Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
Brooklyn Raga Massive (BRM) is a talented collective of “like-minded, forward thinking musicians rooted in Indian classical music.” BRM performed to a packed house at the BRIC House Ballroom in Brooklyn on October 11th as part of BRIC Jazzfest, and I went to see them there for the first time. They gave all of us in the audience that evening a delicious musical treat- after doing the same for elementary school kids earlier in the same day.
South Asian-Western fusion has become trendy in music, food, fine art, cinema, architecture, or fashion. However, attempts at getting it right often fall disappointingly flat. For every superb example such as Slumdog Millionaire, there could be a Bride and Prejudice type of disappointment. Or a real hot mess, such as Trump Taj Mahal, which finally was put out of its misery this month.
Fusing jazz and raga, two radically divergent musical traditions into something that sounds good and makes sense is an extremely difficult feat. Brooklyn Raga Massive Jazz Messengers pulled off this feat with aplomb.
The set included instrumental numbers that can very broadly be placed into three categories, the first being American jazz classics covers with a hint of Hindustani or Karnatik influence including Indian instruments such as tabla (Indian hand drums) and bansuri (Indian flute) performing side by side with piano, bass, Western drum set, saxophone, and violin. The second category is adapting both jazz and Indian musical theories into originally written BRM songs. Thirdly, and in my opinion easily the best category, the group jammed out to primarily Indian raga music with Western influences on the edges, such as energetic drum set solos and string instrument strumming.
While not exactly a band, the ethnically diverse members of the collective who performed together were very much on rhythm as well as on tune. Having played both the tabla and drum set in my day, I could feel how tight the sections were with each other. I cannot reiterate how difficult and impressive it is to pull this disparate group of forces and people into a cohesive whole. The audience itself, as you can expect, was also quite the mixed group of people.
Many fans of rock, jazz, or raga would be able to enjoy BRM’s work. I was joined by a motley crew of multicolored friends and everyone had fun. There is something for just about everyone in BRM performances, and I expect to attend more. It doesn’t hurt that they play in very cool venue spaces such as the Pioneer Works gallery, museum atriums, SXSW, and elegant concert halls. I commend the sponsors NYC Media & Entertainment, TD Bank, and 88.3fm WBGO.org for putting on the show to expose new and old listeners alike to free and fantastic live music which cannot easily be heard elsewhere. Isn’t there something nice to be said for an inclusive, collaborative music effort in these times of political vitriol? Could it mean that just maybe, the good guys are winning?
Performers at the recital:
Sameer Gupta – drums
Pawan Benjamin – saxophone
Arun Ramamurthy – violin
Jay Gandhi – bansuri
Sharik Hasan – piano
Rashaan Carter – bass
Just a few of many BRM videos for you to enjoy:
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
Let’s take a step back in time for just a second to show a little empathy and appreciate what the white American male has gone through, and where he came from. When the United States started, white males used to own the WHOLE pie. They owned it all, everything, including all the money, land, and property. They literally owned other human beings who happened to be darker than them, from cradle to grave, so they could make even more money with less work.
As a white man in those good old days you usually didn’t have to compete against any woman or black person to secure a job or buy a piece of land. You were just given it by the other white men or could simply steal it from a native. The women and the slaves and the indentured servants did all of the housework for you too, while tending, perhaps in some frisky combination, to all of your sexual needs.
On top of it all, it felt good to know that God and Manifest Destiny were on your side too. Let’s admit it: what a great deal! Not a bad deal if you can get it. Hell, if I were a white man at the time I would probably have loved my life and wanted to keep things that way forever. And more to the point, we Americans to this day still worship at the altar of what these white men made for their progeny, for me and you: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Continental Army, the Minutemen, the Boston Tea Party, and the Revolutionary War. Those white men like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and my favorite Benjamin Franklin are considered polymaths and heroes worldwide, and rightly so.
Relative to back then, the allocated proportion of the pie has gotten a whole lot smaller for the American white man, just as it has for white males in South Africa, Britain, and the rest of the world. White men in fact used to rule over most of Africa, Asia, North America, and South America from their European corporate headquarters, but nowadays Europe is in descent, Russia is a basket case, China and India are knocking on the door of superpower status, women can be CEOs, a Hispanic can sit on the Supreme Court, and a half-black can be POTUS. This is a zero sum game. White males get less pie. Minorities and women get more pie, and their share just keeps growing. This must be thoroughly emasculating, and I totally understand it. The backlash was bound to happen. It was only a matter of time. That time is now.
