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

Not Just Another Nanny’s Diary: “Tell Us We’re Home” by Marina Budhos

I was listening to a new NPR series not so long ago: The Hidden World of Girls. That particular episode featured Nigerian novelist Chris Abani’s childhood memory of touring the Nigerian countryside with his mother, Daphne Mae Hunt:

My mother became certified as a Billings Ovulation teacher. And her job was to go and teach this to women. … Part of the problem was that her Igbo wasn’t good enough to discuss people’s uterus. She needed an interpreter and mother decided to ask me to interpret for her. I was eight years old. So we would set off, the two of us, and I would have a backpack. … We would go door to door. Everything starts with a greeting … It would be followed by an apology from me because I was about to discuss something sacred, taboo.tell_us_were_home.png

These women would never discuss [their period] with their husbands and here’s this eight-year-old boy … [See full transcript.]

The image of a young boy accompanying his mother to strangers’ homes and acting as a middleman stayed with me for several days, and when I recently heard Marina Budhos reading from her new, terrific young adult novel Tell Us We’re Home, I was reminded of it again.

In Budhos’s novel, we meet three young girls, Jaya, Lola, and Maria, all immigrants, who find themselves in a different kind of countryside than Abani — American suburbia — where they act as their mothers’ interpreters and translators.

Their mothers are nannies and housekeepers in Meadowbrook, a picturesque New Jersey town off the commuter rail, and these girls are the invisible teens who help their parents navigate a new culture while struggling to find their own place within it. They go to school with the same kids whose families their mothers work for.

Jaya is West Indian, from Guyana. She assumes the responsibility to help absolve her mother of the accusation of a theft that in her employer’s home. Maria is Mexican. She accompanies her mother on job interviews and acts as a conduit for her employment searches. And Lola is a Slovakian self-appointed revolutionary whose mother is a housekeeper at her classmate’s home and whose father is a depressed former engineer. Each girl’s story–and the story of their friendship–allows us to peer into the hidden world of working class immigrants. Until they meet, each girl lives in a lonely bubble of invisibility, but chance brings them together and their friendship saves each of them in some way. Though they are outsiders, they are outsiders together.

I was a fan of Budhos’s first YA novel, Ask Me No Questions, and am glad that this book more than lived up to my expectations. Continue reading

Beautiful, Binky’d Baby

Via my guiltiest pleasure, “ohnotheydidnt“– behold, Ikhyd Edgar Arular Bronfman (click to enlarge):

Maya and Ikhyd.jpg

I can’t believe Ikhyd is so big! He is almost 18-months old. The last time we showed you a picture of him, it was almost exactly a year ago; Abhi, alarmed by Ikhyd’s onesie, was ardently pleading with PETA to take on the cause of albino ladybugs. No word on whether PETA has made any progress with that, but there are plenty of words about Mathangi’s new album (mixed reviews) and cute offspring (certified hit). Continue reading

I love the littlest Shivashankar…

Kavya meets the President!

…contender-to-watch Vanya, so sassy in her blue and black frock. I can’t help it. She’s the reason why I’m writing this post. Well, that and because luminous Mutineer Nilanjana tweeted the link to this picture— and had she not made like a virtual, social-media bird, I would have never seen such a delightful image of last year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee champion, Kavya Shivashankar (on the left), meeting the President, with her family proudly beside her. Continue reading

14-year-old Desi Girl Wins Spelling Bee

Congrats, Anamika Veeramani!

The fourteen-year-old eighth grader from North Royalton, Ohio became the 2010 Scripps National Spelling Bee champion last night. Anamika won the trophy and $40,000 in cash and prizes after correctly spelling “stromuhr.” (If, like me, you weren’t familiar with that word, it’s “an instrument for measuring the velocity of the blood flow.”)

