Taz’s Top Ten and Thanks

How do I say good-bye to a site that gave me space to explore my identity with words, gave me the training grounds to build community virtually, and allowed me the opportunity to influence political and advocacy issues affecting the South Asian community? How do I say good-bye to a site that allowed me to build so many real friendships with so many of you? I never would have imagined that when my mother passed away so suddenly nine months ago, that a large percentage of people that reached out were people who found me through this blog and remembered stories I had written referencing her. I never really  understood the power of words this community held until those dark moments.

These past few weeks I’ve been grappling with exactly what Sepia Mutiny has meant to me in the past six years I’ve written for the site and have been playing musical montages in my head of my favorite moments. Six years – longer than any job or relationship I’ve ever had. This site provided a much needed space to dialogue and develop the South Asian American identity and, in many ways, set the benchmark with how the community voiced ourselves. I always approached blogging on this site with three things in mind – 1) write about the Desi-American experience, the narrative I was yearning for, 2) a 1:1 ratio of pop to politics posts, and 3) find the marginalized Desis and give them space. And of course – the self pep talk before every remotely Muslim post - “Fuck all the trolling Islamophobic haters – as long as they’re commenting, there’s an important reason to keep blogging.” There was always that.

To commemorate – let’s list, shall we? So here we go. My top ten most influential moments here in the Sepia Mutiny bunkers…

1. Sepia Destiny: Oh, the trials and tribulations of being a single Desi girl with dating woes and having it all laid out in blogs. Remember the Dating While Desi rules? And wondering if Dating While Desi Bradley Effect of if Obama would increase the dating pool? These posts were our most commented on the site and clearly a very important issue to many of us. Though we always had high hopes of setting up a Sepia Destiny dating tab, it never came to fruition. Luckily, many of you didn’t wait for the tab to find SM love, myself included. Thank you, Sepia Mutiny for making dating life all that much more thrilling.

2. Gaza: Is Palestine a Desi issue? To me, the connection was immediate – but how to write about it? I hit the streets for the protests, interviewing every Desi person I saw and did it again at the rally in front of the Israel Embassy after the flotilla’s were attacked. In an American world where USINPAC and AIPAC are working in coordination to promote an Indian-Israeli alliance at the Capitol – I found it even more important to push this counter-narrative out there on SM’s pages. Especially after this Bollywood dancing missile promo video. Vijay Prashad’s Uncle Swami book coming out in June has a detailed analysis, but sadly my book review won’t be on these pages.

3. Ami Bera: He folded in to returning $250 of donations from CAIR-Sacramento Executive Director, thanks to pressure from his opponent Dan Lungren during the 2010 elections. My blog post sparked an interesting dialogue between readers, donors and the candidate himself - and even led to his having to return donations from people wanting their money back. Ami Bera is at it again, running in this fall’s election. But this time his race is highly supported by the Democratic Party big shots. Let’s just hope he doesn’t fold to Lungren again. Continue reading

Relax

Blue marble

Thanks, y’all, for having me over one last time. I’ve already said my goodbyes. This curious form of public performance brought me some of the people I cherish most. It’s been a second education in the erudition of the comments. The Mutiny was alt.culture.us.asian-indian before and @allyousmartf-ers now, and this delicious salon will continue in another face.

I want to toss in one last thought. Early desi American artists began with the idea of marginalization. Their references were specific and elaborate in-jokes. But look at who’s blown up: those who gave no ground in their conception of themselves. They dabbled in the desi palette because it’s rich, not because it’s definitive. Those who started with I am a Queens rapper, or I am an art director, or I am an animator, experienced brownness not as conscription, but freedom.

And in fact it is. It is a thin layer atop a deep commonality. As a species we are, when you zoom out, genetically almost clones. The differences we draw among us are like the fictional Indiana town of Pawnee squabbling with the fictional town of Eagleton: from the outside, all look same.

A couple of years ago I was watching Aziz Ansari make silly jokes at a small NYC club about hitting on MIA in bad Tamil. Today he’s touring in a 007 tux. Still bemoaning his sex life, but on a much bigger stage. Sepia is one of our colors, one near and dear. But it is only one. Let’s launch our flicks, ebooks, startups, campaigns. Let’s let our freak flags fly.

Can’t wait to see it all, and unlike Bill, I will inhale.

Manish

As One Mutiny Stands Down, Others Rise

I first stumbled onto Sepia Mutiny as a college student, a confused but curious 2nd genner who had never had brown friends, fresh from my first trip ever to the desh and desperate to find more out more information about the a CD I had bought by some “Rabbi” with a guitar. This was the first result, and after a few more inquisitive clicks around the site, I was addicted and would never be the same again. This was IT, the in I had been looking for but had been denied for so long. Though it seem silly now, my first real desi friends would be those I met online. I was a Mutineer, and I had a mission.

