Thursday, July 28, 2011

The making of an audience

(This essay originally appeared in Open magazine.)

There’s a lot of good stuff out there even if little of that is mainstream. In the age of auto-tune, indie bands are stepping up to reclaim intellectual purity. (‘Indie’ is a term generally used to denote relatively obscure bands signed up with independent record labels.) As far as Western indie bands are concerned, there’s barely any money to be made anyway beyond the Anglophone market. In the case of desi indie bands, any awareness of their work would probably be limited to the Indian cognoscenti whose number is restricted to a few thousand and who till recently were inclined to pass up locally produced music in favour of classic American and British bands.

This is a condition that the fledgling Indian college radio scene can rectify. Ruia College Radio does some interesting things. The RJs speak to their guests and audience in a mix of English, Hindi and Marathi. There is even a show that promotes Urdu culture. I’ve heard them play ghazals in languages like Marathi. (I didn’t know they were performed in anything other than Urdu.) They don’t play material that might be considered commercial. It is no coincidence that Indian bands can now dream of sustaining themselves without playing a single Metallica cover. The intent is great, but they really ought to work on hitting international standards of quality.

Read more here.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

After the uprising

An extract from a poignant essay in The Observer:

Rohan Gunaratna, an international terrorism expert and author of the book Inside Al-Qaeda: Global Network of Terror, conducted a lengthy interview with John, and prepared a written report for the American court to which John was brought for trial. Gunaratna is an expert consultant to the US government itself on terrorism matters. "Those who, like Mr Lindh, merely fought the Northern Alliance," he wrote, "cannot be deemed terrorists. Their motivation was to serve and to protect suffering Muslims in Afghanistan, not to kill civilians."

John described his motivation in similar terms. "I felt," he later explained to the court, "that I had an obligation to assist what I perceived to be an Islamic liberation movement against the warlords who were occupying several provinces in northern Afghanistan. I had learned from books, articles and individuals with first-hand experience of numerous atrocities committed by the Northern Alliance against civilians. I had heard reports of massacres, child rape, torture and castration."

More here.