Anamika is the third consecutive Indian-American spelling bee champion (following Kavya Shivashankar last year and Sameer Mishra in 2008.) An astonishing 8 out of the last 12 spelling bee champions have been Indian-American. Slate’s Explainer column thinks the phenomenon can be attributed to the community’s “minor-league spelling bee circuit”:

The [North South Foundation] circuit consists of 75 chapters run by close to 1,000 volunteers. The competitions, which began in 1993, function as a nerd Olympiad for Indian-Americans–there are separate divisions for math, science, vocab, geography, essay writing, and even public speaking–and a way to raise money for college scholarships for underprivileged students in India. There is little financial reward for winners (just a few thousand dollars in college scholarships) compared with the $40,000 winning purse handed out each year by Scripps. Still, more than 3,000 kids participated in NSF’s spelling events this year due in part to what NSF founder Ratnam Chitturi calls a sort of Kavya Effect. “Most American kids look up to sports figures,” he says. “Indian kids are more interested in education, and they finally have a role model.”

For their part, Anamika’s family told the AP that they don’t know why Indian-Americans thrive at the bee:

[Anamika’s father Alagaiya Veeramani] guessed it has something to do with a hard-work ethic.

“This has been her dream for a very, very long time. It’s been a family dream, too,” said Veeramani, explaining that his daughter studied as many as 16 hours on some days. “I think it has to do with an emphasis on education.”

16 hours a day! Here’s hoping you have a relaxing summer, Anamika. You earned it. Continue reading

Pulchritudinous Padma produces a pretty penne!

Ah, a post in which I celebrate my beloved Padma’s miracle baby with a wholly apposite indulgence in that ever-so Malayalee pastime: alliteration. Well, in the title, at least. 🙂 More on “titles”, in a minute.

Padma step and repeat.jpg

Unto us, a daughter is given. Krishna Thea Lakshmi was born on Saturday and according to Mama’s spokesperson, “Mother and baby are well and happy.” Congratulations, Padma! No, there is still no word on who the Father is, and to those who are consumed with knowing, I can’t help but ask a futile question, “WHY DO YOU CARE?” Yes, I know she is a public figure and nosiness is to be expected. I am also aware that I’m way biased in her favor, but I’m not defending her right to keep Mum (ha!) because of my proclivity to adore her. Even if she’s a celebrity, I believe in her right to keep certain things for and to herself. You want to know who made that dress she rocked in front of the Step and Repeat (see: picture to the right)? Totally understandable. You want to know whose baby juice was up in her plumbing? WHY? Ugh.

Now about those “titles”…in my preparation for the production of this post, I saw plenty of them, most of which were innocuous, if not eye roll-inducing or superficial:

“Padma Lakshmi Welcomes Miracle Baby Girl!” [E!]

“The Bun Is Out of Padma’s Oven!” [Not the New Yorker, the other one]

“Padma Lakshmi Has a Daughter, Ensuring That There Will Be Hot Chefs in the Future” [Celebuzz]

And then, there was the inevitable lameness:

“Hairy Krishna! Padma Bestows Baby Girl Upon the World” [Village Voice]

Really, Village Voice? The child is two days old. I’m sure she, like thousands of other babies is covered in lanugo. I get that you were attempting to be clever but why go there in your attempt to reference Hare Krishnas (I think that’s what you were trying to do?). Maybe my kundi is especially chapped because brown girls have enough follicular drama at (or even before) puberty with which to contend; I’d hope that newborns might be spared from such insults. Think I’m overreacting? Endure a bikini wax and then get back to me. “Hairy” is not to be bandied about lightly, damn it. But the wit continues: Continue reading

Ahimsa’s Global Lingo

A few years back while I was still living in LA I wrote about the wonderful Project Ahimsa:

Project Ahimsa is a global effort to empower youth through music. The organization was founded in 2001 in response to the violent attacks on Sikhs and South Asians after 9/11. The organization operates under the auspices of the Patel Foundation for Global Understanding, a registered 501c3 non-profit based in Tampa, FL. Project Ahimsa’s mission is to empower youth though developing and supporting community based music education.

