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

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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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.

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

Looking Back, Moving On: Final Thoughts from Amardeep

[An earlier version of this post appeared on my personal blog.]

I remember when I first noticed this blog called Sepia Mutiny back in August 2004. Manish had linked to a blog post I had written on Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake on August 9; it was one of the site’s earliest posts.

The link was notable to me for two reasons. First, I was amused that Manish would write, “I normally wouldn’t point at a piece referencing Gayatri Spivak and other jargon-filled lit academics…” Ouch, is he talking about me? (Happily, eight years later we have Himanshu Suri and Das Racist, rapping about Arundhati Roy [rhymed with, of all things, "batty boy"!], “Gaya Spivak,” and the Slovenian philosopher Zizek. Jargon is in again, if these dudes have anything to say about it.)

Second, I was a little shocked at exactly how many people seemed to be clicking through. From the beginning, Sepia Mutiny was strikingly popular, so much so that for at least a few years it was routinely rated the most popular blog in India itself. Its success was certainly due to the mix of writers, which was a very talented and energetic pool (Manish alone was routinely putting up 5 or more posts a day).  But I think the site was also clearly filling a need online for discussion of Desi themed subjects, whether political (see Abhi’s early post about Dalip Singh Saund and the Democratic party), or more entertainment oriented (Kal Penn and Harold and Kumar were mentioned in the first week as well).

Even when it wasn’t always smooth-sailing within the circle of bloggers, and even when things were difficult for me in my real life outside of the blog, what always drew me to this site was its ‘sandbox’ quality — the idea that this mix of topics and themes ought to be linked. So when Abhi writes that it may be the blog has fulfilled its purpose in part I don’t agree: many of the difficult issues regarding identity, community, and culture South Asians were dealing with in 2004 remain unresolved. But I do agree that in a way the sandbox qualilty of this kind of group blog has for me at least come to seem a little less essential and exciting than it was at the beginning.

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Desis Are Everywhere

Though I’ve previously blogged about the APIA Census 2010, South Asian Americans Leading Together and the Asian American Foundation have just released a fascinating new report, “A Demographic Snapshot of South Asians in the United States.”  Even though the current population total number has been previously reported and is not new news (over 3.4 million South Asians live in the United States and the population has grown by 78% in the last decade), what is interesting about this report (which you can download here) is the population map they provided.

It should be no surprise by now where the largest populations of South Asians are.  According to the report, metropolitan areas with the largest South Asian populations are New York City, Chicago, Washington DC, Los Angeles, and San Francisco-Oakland and in over the past ten years, the Washington DC metropolitan area overtook the Los Angeles metropolitan area as the area with the third largest South Asian population.

But to me what was surprising to see is where exactly the growing South Asian populations live (as seen in the map above). The South Asian population grew the most in Charlotte, NC, increasing 187% over the past ten years. This was followed by Phoenix; Richmond VA; Raleigh, NC, San Antonio, Seattle, and Stockton, CA; Jacksonville, FL; Harrisburg, PA; and Las Vegas. Among the ten fastest growing South Asian metropolitan areas, only the Seattle and Phoenix metropolitan areas had more than 30,000 South Asians in 2010, while the smallest of the top 10 fastest growing metropolitan areas was the Harrisburg, PA metropolitan area with close to 6,500 South Asians. These are all regions without a significant history of South Asian American migration and I wonder what has happened in these regions that led to such a rapid growth in these cities. Continue reading

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy Wins Oscar For ‘Saving Face’

Journalist and documentary filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy became Pakistan’s first Oscar winner last night when her film Saving Face won best documentary short.

Saving Face tells the story of two women (39-year-old Zakia and 23-year-old Rukhsana) who were severely disfigured after becoming victims of acid attacks. According to the film’s website:

Every year in Pakistan, at least 100 people are victimized by brutal acid attacks. The majority of these are women, and many more cases go unreported. With little or no access to reconstructive surgery, survivors are physically and emotionally scarred, while many reported assailants – typically a husband or someone close to the victim – are let go with minimal punishment from the state.

 

The film follows Dr. Mohammad Jawad, a British-Pakistani plastic surgeon who traveled back to Pakistan in order to assist Pakistan’s acid attack victims. During her acceptance speech Obaid-Chinoy dedicated the award to Dr. Jawad, Rukhasana and Zakia, and “to all the women in Pakistan who are working for change.” She added, “Don’t give up on your dreams.”

