Thursday, October 30, 2003

BBC NEWS | Entertainment | Bollywood invite for Prince Charles

Prince Charles to Open Shooting for The Rising

According to this article from The BBC Prince Charles, during his nine-day visit to India, will step on to the set and sound the clapboard for the film, The Rising - a film about the first major Indian revolt against British rule, this Monday (November 3).

The Rising, produced by Bobby Bedi, directed by Ketan Mehta, filmed in both English and and Hindi, features some of Bollywood's biggest stars including Aishwarya Rai, Rani Mukherjee, and Amir Khan to name just a few.

The film is based on the 1857 uprising when Hindu and Muslim soldiers revolted against the British East India Company, over fears that gun cartridges were greased with animal fat forbidden by their religions. While the British described this as a Mutiny, which resulted in the the British taking control of most of the country, to desis standing up for themselves because of the beginning of British caused injustices, it was truly an Uprising. The story of the film revolves around Indian freedom fighter Mangal Pandey (played by Khan) and his friendship with a British commanding officer. The revolutionary was eventually executed for his role in the uprising, which killed British troops.

Is this going to be India's next Oscar Award Nominee?

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Panjabi Hit Squad

Panjabi Hit Squad Dropping Desi Beats

The UK's Panjabi Hit Squad dropped their debut album (in mix tape form) on Def Jam UK yesterday (Oct 27) entitled Desi Beats Volume I (Available from PHS, who have a regular radio show on the BBC's 1Xtra, are the latest to get picked up by a major label and push forward Desi sounds in mainstream western music. Desi Beats Vol. 1 is a double disc collection of everything from UK Garage, hip-hop, and desi/hip hop/bhangra fusion.

One of the definite hits of the album is the Panjabi Hit Squads Relick of Satwinder Bitty's Hai Hai, with revamped verses from British Asian MC Ms. Scandalous. The song is quite old, but is a BANGER and incorporates not just elements of Bhangra but also Scandalous's dope verse and tight Garage Beats. Hit Squad recently filmed a video for the song which can be found here.

Incidentally, the Guardian, in a much more Bhangra-factual article than the one I posted from yesterday's New York Times, discusses the the Panjabi Hit Squad and the success of Bhangra on Mainstream Charts . According to the article

"Long before Timbaland sampled a tumbi to create Missy Elliot's Get Ur Freak On or Dr Dre sampled bhangra superstar Lata Mangeshkar for Truth Hurts' Addictive, the fabulously named Panjabi Hit Squad were pioneering the use of Asian flavours to spice up hip-hop. In fact, they claim to have invented the idea. Coventry's Panjabi MC, who hit the Top 10 with Mundian To Bach Ke earlier this year (and who PHS generously say they discovered), may be the best known Anglo-Asian star, but Panjabi Hit Squad feel they'll make the biggest longterm impression. " I think like all musical artists, PHS embellishes slightly their role in discovering PMC, or in inventing the idea of including bhangra samples in hip and r and b sounds. I don't know of any one artist or collective that can take credit for this idea, but PHS has indeed taken the mixing to another level, and a mainstream level at that -- their radio show, working with the likes of Ashanti and Mariah Carey, and of course putting albums out on Def Jam is integral to keeping the sound fresh and making it larger.

So the short of it is keep an eye on these guys, and check out the album.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Bringing Up Britney

Britney Spears Waxes Philospohical
Here is a link to a story on Britney Spears, the newest follower and user of Bhangra, in Newsweek Magazine. Its an interesting read, because I think it shows the insular nature that many of these teen pop stars have as they get older, especially when they tour all the time, and lack formal higher education.

The last bit of the article has the interviewer asking Britney about the South Asian influences on "In the Zone," which includes Spears' single Me Against the Music (a version of which is produced by Rishi Rich). Britney indicates that, "she’s been into a lot of Indian spiritual religions.” When asked if one of them is Hinduism, she says, “What’s that? Is it like kabbalah?” Yeah, sure you have "been into a lot of Indian spritual religions." Note to Britney: Enter foot in mouth.

Kabbalah, for those that don't know, is not a separate religion, but is a form of Jewish Mysticism, and has gained a resurgence in popularity because of Madonna.