As a minority, it’s easy for me to believe that everything is better in America for everybody nowadays thanks to more equality. To folks like me, Barack Obama is the ultimate embodiment of the promise of what America just could be, the full realization of the dreams of the founders, Abraham Lincoln, the 600,000 Americans who died in the Civil War, the Underground Railroad, Martin Luther King, Jr., and all four of my grandparents in India who admired this country so much. They were gushingly proud that my mother and father lived here, fully understanding they would hardly ever get to see them from so far away.
It’s gotten gauche to deny the reality of American progress. And yet, I believe a lot of Americans feel otherwise; they resent that it’s not trendy to lament their current lot as white men losing ground to others slowly and steadily as time goes on; that Black Lives Matter marches in their neighborhood; that no politician truly cares about their perceived victimhood, while the government apparatus ominously benefits women and minorities instead of them. Robots and foreigners are stealing their jobs, while Mexicans are pouring across the border to rape their daughters. Having a half-black president was barely digestible; following that up right off with a lecturing woman would be too much insult to take. It’s just not fair. These fears are very real, and they are perfectly embodied by one white man. He promises to be their savior, that most thoroughly American of characters, the con man who each day dines on bowlfuls of gauche, Master Donald Trump.
Whether Donald Trump wins or loses the presidential election itself, his place in the history books has already been cemented, and I even almost admire how this deeply insecure pathological liar has clawed and tweeted his way onto those pages, shamelessly, tirelessly, and without an ounce of self-reflection. Trump’s foremost legacy will forever be as the face of the last gasp of American white male supremacy. And it’s too bad that history will not look upon him, or indeed those of us who lived in America through 2016 and let this happen, kindly. Think of how we today look back on the Vichy regime. We’ll be listed right next to them in history’s basket of deplorables.
It had to be ugly. And it sure is. White male supremacy won’t go down without a fight. But the joke is on the white man who votes for Donald Trump. White supremacy is verifiably in its death throes, as America continues to lead in bending the arc of history toward justice, in spite of our true colors. The young white males of today are far to the LEFT of Hillary. Trump has no plan, let alone any sort of ability, to reverse the forces of technology, globalization, or progress that are helping foreigners, women and minorities rise toward more equal footing. To be fair, nobody does. It’s simply happening.
Ironically, the process can certainly be sped up by Trump’s political participation if white men decide in large enough numbers that they want to keep playing with this shiny new orange object in November. There will be no border wall built to keep the Mexicans out. There will never be an America that’s great “again.” There would simply be an America that blunders around for four years with racial violence, gridlock, war, and trillions of dollars in obliterated equity, while the march of women and minorities would continue apace anyway, because they still have so far to go. The pendulum would be sure to swing more unforgivably than ever against the white man during this period.
The white supremacist is today, instead of working to advance himself, educate himself, and acquire the requisite skills that will make him more competitive in the new global environment full of opportunity, watching Fox News and waiting for Donald Trump’s teeny little magic wand to make everything better for him. If Trump loses in November, at least the fantasy of these simple, uninformed people will come to an end for good, and the tandem of Trump and Clinton will have done us all a favor. If Trump wins, the fairy tale reverie will simply continue until the unfulfillable hopes of the white supremacist are much more cruelly dragged along and dashed into the ground. The reckoning comes either way.
For all of America’s 240 year history, it was awesome to be a white man. And it still very much is. The solution lies in white men coming to recognize that fact. A calm ocean lifts ALL boats. The long forward march of progress for the white man on the backs of other human beings can be looked upon with affection by its descendants, and it’s worth remembering, including all the good it’s done for us as Americans. But today these sentiments belong not in reality but in a museum, right next to where the dinosaur fossils are.
I came across this video yesterday and could not stop laughing. I see this young man “Jignesh” and his sidekick as rising stars in Indian-American comedy. In this video, they do something that takes some pretty serious courage.