Hopefully Obaid-Chinoy’s Oscar win will mean that more people in Pakistan will have the opportunity to see the film. The filmmaker told the Wall Street Journal in November that she planned to show the film in private venues and recently told the Asia Society that “contractual restraints” prevented her from showing it to large audiences.

HBO will be broadcasting Saving Face on March 8. Mark your calendars.

Spills All Over

This Valentine’s Day, feel free be prepared to spill your heart with this week’s belated #MusicMonday. Breaking into the scene with his first solo album, Feel Free, 25 year old Sid Muralidhar otherwise known as the NYC beat master Spills has released an album that gives The Weeknd a run for his money. The first half of the album start with a slow drawl with songs like Pregnant Silence and the two stepping Siren featuring Basim Usmani’s falsetto and leads up to the second harder half of the album with deep beats, such as in Mariah Carey’s Satanic Offspring.

But you don’t have to take my word for it – the album Feel Free is available … well, for free. So download it for free now!  

Two things I love about Spills. First, I love that he was part of an acoustic dub/hip hop duo called Two Dirty Desis. And the second is this:

For those who want to delve further into his creative mind, Feel Free Ableton session files will be available to be used in any way, shape or form on February 21, 2012. On his decision to release the Ableton files, Spills remarked:

 

“Honestly, I would have never even thought to give away ALL the session files… some would say a hip hop producer is only as good as his samples and synths. But that whole Internet black out thing to protest government and corporate censorship really inspired me – made me realize that we’re only as powerful as our connections to each other. So everyone should feel free to do with this project whatever they want … go nuts.”

 

You heard him. Go nuts!

10/10 for Amit

Remember Amit Gupta? He was diagnosed with Leukimia in September 2011 and thus began the largest social media driven internet friendly bone marrow donor recruitment campaign we’ve seen to date. He has something to share today.

… After over 100 drives organized by friends, family, and strangers, celebrity call-outs, a bazillion reblogs (7000+!), tweets, and Facebook posts, press, fundraising and international drives organized by tireless friends, and a couple painful false starts, I’ve got a 10/10 matched donor! You all literally helped save my life. (And the lives of many others.) [amitgupta]

 

I am stunned by this good news! As we’ve blogged before, South Asians have a 1 in 20,000 chance of finding a donor match and to find a perfect match is even more of a slim chance. This is one of those circumstances that highlights how social media campaigns can turn into real life successes! Of course, Amit still has a battle ahead of him.

Tomorrow, I’ll be admitted to Dana Farber in Boston for 4-5 weeks.

 

First I’ll get a second Hickman line to allow direct access to my heart (for meds and for nutrients if I’m not able to eat). Over the next week, the docs blast my body with a stiff chemo cocktail to try and eradicate all traces of cancer cells. In the process, the immune system I was born with, and my body’s ability to make blood, are destroyed.

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Redistricting in Nehru Jackets

Himanshu Suri of the infamous Das Racist is stepping out from behind the microphone, kind of. He’s teaming up with his childhood friend Ali Najmi (of Desis Vote) and joining the board of Queens based SEVA-NY to bring awareness to a very heated issue, redistricting in immigrant heavy Queens because the plans that are being drawn up will make you want to yell, “Das RACIST!”

Prominent Queens-bred rapper Himanshu Suri is adding his voice to the contentious redistricting debate, joining the board of directors of SEVA, a Richmond Hill-based immigrant rights group.

 

Suri’s childhood friend, Ali Najmi works for SEVA and introduced him to Gurpal Singh, one of the founders of the group and also a music producer. Within two hours of meeting one another, Singh and Suri were tinkering with tracks and discussing local politics. SEVA has an “army” of volunteers, Singh said, but Suri adds some much needed star power to the organization. [link]

 

Himanshu is at a SEVA community meeting performing right now (Monday night). It just so happens that his solo album titled after his very popular tumblr site Nehru Jackets also just dropped online on SEVA‘s website (thx for the tip, Pardon My Hindi!). For your #MusicMonday pleasure, you can find the link to the download here. Continue reading