The Web dictionary describes Kabbalah or Cabala as referring to the mystical interpretation of the Jewish Scriptures. It has two principal written sources. Sefer Yezira is a third century work which purports to present a series of monologues given by the partriarch Abraham. The second, Zohar is a mystical commentary on the Torah written by Moses de León in the 13th century.

As a religious movement, it appears to have started in 11th century France, and then spread to Spain and elsewhere. It influenced the development of Hasidism in the 18th century, and continues to play a role in contemporary Judaism.

Timbaland and Raje Shwari Part Ways--Timbaland Looking for New Indian Talent

Rumor has it that Raje Shwari is no longer working with Timbaland or Timbaland productions. According to the website, Timbaland Heaven, not only has Raje left the Timbaland camp, she is nowhere to be seen in the pictures for the Indian Flute video-yes they are making a video. I hope when that video comes out, there is some Indian representation, and that Tim and his people don't mix South Asia up with Belly Dancing and other non-South Asian stuff in the video. For all you Desi singers out there who dream of being signed, Timbaland is looking for a new Indian singer, who can sing (in both Hindi and English) and dance.

From Timbalandheaven website:

AD: Timbaland productions is searching for a new Indian Artist. Any female that meets the following requirements, please contact
Must be Indian
Must speak the Native language (Hindi) as well as English
Must be able to sing and dance
Must submit a non-refundable video tape and photo (after contacting to retrieve the address)
Must be unsigned

I will be staying on top of this, so if you have any updates or hear anything, please let me know via the comments section.

Jazzy B: Riffs From the Punjab

Bhangra...Its not just Panjabi MC anymore

I know, I know, bhangra was never just Panjabi MC, but to mainstream America, for them, PMC and Beware of the Boys was the main Bhangra point of reference. Anyway, the
The New York Times in an article about Bhangra Superstar Jazzy B, have begun to spread the word, that Panjabi MC is not the end all, be all of Bhangra. This is good as I think it shores up momentum in fighting the one-hit wonder status that is going to plague Bhangra tracks in the mainstream if something other than Beware of the Boys is not successful on a mainstream level.

Of course I am not suggesting that the next crossover is Jazzy B, but, that the New York Times is recognizing other Bhangra singers, that is a step in the right direction for South Asian influences in the American mainstream and popular culture.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Indians upbeat at Diwali celebrations at White House :

More on the Diwali in the White House

I guess my invitation got lost in the mail. Anyway, according to this poorly written and researched story,in the Hindustan Times--written of course by the Press Trust of India-- the White House celebrated Diwali for the first time ever with President George W Bush's closest aide and counsellor, Karl Rowe [sic], presiding over the festivities, seen by some as a sign of the growing clout of the community in the United States. Rowe, who is often referred to as the President's "Prime Minister", lighted the symbolic brass lamp inaugurating the festivities last evening in which some 70 select members of the Indian American community were invited. Underscoring the spirit and story of Diwali, Rowe, after conveying the personal greetings of President Bush, said that it was appropriate that the universal values of the festival were being observed in the Indian Treaty Room.

First of all I guess someone forgot to tell the PTI people, or the Hindustan Times people how to do proper name/fact checking. I am a blogger, and even I know to check the white house web page to check out names, if not just spelling of names. Unless I am super-mistaken, the story should be referring to a Karl Rove, not Karl Rowe.

The story goes on to tell that, "for nearly an hour-and-a-half, the Indian Treaty Room became a veritable mini India, as the Indian Americans, some second generation ones, savoured the moments over Kanchipuram idlis, samosas and ladoos and Hindustani music wafted in the room and Prachi Dalal's "ghunghroo" resonated as she performed a "Mangalam" item in Kathak style.

Neil Patel, a second generation Indian American lawyer who works in Vice-President Dick Cheney's office, officiated as the Master of Ceremonies. Gopal Khanna, CIO of Peace Corps, made closing remarks.

Among the several Indian American leaders who participated in the event were Piyush Agarwal, Dr Akshay Desai, Dr Rao Emandi (all from Florida), Dr Ashok Jain (Michigan), Dr Sharad Lakhanpal (Texas), Dr Shailendra Kumar, Dr Suresh Gupta (both from Maryland), Shashi Saha and Hemant Patel."

