Seeing Lal

prerna Lal.jpgThis weekend, Desi youth will be convening in Oakland, CA and Washington DC for the primary purpose of getting activated and politicized. DCDesi Summer will be holding it down for the East Coast, and I personally have been involved in getting Bay Area Solidarity Summer (BASS) off the ground here on the West Coast. Not only am I excited about the FUNraiser we have scheduled, I am particularly excited about the opening keynote speakers for the weekend – author of Desis in the House Sunaina Maira and dream activist Prerna Lal.

I met Prerna Lal last summer at Netroots Nation in Las Vegas. I quickly learned that she was a quite the firecracker. Desi via Fiji, Prerna is a founder of DreamActivist, a current law student, a writer, a SAALT Changemaker, queer, an activist and… is undocumented. Her journey as a struggling youth trying to navigate the broken immigration system is one she is very vocal about sharing, whether on blogs or on twitter. Her tenacity is one to be admired and bravery is one to be inspired by.

Just a few months ago, Prerna was served deportation papers – but being who she is, she’s not leaving without a fight. Here’s what she had to say.

Taz: What made you tweet this?

Prerna: It’s how I feel on most days. We are always asked to prove our worth to our countries. But I have yet to have America prove its worth to me.

T: What is your legal status?

P: Out of status, allegedly accruing unlawful presence that could lead to a 10 year bar from the United States if deported.

T: Where are you from? How did you end up in the US?

P: Fiji Islands. Father brought me here when I was 14, kicking and screaming.

T: Your grandmother is a citizen, your parents are greencard holders and your sister is a citizen. How is it possible that you are considered undocumented?

P: That’s simple. I aged out at 21. You see, when a visa petition is approved, a family has to wait many years to actually get a “priority date” in order to immigrate legally. I was 24 by the time my parents received their priority date. Regardless of the fact that my name was on the original visa petition filed for my family, I was automatically castigated and separated from my family. My parents were no longer considered my “immediate relatives.” I find it morally repugnant, but I’m sure there are many young adults who have experienced the same horror of family separation due to an arbitrary age out of our control. Continue reading

Caught on Tape: The Art of Aakash Nihalani

This gif, Through, is from a series of self-portraits called Once Upon a Wall, by Brooklyn-based artist Aakash Nihalani.

Through.gif His brightly colored geometric art made of electrical tape has been made and displayed on the streets, in galleries and on mixtape covers. As with his self-portraits, there’s a playful and interactive aspect to most of his work. To see that in action, watch Nihalani create and install Stop, Pop and Roll.
Continue reading

Ricky Gill: The Young (but not Green) Guy from Lodi

Ricky Gill on KOVR-CBS13 Sacramento from Ricky Gill on Vimeo.

Lodi-born San Joaquin County native Ranjit “Ricky” Gill recently announced that he’s running for Congress in central California, in what is currently the state’s 11th district (it seems that district boundaries may change after August 15 when a citizens redistricting commission approves final maps). Sepia Mutiny noted Gill with a hint of envy and admiration back when he was invited at the age of 17 to the Republican state convention. At that time he served as the sole student representative on the State Board of Education, selected by the former Governator himself. Continue reading

Ravi Bhalla Runs

Ravi Bhalla.jpg Hoboken City Councilmember-at-Large Ravi Bhalla has thrown his hat…(uh, turban??) in the legislative ring – this past week he announced his candidacy for NJ State Assembly in the 33rd Legislative District. The Democratic primary election is June 7th.

“I am running for Assembly because the voters in Hoboken and the entire district deserve a real alternative to the politics as usual in Hudson County. Important decisions are made behind closed doors by power brokers outside of Hoboken instead of where they should be: at the ballot box. I believe voters should be provided a real choice instead of hand-picked political patrons. And, I am proud to say Mayor Dawn Zimmer agrees completely. That’s why she fully supports my candidacy,” said Bhalla in an email from his office. [nj]

For too long, our leaders in Trenton have been chosen by party bosses in backroom deals with no input from the voters they claim to represent. Decisions affecting your future are made behind closed doors and no one has the guts to challenge them. As a Councilman in Hoboken and Chairman of the local Democratic Party in Hoboken, I have seen firsthand the corrupting influence machine politics has on the democratic process. I am running because it is time to give residents a real choice, an alternative to candidates that are pre-selected to represent you by the Hudson County party machine. [bhallaforassembly]

I heard about Ravi’s race rather recently, from members in the community. I’m more familiar with West Coast politics, and had to do some rooting around. I had no idea there was a Sikh sitting on city council in Hoboken, a city with a substantial South Asian population. Who is Ravi Bhalla?