Fast forward to March 2012.

Despite admitting to have shot and killed a 17 year-old armed with Skittles and a hoodie, George Zimmerman remains a free man today. The story struck a chord and has become a worldwide sensation. Just as thousands of ordinary folks of all stripes have taken to the streets to peacefully protest the outrageous impunity, a similar scene is happening right now in Punjab; the difference is that the “criminal” is slated to die for attempting to stop the targeting of his community for extrajudicial torture and killings. Here is the breakdown on Balwant Rajaona and why he was to be hanged from The Langar Hall.

On March 31st, Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana [was] set to be executed in Punjab for his involvement in the assassination of former chief minister of Punjab, Beant Singh. Chief minister Beant Singh was involved with carrying out brutal and mass killings of Sikhs in Punjab.  He is widely held responsible by many Sikhs for ordering the kidnap, torture and death of many young Sikh men.  A report by Amnesty International can be found here.

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The Relation

  • We are still standing in the doorway, chatting our way out, aiyo. Typical desis. (h/t @dhume01)

I thought I’d saunter away to the musical stylings of a well-known white man with connections to the mafia. ’Cause that makes sense for this desi blog.

Just kidding. I thought I’d go out myyyyyyyy way. With a point, or attempting to make one. I aim for rallying cry rather than dirge, in keeping with my bullheaded desire to cultivate optimism and seek action. Continue reading

So long, and thanks for all the fish

Ahem. (tap tap tap. Is this thing on?)

Hi, everyone. For the last few years I’ve been pretty much fulltime over at our twitter franchise, one of a few people trying to make sure you get all your savory brownness in an 140 character packet. As a result, I’m afraid I’m a bit rusty at this longer-form blogging.

But the truth is, as my exes can attest, I’ve never been any good at final goodbyes. I even skipped the funeral of a close friend because I couldn’t stand the finality involved in watching him get cremated, even though I knew he was already gone. But I’m afraid there’s no way to skip your own wake, and once you’re there, you might as well try to deliver a eulogy, awkward as it is.

Part of the problem is that Sepia was never just one thing, it was many. There were the blog posts, but that was just the tip of the iceberg, the part you could see. There was also everything that happened out of view, so many stories that I don’t think any one of us knows them all.

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Q&A with Arooj Aftab: “I’m Tired of Exoticized South Asian Music”

Five months ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing Arooj Aftab, a musician who came from Pakistan to study at Berklee College of Music. I first saw Arooj perform August 2011, at Unification in NYC, where she quickly won over the crowd with her haunting Urdu vocals. After Unification, I went back home and started listening to Arooj’s music. Disclaimer: It’s addictive. One frigid fall night, standing outside her Brooklyn apartment, Arooj, one of NPR’s 100 Top Composers Under 40, shared the story of her musical journey with me via phone.

When did you know that you wanted to sing? After I finished school at Lahore, I started college, but it just didn’t feel right. I had a strange feeling that there had to be something more exciting to do in life. I had always loved music, because of my parents’ love for music and because of the music culture in Lahore. But there were no musical schools in Pakistan, which was kind of annoying.

Now your parents must be pretty cool, to let you come to America and pursue your music. Was there ever a “No beta, don’t do this” moment? It’s such a stereotypically unstable profession. So they always have a “Oh god, why did we let you do this” attitude. But I think secretly they’re excited because they both have great voices themselves and a love for music. In 2003, I made my dad sit down and listen to a cover I did of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and he became really quiet. That was when he started to take  my music seriously. Continue reading

Let it Bhi (Part II)

Ahoy-hoy, Mutineers!
Although it’s been a while, I’m taking a cue from Vinod and am holding the sentimentality for a moment, namely to revisit one of the most Mutinous Musicians Sepia has showcased: the inimitable Bhi Bhiman. Since Bhi was first broken to the desi masses, he has gone, well, viral. Not only has he managed to drop another amazing album, but Bhi has been profiled by such journalistic stalwarts as NPRHuffPoPopMatters, and that old rag, The New York Times. All of this without losing what makes him special: that astoundingly soulful and smokey set of pipes that fit his socially aware but catchy folk melodies quite nicely.
As promised, here is the long-awaited interview with the fabulous Bhi Bhiman, culled from email and conversation over a wonderful lunch at San Francisco’s now shuttered Pot de Pho.