While I think this is awesome, and a great first step, lets not get the idea that there are going to be Diwali Diya's (candle's) on the mall or the White House grounds anytime soon.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

White House to Celebrate Diwali

White House to Celebrate Diwali

According to this story from, the White House is going to be celebrating Diwali this year. Apparently, the White House will invite approximately 100 Indian-Americans to join President George W Bush in celebrating Diwali, the festival of lights, in the White House. The reporting on this is kind of shabby, so I will post an update later in the day.

According to Abel Guerra, a Public Liaison Officer, the White House, will host the event, which is closed to the press, at the Indian Treaty Room.

Regardless of whether or not you are one of the invitees, I want to wish you all a Happy Diwali and a prosperous new year.

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Gandhi Statue

Gandhi Statue Images

In honor of Gandhi Jayanti (Oct 2--yeah I am a little late) I took some snaps of the Mohandas Gandhi Memorial/Statue in downtown Washington. So this Saturday I hauled my camera to the little park area, and took like 100 shots. Anyway, my web hosting does not provide for large amounts of memory of course, and since the shots are too large to really place on the blog, I am placing only one shot I am particularly fond of. It was made black and white with Adobe Photoshop.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

'Ash is Queen of Bollywood' - The Times of India

Ash is Queen of Bollywood

According to this story in The Times of India, Time Magazine Asia has placed Ash on the cover of its upcoming issue to celebrate Indian cinema's arrival on the world stage. The cover story focuses on the changing face of Bollywood and has projected Aishwarya Rai as "queen" and highlighted crossover movies, films with bold themes and increasing Western interest in it. The weekly in its latest issue focuses on the young generation of Bollywood stars, describing Aamir Khan as "India's most respected and versatile young actor" and praising Director Ram Gopal Varma for "ditching song-and-dance fantasies for urban grittiness." Heaping lavish praise on Rai, the magazine describes her as "India's standard bearer" and says, "she may position herself as New Bollywood in terms of roles, but in person, Rai embodies the Indian middle class -- and very old Bollywood -- ideal: a modern girl with traditional values. Yes, they do exist.

I could not find the cover of the article online, but I did find this image of Ash from her new film entiteld Choker Bali, on the Time Asia website.

I am placing a copy of the Time cover below and here is a link to the Time story on Bollywood.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

BBC - Radio 1 - Urban Bobby Friction & Nihal

Respect to Bobby Friction and Nihal

I just wanted to congratulate Bobby Friction and Nihal on their one year anniversary on the BBC. If you like Bhangra, Drum and Base, UK Garage, iall nfluenced with Indian flava, you must check out their online show on the BBC. They were there before PMC blew up, and will be here after Timbaland uses up all his Raje Shwari samples. Thanks to them, I have discovered many artists who I would have otherwise never heard of, Tigerstyle, Dev-T, Raghav, just to name a few. Anyway, Congratulations to my British Brovas who always keep it real DESI!!!

Friday, October 17, 2003

Pentagon Defends Gen. William G. Boykin, Who Chided Muslims

God Envy?

This story from discusses the Army Army Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, a man and military officer who is trying to construe the war on terror as a "battle with Satan," and that Muslims worship idols.

Before I continue with the explanation, I just wanted to clarify something about that statement. Now, I am no religious scholar, but I think Islam also frowns on the worship of idols, and that is why you never see idols, photo's, or physical dieties claiming to represent Allah. So, right from the get-go, Lt. Gen. William Boykin's claims seem to be misguided.

Anyway, according to the story, Boykin has made several speeches some in uniform at evangelical Christian churches in which he cast the war on terrorism in religious terms. Boykin said of a 1993 battle with a Muslim militia leader in Somalia: "I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God, and his was an idol."

Yeah, I don't know what this man was thinking when he made these comments. Well, he was probably thinking about his audience, evangelical Christians, but still I think it is pretty stupid to say, "I knew that my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God, and his was an idol." This sounds to me like nothing more than elementary school chatter. What is even weird though, is that no one in the administration or military seems to be calling for an apology or any kind of remorse on Boykin's part.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said Thursday he had not seen Boykin's comments, but he praised the three-star general, who is the Pentagon's deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence.

