Sunday, February 29, 2004

Mentor Takes Music Stateside (from Ealing Times)

Mentor Remix to Appear on Timbaland's UK Single

The Ealing Times (UK) reports that a remix of Timbaland and Magoo's single, "Cop That Disc," done by Asian remixer/DJ Mentor, will appear on their upcoming UK release.

Mentor, 25, whose studio is based in Wadsworth Road, Perivale, and brother of famed Asian producer Rishi Rich was approached by US rappers Timbaland & Magoo's record company Blackground Entertainment to re-mix their next single called Cop That Disc. Record Company bosses loved Mentor's version so much that his remix will now be available on the single's general UK release next week.

This track has already been receiving heavy airplay on both the Bobby Friction and Nihal show on BBC1, and on The Panjabi Hit Squad's show on BBC 1xtra. Incidentally, PHS announced on their show last week that they might be in attendance (along with Apache Indian and Bhangra singer Bikram Singh) at the upcoming 11th annual Bhangra Blowout competition in Washington D.C. (The largest South Asian student run competition in the world.)

Friday, February 27, 2004

Hollywood, Ash she likes it - The Times of India

Aishwarya's Star "Rai"sing in Hollywood

The Times of India has a nice report on the rising stardom of Aishwarya Rai in Hollywood. The Bollywood Bombshell, as I like to call her, has six on-going projects. Amongst these are the Oct. 7 opening Bride and Prejudice, starring opposite Jude Law, Keanu Reeves, or Billy Crudup in Mr. Surprises, opposite Brenden Fraser in Roland Joffe's Singularity, starring alongside Meryl Streep in Chaos, playing the lead in the Nisha Sharma story, and starring and acting as executive producer in I Know and I Care. There are reportedly three more in the works.

"The script is in place. Complete with Ash's scissorhands. 'There will be no nudity or overtly revealing clothes for any of her roles," says Simone Sheffield, the actress' international manager, 'Also, her dialogues won't be offensive." The lady, though, hasn't given Hollywood's statutory kiss a miss. 'Ash has a pair of lips very much wanted here... every man in Hollywood wants to kiss her," laughs Simone, 'I believe she has already done a kissing scene, but she won't do anything overtly sexual." A bond which bloomed when Ash's friend, hairstylist Ambika Pillai, introduced her to Simone is now based on trust. 'Money isn't important to Ash, the role is. I'm really impressed with Ash... and so was Robert de Niro when I introduced her." But as money makes the world go round, curiosity demands that Ash's fans have an idea about her worth in Hollywood. 'I would say about $ 3 million... but money is secondary for Ash." That, of course, is a million-dollar statement."

Gazette | First Person: Essays (Mar | Apr 04)

Assimilation, Panjabi MC, and South Asian Social Status

Check out my friend and Satya Circle colleague Dawinder Sidhu's recent publication in the University of Pennsylvania's Alumni Magazine, The Gazette. Dawinder wrote this article a while back, but it still has relevance.

Here is an excerpt from the article discussing how movies like Bend It Like Beckham, and Monsoon Wedding, as well as artists like Panjabi MC have influenced life for South Asian Americans in the U.S.:

"Aside from providing bhangra aficionados with greater access to the music of their choice and moviegoers with authentic representations of South Asian life, these recent South Asian elements in American popular culture may have a profound impact on the ways in which South Asians are viewed and treated in this nation. More specifically, they represent a tremendous opportunity for South Asians to not only become properly assimilated in these United States, but to obviate the driving force behind the wave of post-9/11 hate crimes, namely ignorance.

Those interested in the welfare of the South Asians in America know all too well—through personal experience, anecdotal evidence, e-mail action alerts, and news stories—the severe backlash that South Asians, particularly Sikhs, have endured following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. Four days later, Balbir Singh Sodhi was killed; his gunman explained he did it because Sodhi was “dark-skinned, bearded, and wore a turban.” In the five months following 9/11, the FBI investigated more than 400 hate crimes."

