.

Seriously, how many of y’all believed in Santa? My parents never pretended he existed, and my classmates all knew better. We had no chimney, no fireplace, and I knew there was no White Man keeping track of whether I was naughty or nice. Whole thing made around as much sense as the Easter Bunny. Were you a Santaphile growing up? If you’ve got kids, do you want them to believe? Continue reading

Cure Sonia – Bone Marrow Donor Needed

cure_sonia_rai_2010.jpgWhile visiting Boston on business, I learned some shocking news this past weekend. My good friend Sonia was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia (AML) about 10 days ago. She is currently undergoing chemotherapy. She is 24 and in urgent need of a bone marrow transplant. I am still in shock and having a hard time absorbing this. Since I have known her, I cannot imagine her as being anything other than the cheerful, always smiling, bollywood-movie-loving, happy and positive person that I have known her to be. She is an active member of the South Asian community and many may recognized her contributions as a board member of NetSAP Boston. I pray she finds a donor soon.

Team Sonia – Sonia’s brother Sumit Rai, family and friends are organizing drives today and in the next few weeks. Please take the time to help spread the word about the drives and join the NMDP registry if you have not already done so. You can visit, or visit their Facebook page.

As you may be aware from our previous posts on the topic, the National Bone Marrow Registry (NMDP) is in dire need of more ethnic donors. South Asians, as well as any minority, and especially people of mixed ethnicity are needed. Sonia is currently receiving excellent care at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, but in order to survive beyond the next few months, she requires a bone marrow transplant. Most matches occur within ethniticty and increasing the number of South Asians registered as potential bone marrow donors will help Sonia as well as many others who are searching.

Among the 7 million registered donors currently, approximately, only 2% are South Asians. Ethnic Minorities have a 30-40% chance of finding a match from the existing NMDP registry. Caucasians have an 80% chance of finding a match from the existing NMDP registry [link]. Continue reading

Kids Being Kids

For today’s Music Monday, I want you to imagine this: A big gritty cauldron. Throw in a pork eating Muzzie. A ukulele. A pair of cowboy boots. Stir in a dash of lo-fi, put in a pinch of sultry attitude, and toss in a little bit of “pew, pew.” What do you get?


You get the The Kid (of Sunny Ali and The Kid) with a new EP album aptly named Kids. Abdullah Saeed’s (aka “The Kid”) solo project and released on the Poco Party label, Kids maintains the cowboy feelings that you get when you listen to a Sunny Ali and The Kid album, it’s just now it has a Hawaiian ukulele twang. It’s complicated to describe yet oddly simple. Just listen to it below. And after you listen to it, you can download it here at Sunny Ali and the Kid’s Bandcamp site for freeconsider it my Chrismahanukwanzakah present for you.

POCO-005 The Kid – Kids by POCOPARTY

From The Kid himself in an interview at Poco Party:

The songs are not really about kids, but from the perspective of a kid. “the bug” is about a school yard game, for example. The limited instrumentation, the rudimentary skill, and the rough recording are all part of this theme.[pocoparty]

So there you have it. It’s an album by The Kid named Kids written from the perspective of a kid. Don’t worry, Sunny Ali ain’t mad at The Kid for breaking off on his solo project – in fact the duo just performed this past weekend in New York City. Follow Sunny Ali and The Kid’s facebook page for their upcoming tours and albums and you can read Abdullah’s latest adventures with music over at MTV Desi.

In the meantime, I now can’t stop daydreaming about how I want this for Chrismahanukwanzakah. Thanks, Kid.

Previous Posts: Q&A with @Porkadventurer, Showdown with Sunny Ali. And the Kid. Continue reading

Is It The Desi Dougie?

Is The Dougie a Desi dance move? This is the type the hard hitting questions asked only here at Sepia Mutiny. Evidence one, Brown people in kurtas & salwars dancing The Dougie.

If you haven’t heard this song yet, you’ve been living under a rock. Teach Me How to Dougie is the Macarana for the teens in 2010. Written by the Cali Swag District, it’s been high on the Punjabi remix and I’m sure on the playlist of every Bhangra Holiday Dance Party this season. Still skeptical of the Desi origin of The Dougie dance? Just watch the following video, evidence two. So hard to dispute…

So when’s the DJ Rekha remix of the song gonna come out? And who’s going to teach me how to Dougie? And more importantly, who’s gonna teach Abhi how to Dougie? Continue reading

Sri Lanka’s alternatives abroad

I co-authored an article with two other members of Lanka Solidarity for Himal Southasian’s special December issue on diasporas. You can find it on the Himal site here: Sri Lanka’s alternatives abroad

We believe members of Sri Lankan diasporas with alternative politics must reassert their claims to space in the conversation about Sri Lanka’s future. For us, this article was one step toward that. We look forward to your feedback, ideas, and yes, arguments–

Cross-posting it here.

Sri Lanka’s alternatives abroad

Are the island’s diasporas to be seen as a source of remittance, a threat, or legitimate sites for political engagement and critique?

By: Kitana Ananda, V V Ganeshananthan & Ashwini Vasanthakumar

There is no such thing as ‘the Sri Lankan diaspora’. Sri Lankan communities exist in the plural. And yet, nearly thirty years of conflict have rendered a nation with multiple minority communities and religions as though it has only two groups. If you generalise about what you read at all (and most people do), you are likely to believe that Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese majority and Tamil minority are pitted against each other, not only inside the country but in diasporas all over the world.

While conflict and geographic dispersal present real challenges to Sri Lankan diasporas, this image of Sinhalese versus Tamil is far from the whole truth. Although the war ended with a decisive victory by government security forces over the LTTE in 2009, the reductive image remains: Sri Lanka, a nation with Sinhalese, Tamil, Muslim and Burgher communities, rarely appears that way. The media is not the only culprit. In the wake of that resounding military victory, both the Sri Lankan government and its critics have failed to engage Sri Lankan diasporas and to understand their complexity. Indeed, their collective actions have excluded diasporic populations. Continue reading

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