"He is an officer that has an outstanding record in the United States armed forces," Rumsfeld said at a news conference.

Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he had spoken in uniform at prayer breakfasts, adding he did not think Boykin broke any military rules by giving talks at churches.

"There is a very wide gray area on what the rules permit," Myers said. "At first blush, it doesn't look like any rules were broken."

However, Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee of Rhode Island said he had not been aware of Boykin's statements as reported in the news media, then added, "If that's accurate, to me it's deplorable."

A Muslim civil rights group on Thursday called for Boykin to be reassigned.

"Putting a man with such extremist views in a critical policy-making position sends entirely the wrong message to a Muslim world that is already skeptical about America's motives and intentions," said Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Awad's statement noted that a verse in the Quran says Muslims believe in the same God as Jews and Christians.

Boykin's church speeches, first reported by NBC News and the Los Angeles Times, cast the war on terrorism as a religious battle between Christians and the forces of evil.

Appearing in dress uniform before a religious group in Oregon in June, Boykin said Islamic extremists hate the United States "because we're a Christian nation, because our foundation and our roots are Judeo-Christian. ... And the enemy is a guy named Satan."

Anyway click here to
read the whole article and click here to see Boykin's bio.

Musical Updates, Britney, Madonna, and The Fugees

Musical Updates, Britney, Madonna, and The Fugees

Well, I heard the Rishi Rich production of Britney Spears’ (with Madonna) “Me Against the Music.” I don’t know if I would necessarily call it bhangra, but it does have a nice South Asian influence to it with some background vocals and the tumbi and dhol effects. In fact, the production sounds at times, very similar to what Rishi Rich has done with Craig David’s two tracks, “Rise and Fall,” and “Spanish.”

In other musical stuff, I was reading my newly arrived issue of Rolling Stone, and read with interest an article entitled “The Mystery of Lauryn Hill—RS this month is doing a special on Women who Rock—and I, like many Hip-Hop fans wondered what happened to Lauryn on the solo tip, and the Fugees as a group. Surprisingly Pras has gone out on a limb and has placed the brunt of the Fugees breakup on Wyclef Jean, labeling him “the cancer of the Fugees. “He’s the Cancer. You can quote me. He’s the reason why it got wrecled to begin with, he’s the reason why it’s not fixed.”

I always thought, and you hear this on Wyclef’s records, that Wyclef was the most vocal proponent of the Fugee’s getting back together. Unfortunately, he did not want to be interviewed for the article.

I don’t think the article is online, so you will have to purchase this months Rolling Stone to read the whole piece.

Monday, October 13, 2003

"Form Letter From Iraq"

Form Letter Makes News Pages

A colleauge of mine today (Thanks Mike Evans) showed me this interesting item: If you go to Google or Yahoo and paste "I have been serving in Iraq for over five months now," into the search field, the result is the publication of the exact same letter in various publications around the U.S., describing remarkable and unreported progress in Iraq. There are of course a lot of media reports discussing a PR offensive on the part of the administration, but I didn't think local media outlets were part of this offensive. I guess local papers don't vet Letters to the Editor, like other papers do. They should.

There is actually a story on these form letters in the Great Falls Tribune which indicates that letter writers are asked to include a phone number with their submission so authorship can be verified. In any case, six soldiers reached by the paper, directly or through their families said:

"they agreed with the letter's thrust, but none of the soldiers said he wrote it, and one said he didn't even sign it. A seventh soldier didn't know about the letter until his father congratulated him for getting it published in the local newspaper in Beckley, W.Va."

"When I told him he wrote such a good letter, he said: 'What letter?' " Timothy Deaconson said Friday, recalling the phone conversation he had with his son, Nick. "This is just not his (writing) style."

He spoke to his son, Pfc. Nick Deaconson, at a hospital where he was recovering from a grenade explosion that left shrapnel in both his legs.