Incidentally, I finally got a copy of Navdeep's (of Mutiny) album Yaathra, which is available for purchase on his website. It is a wicked album, and a couple of tracks on the album do a great job at explaining the disillusionment, the chaos, the sadness, and the frustration that many brown-skinned (I was going to write South Asian-Americans, but it wasn't just South Asians who were treated poorly) people felt as a result of September 11 and its aftermath.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Ex-Minister Says British Spies Bugged Kofi Annan?s Office

British Spies Bugged Kofi Annan's Office

The New York Times is reporting that, according to an ex-Cabinet Minister Clare Short, British spies have regularly bugged the office of Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan.

Ms. Short, in an interview with the BBC said, "I've had conversations with Kofi in the run-up to the war, thinking `Oh dear, there will be a transcript of this and people will see what he and I are saying."

Strange. Click here to read the full article

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

BBC NEWS | Europe | Russia warms up to an Indian winter

Indian Summer Hits Wintry Russia

It is hard to imagine two things less similar than a scene from a Bollywood film and a Moscow street scene - particularly in winter, but as the BBC reports, India has never been in greater vogue, than it is now in Russia.

"Thousands of young Russians fill the few remaining places on beaches in India's southern state of Goa - and last weekend British-Indian rapper Panjabi MC packed one of Moscow's biggest venues. "One can't strangle this song, one can't kill it," proclaims a Soviet-era patriotic anthem. And "Mundian to Bach Ke" - which translates as "Beware of the Boys" - is that kind of song. Last summer it spread throughout Moscow, blasting from passing cars and kiosks that sell pirate CDs.

And inside trendy Moscow lounge bars with Indian designs, young people sip lassies - a traditional Indian yoghurt drink - and listen to artists like Nitin Sawhney and Badmarsh and Shri. Every week several charters - and many more regular flights - take off from snow-covered Moscow airports, for the white sand of Goan beaches.

For many young Russians, the Indian love affair could be the start of the equivalent of the '60s in the West - the time when people strove for full freedom from the constraints of traditional society.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Guardian Unlimited | Arts news | Top Indian film composer to conduct Birmingham's orchestra

AR Rahman to Conduct Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Called One to Watch by the NY Times

The Guardian (UK) reports that AR Rahman, the now international super-composer following his success with Bombay Dreams, will in two weeks time, take the baton for two successive nights of music from the Indian film industry, including much of his own work.

"The CBSO, which achieved international status during the tenure of conductor Sir Simon Rattle, is determined to find new audiences closer to home, by persuading Indian and Pakistani audiences into its Symphony Hall headquarters.

Tickets for the 2,200-seat auditorium are already selling fast among the city's south Asian population and, according to the orchestra's chief executive, Stephen Maddock, the Bollywood nights promise to pull in the largest ever non-white audience for a mainstream British orchestra. "

In more AR Rahman news, the New York Times, has labelled him one of the eight to watch onstage and behind the scenes. I guess the Times picked up this story because of his work on Bombay Dreams, which is set to open at the Broadway Theater on April 29th (with previews beginning a month prior).

"The composer A. R. Rahman has written the soundtracks for more than 100 Indian films, by his own count, and released some 70 albums that have reportedly sold at least 100 million copies worldwide. Most of the albums are in Tamil, Hindi or Telugu. But five of them are in English, and if until now he has been comparatively unknown in the West, his English-language musical, "Bombay Dreams," produced by Andrew Lloyd Webber, was an audience hit (reviews were mixed) when it opened in London in 2002.

I'd never done a stage musical before," Mr. Rahman, 38, said by telephone from Saudi Arabia, where he had recently gone on hajj, the requisite pilgrimage to Mecca for every Muslim. (Born A. S. Dileep Kumar, he converted to Islam in 1988 and took an Islamic name, Allah Rakha Rahman.) "In the movies, when you finish a song, it's finished. In the theater, you need to tweak it forever. I kind of like that."

While I was in New York this past week, I walked past the Broadway theater, which happens to be right next door to the Ed Sullivan Theater (home of David Letterman's show), where they have all kinds of promo billboards for the show. Kind of rare to see Desis on such large Billboards right on Broadway, and for that matter, to see anything Desi on Broadway.

