Through The Static

June 24, 2008

Rockin in India

Filed under: Culture,Entertainment,Music,Musings,Race,Randomness,World News,WTF — disciplepete @ 12:15 am

This article from the NYT is about some musicians in Northeast India who play Western music (rock/blues). The article talks about an annual celebration of Bob Dylan’s birthday, and talks in general about the musicians. I have a larger observation about this to make in a minute, but here’s some of the article:

This annual incantation is more than one man’s act of madcap devotion. It is also a peephole into the love affair with Western music that goes on every day in this pine-wooded outpost in India’s northeast. Shillong, a British-era hill town that is now home to dozens of boarding schools and colleges, is its hub, especially when it comes to rock…

…Many theories are offered for Shillong’s fascination with rock and the blues. Some argue that the area’s indigenous Khasi traditions are deeply rooted in song and rhyme. Some credit the 19th-century Christian missionaries who came from Britain and the United States, introduced the English language, hymns and gospel music and in turn made the heart ripe for rock. Some say the northeast, remote and in many pockets, gripped by anti-Indian separatist movements, has not been as saturated by Hindi film music as the rest of India.

Others speak of that ephemeral quality of rock ’n’ roll, able to seep into young, restless bones anywhere…

…The blues, he [one of the musicians] concluded, came closest to the music of his people, except that the blues, as he is fond of saying, began only 150 years ago. “Our folk is a thousand years old.”

What trips me out is that I have seen more Indians in India who play rock/blues than Indians who are from the U.S. What’s up with that?? Only one Indian person that I went to college with is a rock musician, and I’ve met one other drummer I can think of. Then there’s me. I know there’s more out there, but the numbers seem to be disproportionately low in my experience.

On the other hand, I see rock bands and crazy ass guitarists rocking out on an Indian religious channel my mom watches. They even do reggae shit. There’s one guy who I wish I could link to but can’t find much of his stuff on the internet, his name is Alphonse Joseph, crazy rock guitarist and he throws some classical Indian singing in the mix with his English (Christian) lyrics. In the Indian worship services I’ve been to here in Cali, on the other hand, motherfuckers can barely play the tambourine.

I notice the same phenomenon with pro atheletes and East Asians. What’s up with all the folks straight from Asia who play American pro sports, with so few Asian Americans? I guess I’m talking primarily about baseball here, but examples from basketball also come to mind.

My bro and I were talking about this a bit ago, I think after we saw some of those Indian folks rocking out via satellite from India. I asked him why we never saw Indians here rocking out like the folks in the motherland, and he goes, “They’re too busy becoming engineers.” Lolz, but that’s probably part of it.



  1. I’ve seen a good number of American-born South Asian musicians… perhaps not strictly “rock” musicians but a lot of MCs, DJs, producers, etcetera… I suppose it depends on where you’re from. Maybe Indians born in the US have more trouble identifying with rock because at this point it’s perceived as such a white-dominated enterprise. I think it’s also a generational thing and that you’re going to see more as time goes on.

    Comment by yeti — June 24, 2008 @ 10:07 pm | Reply

  2. “Maybe Indians born in the US have more trouble identifying with rock because at this point it’s perceived as such a white-dominated enterprise.”

    Yeah, what trips me out though is why Indians in India seem to have taken to it so much.

    I agree that it’s a generational thing…I don’t know for a fact, but I would venture to guess that people today in South Asia have easier access to Western music and other cultural products than people in my parent’s generation did, and that’s probably a factor as well.

    Comment by disciplepete — June 25, 2008 @ 6:18 pm | Reply

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