Sgt. Christopher Shelton, who signed a letter that ran in the Snohomish, Wash., paper, said Friday that his platoon sergeant had distributed the letter and asked soldiers for the names of their hometown newspapers. Soldiers were asked to sign the letter if they agreed with it, said Shelton, whose shoulder was wounded during an ambush earlier this year.

I hope things in Iraq are going as smoothly as these letters indicate so that American troops can return to the U.S., back to safety, and back to their families.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

Have you seen this woman?

Whose That Girl

It is plausible. I mean, if I was an old white guy and thought Aishwariya Rai may want me, I may send her some money for a plane ticket. Well, I might also think that she was a figment of my imaginiation, if not a figment of the internet. Well it turns out, according to this story from the BBC, an American man known as Mr. Corley, met a woman on the internet who he fancied. They exchanged pictures, the woman sending one of Ash instead of her real picture, and then Mr. Corley sent her money ($1,400) to help pay for her travel expenses - and never heard from her again. Duh.

Aishwarya Rai, for those of you who don't know, not only is a famed Bollywood Beauty, but also a former Miss World, who is rumored to have the most Internet web-pages dedicated to her.

Mr. Corley has of course contacted the Indian police, but if I was him, I would just cut my losses, and learn from my lesson. He got punk'd.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

The Writer Who Began With a Hyphen (

Jhumpa Lahiri Comes to DC

Here is a nice article on Pulitzer Prize winning Jhumpa Lahiri from today's Washington Post. Her latest work, a novel entitled The Namesake (I am working on a review right now--in case any of you want to publish it...i have to try:) is a really well written book, that is attractive I think to both South and non South-Asian Americans. Sure the theme focuses on a First generation South Asian-American and his life in America, but it could be about anyone's coming of age. For those of us who are first generation, obviously this book is something we can identify with. But, and this is a big but, the book is not limited to this cross cultural theme. I could go on, but I am going to save it for my article.

Anyway, here are a couple of excerpts that the Post printed. I am partial to the first.

From "The Namesake":

For being a foreigner, Ashima is beginning to realize, is a sort of lifelong pregnancy -- a perpetual wait, a constant burden, a continuous feeling out of sorts. It is an ongoing responsibility, a parenthesis in what had once been ordinary life, only to discover that that previous life has vanished, replaced by something more complicated and demanding. Like pregnancy, being a foreigner, Ashima believes, is something that elicits the same curiosity from strangers, the same combination of pity and respect.

She knew who she was: Indian American. London-born Deshi. And yet, the American part was hard to claim. "I really felt it would be a betrayal of my parents to call myself American," she says. But on visits to India, she was the American.

It is the complications of being a hyphenated American that informs her work, the same challenges that face Gogol, the American-born protagonist in "The Namesake":

"Teleologically speaking, ABCDs are unable to answer the question, 'Where are you from?' " the sociologist on the panel declares. Gogol has never heard the term ABCD. He eventually gathers that it stands for "American-born confused deshi." In other words, him. He learns that the C could also stand for "conflicted." He knows that deshi, a generic word for "countryman," means "Indian," knows that his parents and all their friends always refer to India simply as desh. But Gogol never thinks of India as desh. He thinks of it as Americans do, as India.

If you would like to purchase this book, click here.

Incidentally, she will be giving a reading tonight at Washington D.C.'s Politics and Prose Bookstore. Well, it is actually across the street.

NAACP accused of shutting out minority candidates

NAACP Shuts Out Minority Candidates (via Suman Palit)

According to this story in the Chicago Sun-Times The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is shutting out two minority candidates running for the Senate in Illinois. Indian-American Dr. Chirinjeev Kathuria and Antonio Davis-Fairman, the only black Republican vying to succeed Sen. Peter Fitzgerald (R-Ill.) have been nixed from the NAACP debate, reportedly because they placed last in a public opinion poll the NAACP's Illinois State Conference commissioned to winnow down the crowd.

The civil rights organization decided to include only the top six candidates from each party in the two-hour debate. But Kathuria and state Sen. Steve Rauschenberger (R-Elgin) scoffed at that reasoning, arguing that the poll really showed the race was wide open. The candidate finishing first among each party's voters, Democrat Dan Hynes and Republican Jack Ryan, received just 10 percent apiece. The survey's margin of error was plus or minus 4.8 percentage points, making the results one big statistical tie. "Polling this early is bizarre and foolish," Rauschenberger said. "It just shows you that there is no front-runner."