To find out more about the show, including the full cast listings check out

From "Heading the cast of the musical, which begins previews March 29, will be Manu Narayan (as Akaash), Anisha Nagarajan (as Priya), Ayesha Dharker (as Rani), Sriram Ganesan (as Sweetie), Marvin L. Ishmael (as Madan), Deep Katdare (as Vikram) and Madhur Jaffrey (as Shanti). The ensemble comprises Jolly Abraham, Mueen Jahan Ahmad, Aaron J. Albano, Celine Alwyn, Anjali Bhimani, Shane Bland, Wendy Calio, Tiffany Cooper, Sheetal Ghandi, Krystal Kiran Garib, Tania Marie Hakim, Dell Howlett, Dani Jazzar, Suresh John, Ian Jutsun, Aalok Mehta, Ron Nahass, Michelle Nigalan, Zahf Paroo, Danny Pathan, Bobby Petska, Kafi Pierre, Sarah Ripard, Darryl Semira, Lisa Stevens, Kirk Torigoe, James R. Whittington and Nicole Winhoffer."

A couple notables in the cast: Madhur Jaffrey, Ayesha Dharker (who was brilliant in "The Terrorist,"), Deep Katdare from American Desi, and Aalok Mehta, who was the lead in American Chai. I also hope you noticed the misspelling of the last name Gandhi.

Friday, February 20, 2004

New York + Good Music + Really Good Food = little blogging

So I have been in New York visiting friends and taking a break from Washington for the past couple of days. It has been quite nice so far. I arrived on Wednesday night and dragged my poor friend Anand with me (I say "poor friend Anand" because he had to be up at 6:30 am for work the next morning) to Kollective with me at Kush bar. Kollective was bumping, Karsh Kale was back dj'ing after a month of touring, the famed Nihal--from the BBC's Bobby Friction and Nihal show was the guest on the decks, and BBC2 was filming some-sort of documentary. Did i mention the tunes were awesome?

I woke up on Thursday with a little cold, but fought through it and made my way to one of my new favorite new york eateries--Chinese Mirch. I spent the last six months of 1998 in India, doing the whole study abroad travel thing that gets done by students in the states, and while there I picked up some serious love for Gobi Manchurian, and Vegetarian won ton soup, items steadily available in Bangalore (with its large Tibetan community) and Bombay. Located in the "Curry Hill" area of NYC, Chinese Mirch not only has both on the menu, it has a nice decor, friendly staff, and is really affordable--soup, entree, and spring roll for 6.95 plus tax.

I am pretty excited for Saturday--we are going to see Karsh Kale and the Realize Live Band. I have seen Karsh perfrom live, and live tabla with computers and turntables is pretty cool. But getting to see the whole thing go down live is going to be pretty amazing. To find out more about the show, to get tickets to the show, or to learn about Asian Massive tourdates around the world, check out

Stay tuned for more nyc updates. Right now I am going to get a cupcake from the Buttercup bake shop, conveniently located right downstairs from my friends apartment.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

TIME Asia Magazine: Lights! Sound! Fury! -- Feb. 23, 2004

Bollywood Turns Macbeth into Maqbool

Interesting piece in Time Asia from Alex Perry--Time Magazine's Asia guy, who writes on Indian cinema's attempt to bring Shakespeare to celluloid, and in turn, breathe some fresh blood into Bollywood.

And what better way to make Macbeth Bombayified than to make the plotline focus on its infamous underworld.

"In director Vishal Bhardwaj's Maqbool, Macbeth has been turned into a Bombay Mob hit man tempted to kill his sadistic don for the don's disloyal mistress—the incarnation of Lady Macbeth. It may be possible to imagine three cackling witches in India's teeming megalopolis, but Bhardwaj chooses to replace them with a pair of corrupt, soothsaying cops who get their jollies playing all sides in the bloody gangland rivalries.

Bhardwaj's extraordinary adaptation works because the themes of ambition and contrition, politicking and deception fit seamlessly into modern Indian life. "You can place this story anywhere," Bhardwaj says, "in the army, in a bank, in journalism. It's a vicious, furious, bleak story. It's human." But Bhardwaj chose not a bank or newsroom but the Muslim underworld, and that imbues the film with urban slickness and the knife-edge insecurity of dog-eat-dog violence."

