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.
by Jonathan Lee
There is a mendacious yet persistent fantasy that Roma could be saved from the horrors of racism and discrimination if only they weren’t so poor. It is the conservative idea that the free market can cure racism, that racism is purely a product of economic disparity, and that if only Roma were more economically engaged, most of the nasty symptoms of antigypsyism would simply fall away. Continue Reading
by Matt Musindi
Politics has become more divisive and polarised than ever, and it is the populists who have been the main beneficiaries of these political divisions. A populist is someone who consistently promises to channel the unified will of the people. Going off this definition, most political parties in liberal democracies are populist and yet this is not the case – why?Continue Reading
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.
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.
by David Breakspear
As an active prison reform campaigner, I have wanted the fences and walls which surround our prisons to become metaphorically invisible. But why is this important to me?
As a former prisoner who, due to sentence and not a conviction, will always have to disclose parts of my criminal record, and who will forever have my life open to scrutiny, privacy is not an option; I had or have no choice in the matter. If I’m asked, I must tell. This despite the fact that I am not involved with the system as a ‘resident’ or ‘service-user’ anymore and no longer considered a risk to society. A reformed character, my new label? Continue Reading
by Carmina Masoliver
The existence of the gender spectrum beyond the simple male/female binary is now more visible in mainstream media and popular culture than ever before. And whilst life for non-binary and trans folks is still difficult, even dangerous, there seems to be more cultural awareness (if not sensitivity) about various trans identities within cis circles. In the Hayward Gallery’s Kiss My Genders exhibition, this visibility of the gender spectrum takes centre stage.