Kathuria finished last on the GOP side with 1 percent, just behind Davis-Fairman, who got 2 percent. Half of each party's primary voters were undecided. Rauschenberger made the cut with 5 percent, but pledged to boycott the event unless Kathuria, Davis-Fairman and former state Rep. Jonathan Wright, who polled 2 percent, are allowed to participate. Davis-Fairman did not attend a news conference with Rauschenberger and Kathuria but issued a statement saying "the NAACP snub is part of the problem. It's the white-washing of our great party."

I'm all for keeping the debate participants to an acceptable level, but shouldn't the NAACP, as an issue group, be trying to be more inclusive of minority candidates, or is this too logical of a line of thinking?

To find out more about Kathuria, click here.

Asia Times -

Are We Suckers?

Was it P.T. Barnum that said a sucker is born every second? Well, I am not exactly sure, but this recently published study indicates, according to this story in the Asia Times that "the more commercial television news you watch, the more wrong you are likely to be about key elements of the Iraq War and it its aftermath."

According to the study, "the more you watch the Rupert Murdoch-owned Fox News channel, in particular, the more likely it is that your perceptions about the war are wrong, adds the report by the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA).

Based on several nationwide surveys it conducted with California-based Knowledge Networks since June, as well as the results of other polls, PIPA found that 48 percent of the public believe US troops found evidence of close pre-war links between Iraq and the al-Qaeda terrorist group; 22 percent thought troops found weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq; and 25 percent believed that world public opinion favored Washington's going to war with Iraq. All three are misperceptions."

I have been thinking a lot about this recently, especially after having some discussions with some friends of mine about the war. It seems that the news has really been doing a horrible job at helping to educate the public about the going-ons of American foreign policy and especially the causes of America's war with Iraq.

Just a sidenote---Iraq is not pronounced I - Raq, it is more like eee-raq, and Iran is not pronounced I- Ran, it is more like eee-ran. In both cases the ran should rhyme with flan.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003


Cool Sites Part II

I just wanted to give shout-outs to two newish sites, at least new to me. The first is Om Malik's Not Really Indian (NRI) Blog, which seems to have similar content to Desiblog. The second is this really rad and wonderfully designed site called Pardon My Hindi
Defintely check them out.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

Indian American Is Favored in La. Race (

The Post Takes Notice of Bobby Jindal

Today's Washington Post has a short/interesting piece entitled "Indian American Is Favored in La. Race" focusing on what seems to be a promising outcome for Jindal in an upcoming primary in Louisiana.

The piece is quite short, but I find it interesting that the article highlights Jindal's cozying up to Louisiana's conservatives, and his frequent mentioning of his conversion to Catholocism.

I am delighted that the Post highlighted Jindal's Indian-American stauts, but the implication of the article, at least in my opinion is this, that perhaps the color of Indian-American's can be overlooked in their assimilation in America. But it seems, that it is religion that continues to divide immigrants who have non-Judeo Christian backgrounds from becoming acceptable in mainstream America.

Saturday, October 04, 2003

The Globe and Mail

Shankar, Jones Object to Bollywood Film

This is an interesting story about developments on a pseudo Bollywood film being developed about the relationship between Ravi Shankar and his daughter Norah Jones. Dev Anand, who I thought was a pretty up-standing and reputable Bollywood actor, is recreating, in movie form, the real life drama of the relationship between Shankar and Jones.

According to the story in the
The Globe and Mail "The script for Anand's film, entitledSong of Life, echoes the story of Shankar and Jones, the stars: a world-renowned sitar composer and his long-lost daughter, an American jazz singer. The finale of the film has the daughter sweeping the Grammy's, and the two reuniting. The film will have only four songs, and the cast will comprise of actors from both India and the West.

So well the script doesn't seem all that original, and in fact seems like something that should be one for a movie on Lifetime...television for women, instead of the subject of a Bollywood film. Defintely made-for-tv material, and I think, done in poor tase.