Check out his video for “Guttersnipe,” his sultry voice set along a snapshot of “life along the Indian railways,” after the jump.

Q&A with Author Sonia Faleiro: “I’m Suspicious of Easy Stories”

A man would protect them from themselves. You could never, ever, said Priya, underestimate what a relief it was to have someone waiting for you when you returned from the dance bar. ‘To be held,’ she said, ‘even in the arms of a thief, is worth something.’ – Beautiful Thing

When reporter and novelist Sonia Faleiro (The Girl) meets a lively, fast-talking 19-year old dancer named Leela in Mumbai, she finds herself intrigued by the characters of the dance bar world and decides to learn more. Over the course of five years, Faleiro painstakingly interviews Leela and her friends and family, as well as other key characters in the Mumbai dance bar scene and captures their stories. The result? Beautiful Thing, a captivating nonfiction narrative full of rich prose and powerful Hinglish dialogues that exposes readers to an underground world where people are mere commodities. A world where relatives sell young girls to the highest bidder and dancers lose their value well before their mid-20s. Continue reading

Top Ten Mutinous Music Moments

When I was a rebellious little punk teenager, the only Brown I saw on stage at shows was Tony Kanal playing bass in No Doubt. And he was dating bindi wearing Gwen Stefani, who was by far the coolest rock chick ever. It wasn’t until I stumbled upon Sepia Mutiny as a reader that I noticed other punk, alterno, progressive musicians – the most prominent one being of course, M.I.A.

Here we are in the last week of Sepia Mutiny. On these pages as a reader, I’ve discovered some of my favorite songs and as a writer, I’ve gotten to interview some of the most amazing people. I’ve loved discovering new Desi music and examining musicians exploration of hyphenated identities through lyric, music and movement.

Since I love lists – what better way to remember this then… a Top Ten Favorite Mutinous Music Moments.

  1. M.I.A.- Maya has graced the pages of our site an innumerable amount of times – 100 posts to be exact. From her first “galang”, to her so-called retirement, to a pregger M.I.A. singing at the Grammy Awards with A.R. Rahman. She was the first things that drew me as a reader to the pages of the Mutiny. In the past 8 years peoples opinions of her may have waned, but she definitely has made her mark
  2. Das Racist – Despite Abhi’s first post where he made his firesauce prediction that Pizza Hut, Taco Bell was going to be a Desi fave, could we have suspected these guys would have exploded the way they did? They’ve gone from a YouTube sensation to dropping Shut Up, Dude & Sit Down, Man & Relax to selling out shows as an international music sensation. But by far, PhillyGrrl’s interviews Part 1 & Part 2 were my most favorite interviews to grace these pages.
  3. Vijay Iyer – He’s gone from Still Life with Commentator in 2006 to the #1 Jazz Album of the year IN 2010 for Historicity. Sugi’s interview with Vijay is one of the sweetest interviews Part 1 & Part 2.
  4. The Kominas – Who would have known when I first blogged about these guys in 2006, that my life as a blogger would get so intimately intertwined w/ this band and the taqwacore scene? My first interview with Basim Usmani goes down as one of my favorites. Following the growth if this band personally has been epic to say the least, whether following them on cross country TaqwaTour or as my “camera crew” at Sundance for my Aamir Khan interview. Epic, indeed.
  5. DJ Rekha – the infamous and legendary, we’ve talked about Rekha since she smacked Daler Mehndi down. Whether Basement Bhangra (dance party AND CD) or DJing at the White House Easter Egg Hunt. There’s a reason why she’s one of my Desi Women of the Decade. Continue reading

The Great American 9/11 Novel

For the last four months, I have been trying and failing to finish a book gifted me as a Christmas present, The Submission, the first novel by New York Times journalist Amy Waldman, released shortly before the anniversary of 9/11. I had almost completed it this week (grudgingly) before I was made aware of the depth of its popularity. I must confess, I was shocked. The book that I had considered passing to the thrift-store unfinished has in fact received rave reviews from a handful of the nation’s top papers.

The New York Times noted its “limber, detailed prose.” The Guardian stated: “Waldman’s prose is almost always pitch-perfect, whether describing a Bangladeshi woman’s relationship with her landlady or the political manoeuvring within a jury.” In The Washington Post, Chris Cleave wrote that Waldman “excels at involving the reader in vibrant dialogues. Additionally, The Submission was named Esquire’s Book of the Year, Entertainment Weekly’s #1 Novel for the Year, NPR’s Top Ten Novels for 2011 and the list goes on. NPR’s Maureen Corrigan called it “gorgeously written novel” and went so far as to call it the 9/11 novel. High praise, indeed. Continue reading