Ravi is a small businessman, managing a four-lawyer law firm with offices in downtown Hoboken and Newark. His firm specializes in employment law, civil rights, commercial litigation, and local government law. He was included in the 2009 edition NJ Superlawyers and NJ Monthly magazine as one of those designated as a ‘Rising Star’ in the New Jersey legal community….Ravi has long been an advocate for the legitimate rights of tenants and landlords, serving for close to two years as Hoboken’s Rent Board Attorney and Special Litigation Counsel for Rent Board matters, and continuing to serve as Union City’s Tenant Advocate. [ourhoboken]

I’d be interested to hear from our readers on the ground in New Jersey to hear what they have to say about Ravi Bhalla. Was his run a surprise? Does he have a shot? Are you volunteering to get him elected? Please let us know. Continue reading

Junk Science for Fun

Arvind Gupta has won national awards for his many contributions to science education in India. But when he introduces himself, he calls himself a toymaker. He’s not developing the type of toys that you would buy in a store or order online. His toys are the kind people can make using trash and other everyday materials.

Got a straw? Make a flute! A couple of foam cups or a CD? Turn them into a helicopter or a hovercraft! Gupta’s videos, which I saw posted on MeFi, quickly show how to make nifty toys from trash and simple materials. They also demonstrate scientific principles in action–a coin and an old hanger are used to show centrifugal force, for example. Continue reading

The Cinematic Soundtrack of Karsh Kale

cinema.jpgEver feel like you need a cinematic soundtrack to your day to day life? Karsh Kale’s Cinema may be for you.

The album exploded on the scene last week, going straight to number #1 in the charts. No surprise considering Karsh Kale has been a revolutionary voice to the on the scene for quite sometime. Kale got his start in a rock band, is known for his phenomenal tabla skills, worked in collaboration with the talented Anoushka Shankar in 2007 and most recently has been using his skills to soundtrack movies, such as with Ajay Naidu’s Ashes. It’s no surprise then, with his recent film scoring experiences that he chose to name his latest release, Cinema.

As one of the first groundbreaking genre busting artists in what is now an established musical fusion genre, Karsh Kale can only be referred to as legendary. The album Cinema takes listeners on a cinematic journey, each song reflecting a different emotion and journey. But instead of telling you about the music, how about listening to the music and deciding for yourself. And of course, download the song **Mallika Jam* for free below. The entire album is available on iTunes.

What makes Karsh Kale tick? I wanted to know. Check out the interview with Karsh Kale, and just to mix it up, I asked him to answer in triplicates. Read it below!

What are three words you’d use to describe your 4th solo album, Cinema?

Progressive, Nostalgic, Journey

What were your top three favorite moments in creating this album, Cinema?

  • The day the art work by Archan Nair arrived.
  • The day I finished the final mix w Illinton.
  • The day the album was released at reached #1 on Tunes World Chart. Continue reading

Friday: Clarence Jey’s Day

In the immortal words of earnest autotween singer Rebecca Black, “Yesterday was Thursday, Thursday…Today is Friday, Friday…Tomorrow is Saturday, and Sunday comes afterwards.” The viral video sensation “Friday” produced by Ark Music Factory hit YouTube two months ago, and since then the video has received over one hundred million views and broken into the top track lists on Billboard and iTunes. The SF Chronicle’s Asian Pop columnist Jeff Yang interviewed Sri Lanka-born composer and Ark Music Factory cofounder Clarence Jey, who co-wrote and produced “Friday,” to find out more about this guy behind the song and his thoughts on pop music. Continue reading

Khan’s Calculus: Education for Everyone

Salman Khan is a hit on YouTube. But it’s not because he’s a movie star shimmying across the screen sans shirt to the sound of music–that’s another Salman Khan. This Salman Khan doesn’t even walk on screen in the videos he makes, which are filmed in his bedroom closet. He prefers to be the voice in the background teaching people about calculus, chemistry, finance and a range of other subjects.

His Khan Academy channel on YouTube has received over 48 million views so far. But when he first started making video tutorials, he had just one viewer in mind. Back then Khan, who doesn’t have a degree in education but does have an MBA and degrees in math and science, was working as a hedge fund analyst in Boston. He made YouTube videos to remotely tutor his cousin in New Orleans in math. 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

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