To make this film even more enticing, Maqbool stars true Bollywood/Hollwyood crossovers Om Puri and Naseeruddin Shah.

Tina turns Goddess Shakti - The Times of India

Tina Turner to Play Shakti

Wow. The Times of India is reporting that Tina Turner, yes the rock and roll diva, will be playing the role of Shakti in the next Merchant-Ivory Production--The Goddess.

"I think Ismail (Merchant) chose me because of my shakti within. I'm special in that I've had a long run and I'm still here," said Turner who is India for two weeks for her new role, honing up on classical Hindustani music with Zakir Hussain.

Monday, February 16, 2004

The Failing Light (

In Memoriam of Reetika Vazirani

The Washington Post yesterday published a long peice in the magazine examining the life and suicide of the up-and-coming South Asian-American poet Reetika Vazirani.

Vazirani took her own life and the life of her 2-year-old son in July of 2003 while house-sitting in the Chevy Chase section of Washington D.C.

Make sure to check out the links in the sidebar of the Post article and read some of her work.

Sunday, February 15, 2004 - Top Stories - Scholarship Created for Whites Only

Scholarship Created For Whites Only

No. I am not kidding. Read the full story here.

Students from the College Republicans at Roger Williams University in Rhode Island, in an attempt to protest affirmitive action, will offer a 250 dollar award requires an essay on "why you are proud of your white heritage," and a recent picture to confirm whiteness."

It's not the first brush with controversy for the group. The school temporarily froze the Republicans' money in the fall during a fight over a series of articles published in its monthly newsletter. One article alleged that a gay-rights group indoctrinates students into homosexual sex.

I can understand some student's frustration with the affirmitive action system. But, as a student, who is a minority, and who paid full tuition, I will never complain about a system that attempts to offer opportunities to people who would otherwise not have that opportunity, even if the system allows wealthy minorities to fall through the cracks. The point is simple, for too long, minorities were not offerred the same opportunities as white people. Thus, certain segments of the population were entered into this neverending cycle of remaining under, or poorly educated, and thus being led into a cycle of poverty. This is one of the only ways out.

My posting a week or so ago on the shooting at Ballou high school is a perfect example of this. If you cannot get a decent education, an education without constant fear of violence, how can you be expected to perform at the same level as someone who can focus on academics?

Monday, February 09, 2004

Desi Beats

Check This Out

A couple of must-listen-to's floating around on the web right now. First, check out the most recent feature on Dimsummer interviews Radio One's Bobby Friction and Nihal, hosts of the Bobby Friction and Nihal show, which airs late-night on Fridays on BBC 1.

Second, when you have some time at work, or while you are doing work, or have any spare time, listen to this fantastic radiointernetary ( radio+ internet + documentary) on BBC's 1 Xtra entitled Desi Thugs, discussing rapping, hip-hop, thugs and British Asian culture. Hosted by Nihal (mentioned above), the radiointernetary is a quite relevant topic for desis on both sides of the Atlantic, because the thugging out of of desi culture is a phenomenon that occurs both here in America and in the UK.

Please, listen first before thinking that this is just another thing on Diaspora desis being confused.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | Soft-drink giants accused over pesticides

Coke, Pepsi, and other "Fizzy Drinks" posed Health Risk

The Guardian (UK) reports that Indian MP's have concluded that Coca Cola, and PepsiCo have sold soft drinks containing pesticides harmful to human health, in addition to misleading India's billion-plus population over claims that their products were safe for human consumption.

Their report recommended stringent new regulations for fizzy drinks which would "seek complete freedom from pesticide residues [in] aerated beverages".

An estimated seven bottles of cold drinks are sold to every Indian each year in a market worth £900m. Coca-Cola and PepsiCo account for more than 80% of the market.

The row between soft drink makers and campaigners erupted last summer when a Delhi-based environmental group, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), claimed that Coca-Cola and PepsiCo products manufactured in India contained toxins far above the norms permitted in the developed world.