The vision of Project Ahimsa is to generate unity from the means to the ends. Funding to develop the “means” comes from music concerts featuring artists from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds. Artists such as the Black Eyed Peas, The Doors, Nitin Sawhney, MC Rai, JBoogie’s Dubtronic Science, DJ Cheb i Sabbah, Karsh Kale, Bobby Friction, and MIDIval Punditz have all performed at Project Ahimsa benefit events. Attended by a diverse audience of non-Indians and Indians alike, Project Ahimsa events are built on a healthy collaboration between international artists, non-governmental organizations, public institutions, corporations, and promoters creating a diverse experience interesting to all ages and backgrounds. [link]

Here is one of several videos from Ahimsa’s website that explains what “empowering youth through music” means exactly:

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We are the Champions

And by “we” I mean nerdy South Asian American kids. One sports writer seems a little bitter that his “home team” lost:
You can’t really resent 13-year old kids in the same way you resent pro athletes, but wow, the little knowing smirk the eventual champion displayed when she clearly knew just about every word she was handed was tough to take. Hey, when you’ve got the goods, might as well flaunt it. [Link]
I have been following the Twitter account of finalist Tussah Heera as well. Sweet kid and it is good to hear the unfiltered perspective from the inside. The Scripps Bee Twitter account also has lots of great pictures and info. Walk to and around the office tall today my fellow South Asian Americans. You’ve ummmmm (cough cough) earned it. And a big ups for all the participants. It was way better than the Cavs-Magic game last night.
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Handicapping the semi-finalists

This is sick. Out of the 41 semifinalists left standing today, 15 of the are Indian Americans. The Kenyans have running. The Cubans, baseball. The Chinese, ping-pong. Indian Americans own spelling.

It was a moment to savor. Of the record 293 participants at 82nd Scripps National Spelling Bee, only 41 moved on to the nationally televised semifinals that start Thursday morning (10 a.m. ET, ESPN)…

Expected to be in that final group are several returning favorites. Fourteen-year-old Keiko Bridwell of Duncan, S.C., back for the fourth time after tying for 17th last year, had no problem with “swivel” and “mahout” (one who keeps or drives elephants) in her oral rounds and breezed into the semifinals.

Is it easier now because she’s a veteran?

“More pressure,” Keiko said. “Everybody wants me to do better.”… [Link]

When ESPN calls you the Spelling Bee favorite it is just like putting an NFL player on the cover of a Madden game. You are probably cursed. Therefore, based on my own intensive scouting I offer up the following thoughts for those people who have bookies in Vegas and want to bet on these young horses. Word of advice: always bet on brown.

The first one I want you to keep an eye on is Vaibhav S. Vavilala from Indiana. Double V as he is known on the circuit is a 4 time competitor. Experience helps, but it can also prove to be a mental block because you can better visualize past failure.

Click for full profile

The next contestant I want you to watch for is Kavya “The Destroyer” Shivashankar. Like Double V above she is a four time veteran. According to her profile the thirteen year old looks forward to becoming a neurosurgeon. The Kavyas we know stop at nothing when the smell of success is in the air.

Click for full profile

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The Desi Equivalent of Baby Einstein …

My two-year old nephew can’t get enough of Lingo the Lion and ever since I watched the DVD “Animals”, I can see why.

One of the offerings from the bilingual publisher Little GuruSkool, “Animals” is what I’d call a Desi equivalent of the immensely popular Baby Einstein series. Combining video footage of the natural world with animated characters, adorable little puppets and Desi babies, and catchy music, it promises to help the diasporic subcontinental parent “introduce their children to the Indian culture in a fun and interactive way.”


Little GuruSkool is a relatively new company, based in Chicago and founded by Pooja Pittie Goel, the mother of a preschooler who “wanted to expose her son to Indian languages, music, art and nature at an early age, but could not find any books or DVDs in the market (either in the US or in India) that were appropriate for pre-schoolers – educational and entertaining at the same time.” When she couldn’t find what she needed in the market place, she decided to create the products (DVDs, audio CDs, and illustrated, high quality board books) herself. The production quality is impressive, and after I finished watching the “Animals” DVD, I couldn’t get the song about “choti choti machliya” (little, tiny fish) out of my head.

If you’re in the market for a gift for that little desi toddler in your life, Little GuruSkool’s line is sure to be a happy discovery for you. It’s a welcome addition to the current offerings of bilingual, multimedia educational lines such as Sonali Herrera’s Meera Masi, Monika Jain’s Kahani, Rashmi Turner’s Global Wonders, and Kavita (Shah) Bafana’s Little Ustaads (Indian classical music classes), all created by moms to fill existing gaps in the Desi educational marketplace. (I certainly did not have any of these options when I was a toddler, and am glad to know my little one will!)

Below the fold: a brief interview with Pooja Pittie Goel for those interested in her story and process. Continue reading