THE REVIVAL OF ’90S ASIAN UNDERGROUND CLUB SCENE: DJ ISURU ON “MISHTI DANCE”

by Ananya Wilson-Bhattacharya

The alternative British Asian pop genre, Asian Underground, held a significant place back in the early-mid ‘90s as a uniquely transgressive genre combining Indian classical instrumentation, jazz, the contemporary sounds of dub, drum ‘n’ bass and jungle, interspersed with crooning Bollywood-style vocals. The genre blew up and enjoyed mainstream popularity in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, exerting significant influence on Western hip hop, R&B and urban music at the time. DJ Isuru Perera, better known simply as DJ Isuru, is one of the leading figures in today’s Asian Underground revival, having collaborated with a range of DJs and performers aspiring to reintroduce this strand of ‘90s Dance music to a younger generation. He is also a regular presenter on SOAS radio, where he hosts various (mainly British Asian) musicians from different eras, playing their music with accompanying track-by-track analysis. 

I caught up with Isuru to discuss Asian Underground history and his latest initiative, ‘Mishti Dance’, a series of evening events held in East London. Isuru neatly articulates its ethos as ‘a return to the experimentation of the Asian Underground in the face of commercial clubbing’. The format of Mishti Dance comprises a community-based arts and performance space featuring both poets and DJs, in a radical defiance of the rigid, distinct cultural categorisation of arts events as either high arts- or club music-based.

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SIHLABELELA REVIEW

by Alex Day

An exciting commission, held at St Peter Hungate, features a sound installation responding to the history of the church and what these spaces mean in our secular times.

St. Peter Hungate, like many churches in Norwich, no longer conducts services. It is occupied by Hungate Medieval Art, who exhibit stain glass windows and icons, to a more secular public. It’s both a religious site and a heritage site. Throughout this year, a project called Heriligion has commissioned five artists to reflect on the history of this space.

From 19th July to the 25th August, Mira Calix presented ’Sihlabelela’, a sound installation. 12 tape machines (Sony cassette-corder TCM –939), suspended on plinths, play discordant, low quality sound – a collage of echoes. The recorded voices sing ‘we sing together’, over and over, like a ghostly choir. The tapes evoke the crowds that once sang here.

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BLINDED BY THE LIGHT, YESTERDAY, AND BRITISH SOUTH ASIAN REPRESENTATION IN CINEMA

by Ananya Wilson-Bhattacharya

Racial diversity in Western cinema has been particularly contentious since the Oscars scandal of 2016, when not one actor of colour was nominated for an award. But this was especially shocking falling in the midst of a marked increase in diversity, illustrated recently by two major hit films of this summer: Gurinder Chadha’s Blinded by the Light and Danny Boyle’s Yesterday. By now, critics have noted the similarities between the two films: British South Asian male protagonists, small-town lives, fanaticism around sensational twentieth-century Western musicians. However, these comparisons have obscured fundamental differences, not only in genre, but also in their approaches to South Asian identity.

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EDINBURGH FRINGE 2019 – PART 2

by Carmina Masoliver

trigger warning: mentions of sexual assault, mentions of transphobia

My second week at Edinburgh Fringe Festival offered a selection of shows more overtly dealing with Feminist themes. This selection ranged from the role that gender has to play in our experience of the dating world in the digital age, an exploration of the ‘pretty privilege’ set against trans experiences, to an examination of celebrities as female role models.

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LEILA REVIEW

by Ananya Wilson-Bhattacharya

In the wake of the recent lockdown in Kashmir, the region long contested between India, Pakistan and its own people, in which communication has been drastically halted and public gatherings banned, Indian politics has found its way into international headlines. But the situation in Kashmir is just one aspect of a much broader, increasingly fascist regime run by a Hindu-supremacist, far-right government. Over the past five years under this regime, Muslims have been lynched by government-affiliated mobs for alleged beef consumption; persecution – and murder – of Dalits (members of the lowest castes) through similar means has soared; journalists have been assassinated for trying to tell the truth. This is why Deepa Mehta’s Netflix drama series Leila provides a timely and disturbing picture of a future India, situated only decades from now in 2047. Unlike many dystopian dramas, Leila is not set in a post-apocalyptic or reorganised world which encodes real socio-political dynamics within imaginary ones. Instead, it neatly locates contemporary Indian landmarks and structural oppressions within the complex fabric of a dystopian future state: Aryavarta, a set of strictly segregated communities governed by fully-fledged totalitarianism.    

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NEIL KENLOCK – THE LOST LEGACIES OF THE BRITISH BLACK PANTHERS

by Ananya Wilson-Bhattacharya

If you’re passing through Brixton Market, exploring the vintage clothing stalls or lamenting the overpriced pints designed to rip off tourists, it’s easy to miss the Brixton Recreation Centre, tucked away and accessible only by a remote entrance. But this abandoned-looking building is in fact one of two homes of a fascinating local photography exhibition. The Lost Legacies of The British Black Panthers provides a vital insight into the anti-racist activism of the Windrush generation which is often overlooked in our understanding of twentieth-century British history. 

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DON’T GET FIRED – ‘CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE’ GENRE ENTERS SOCIAL MEDIA

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by Carmina Masoliver

When I was told by fellow poet and She Grrrowls team member Ibizo Lami that there was a ‘choose your own adventure’ (CYOA) game-cum-story starring Beyoncé on Twitter, I felt compelled to write about it. 

If you haven’t heard of it already (currently at 98.2K retweets and 256.7 likes), it works by imagining you are Beyoncé’s assistant for the day. Your goal: don’t get fired. Complete with photographs and gifs, each choice you make leads to another thread. Depending on your choice, you either face the termination of your contract or you are allowed to continue the game.

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