Tests by campaigners showed Pepsi's soft drinks had 36 times the level of pesticide residues permitted under EU regulations and Coca-Cola's had 30 times the level.

The CSE said that, in all 12 of the soft drinks it tested, toxins including lindane and DDT were found. If ingested over long periods, these chemicals could lead to cancer and failure of the immune system. Similar tests on US colas found no such residues.

MPs said yesterday that five laboratories had confirmed, but not replicated, the results on Indian colas. "We did not find exactly the same level of pesticides or the same quantities but this was because they were not exactly the same samples. For example, the batches were different, the manufacturing was different. But all contained pesticides," said Sanjay Nirupam, a member of India's upper house who sat on the joint parliamentary committee."

Mr Nirupam added: "The consumer has to be sure what they are buying is safe. You do not find US colas with pesticides, so why force us to drink pesticides?"

I agree.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Wired Magazine Cover

Check out the cover and cover story, of the most recent Wired Magazine, on India becoming the capital of the computing revolution. (click on the cover for larger image)

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

For a New Generation, Rooms to Succeed

Second Generation Desis, Its Not Your Parents' Hospitality Industry

Interesting article from the New York Times on how second generation desis are revamping the hospitality industry.

"Morning and night, Mr. Patel, an immigrant from the Indian state of Gujarat, manned the front desk and did repairs on a 60-room Econo Lodge in Bordentown, N.J., while his wife, Indu, and two children hauled suitcases, made up beds and vacuumed rooms. And the work paid off. At age 57, Mr. Patel owns not only the Econo Lodge but, with relatives, four other hotels.

As with thousands of other Indian hotel owners, Mr. Patel hoped his children would choose to stay in the hotel business, but he wanted them to work with bankers and brokers rather than as bellhops. So, with an immigrant's classic trust in education but a novel Indian twist, he helped put his son, Montu, and daughter, Payal, through hotel school, in their case the Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism and Sports Management at New York University.

Immigrants from India - mostly from the state of Gujarat and many bearing the name Patel, which is common in the region - have, during the last three decades, quietly acquired more than one-third of the 53,000 hotels in the United States, most of them budget and mid-priced franchises, hotel industry officials say. But this strike-it-rich story has more recently taken a compelling though not entirely surprising turn.

The Indians' knowledge of English and a commercial savvy prized by their culture gave them a distinct leg up on other immigrants, and they had a network of relatives and close friends to help out. Like much of India, Gujarat, on the west coast just north of Bombay, has a deeply rooted ethic of hospitality. "There's actually a phrase in Hindi: 'A guest is like God,' " Professor Dev said.

Mr. Bhakta (formerly Patel - he changed his name to make it distinct) said that his 8,400 members own 20,000 hotels worth $37 billion, including half the nation's Days Inns, half its Ramadas, 40 percent of its Holiday Inns."

I didn't realize that Indian-Americans (and mostly Gujaratis) controlled such a large share of the hotel industry. It is an amazing feat when you consider that there are only about 2 million Indian-Americans out of over 290 million people in the United States.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Student Slain in Shooting At Ballou (

Student Shot and Killed at Ballou Senior High School

The Washington Post reports of another tragedy at Ballou Senior High School. I don't know how bad things can get at that school before someone does something to step in and make it better. I really don't know if it can get worse.

17 year old James Richardson, a star football player was shot dead today inside his high school. This was the first fatal shooting inside a DC school since 1996, but is another incident in a string of tragedies affecting Ballou.

"The campus of about 1,100 students in a low-income section of Congress Heights was closed for about a month in the fall after mercury was taken from a science classroom and spread around the school. On the day the building reopened, a gunman fired shots half a block from the campus as classes were being dismissed. Ballou also has been the scene of several fistfights that police say have resulted from disputes between loosely organized gangs."

"It seems like nobody cares about your children here," said Josephine Franklin, whose 16-year-old son, Dante, attends Ballou. "It's too many things: the mercury, the fights and now this . . . What kind of education are these kids getting? How can you get an education when stuff like this happens all the time?"

Ms. Franklin's questions are ones that sorely need answering. Unfortunately, I doubt she will ever get them.