Yesterday was the last day of the 2016 Rio Olympics. After the closing ceremony ended, India left Brazil with just two measly Olympic medals thanks to P.V. Sindhu’s inspiring run to silver in the sport of badminton, and backup freestyle wrestler Sakshi Malik unexpectedly bagging bronze in the 58kg weight class.
The glory of these two extraordinary ladies aside, this has been yet another pathetic Olympic games for the Indian contingent. Here are a few numbers that tell the entire story.
India’s population: 1.252 billion, or 17% of all humanity
Rio Olympic medals: 2, or .095% of all medals awarded
Olympic gold medals since 1980: 1
The 2016 performance was more or less another disappointing par for India. Why is Team India so pathetic in the Olympics? Much has been said on the topic and there is some disagreement on this. There are certainly multiple explanations for the lack of success, and nearly all of it can and should be corrected in the coming decades.
Well, now we know.
To many Americans, Indian classical music may sound like it’s from a long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. But thanks to arranger/composer/student Tushar Lall and the Indian Jam Project’s Star Wars tribute, it has been given a much more familiar and accessible touch. This playful rendition of the Star Wars songs many of us grew up with is easy listening at its best. And if you like this, Indian Jam Project has numerous other fusion songs available. Fusion music often falls flat, doing justice to neither of its parent genres, but not in this case. The ancient notes from the tablas, sitar, flute, and bharatanatyam dance moves somehow blend seamlessly into the futuristic Star Wars chords.
I wouldn’t be too shocked if Luke Skywalker has this song on his playlist, wherever he is right now. Watch it below!
Editor’s note: Anup Pai is an entrepreneur based in Bangalore, India. Pai is the co-founder, head of US operations, and COO of the financial technology company Fintellix, formerly known as iCreate. He recently completed an adventurous journey even most Americans have never attempted: a road trip across the contiguous United States from the East Coast to the West Coast, in 9 days, with his wife and daughter. Below is the story of their experience during this bizarre and important election year of 2016 in the United States.
Following in the great tradition of France’s Alexis de Tocqueveille and others, Pai has captured this special moment in time in the United States from a uniquely foreign perspective. He also shared some of his favorite picks for sights, food, wine, beer, and lodging below.
Unlike most Indian IT folks who started their careers in the 1990’s, my first trip to the USA didn’t happen until April 2015. Boy, did I have a lot of catching up to do. Till that point, I had travelled to over 40 countries in the Asia Pacific, Africa, Europe and the Middle East building and selling software using technologies developed in this country. Most of the countries I had been to before (barring Australia) had cultures rooted in their traditional medieval or even earlier histories, whereas the USA had rapidly developed a unique culture through the pioneering tradition of its people. We’re talking about a culture which was unmistakably a part of me just as I was unavoidably a part of that culture. Read the rest of this entry
This is one of these times where no editorial is necessary…
Dr. Romesh Japra is an M.D. and entrepreneur based in the Bay Area who helped create a unique film festival that is helping tie the United States and India together culturally. The festival is now about much more than movies and has become a major event for people of all backgrounds.
Below is the interview usindiamonitor has conducted with this pioneering Indian-American. We hope this tradition continues to flourish and grow.
Festival of the Globe-Silicon Valley 2016 will be held August 5-14, 2016.
1. In a nutshell, what is Festival of the Globe- Silicon Valley?
It began as a film festival culminating into an awards night and the traditional India Day Parade. It has now progressed into a full throttle film, media, fashion, music, technology, business and cultural bonanza spanning across 10 days taking place in the heart of San Francisco and San Jose – called Silicon Valley. It was a natural evolution and elevation from Festival of India to Festival of Globe. After serving and empowering Indian Americans for 25 years, seeing transformation from 100% Indians to 50% Non Desis participation and requests from other diverse and relatively new communities, I made this bold and challenging decision despite concerns from my colleagues. We Indian Americans have become pioneers in many fields including high tech and IT. Why not this Initiative as well !
2. As someone who worked in medicine/business, what got you interested in such a festival?
In 70’s and 80’s, a few of the doctors were the main funders of cultural events. I always had a passion for community service. I think my mother had imbibed it in me. Whenever I went back home in Phagwara, Punjab from AIIMS or States, she would not give me my breakfast until I took care of all the patients who used to line up in the street in front of our small house. In 1983, I co-founded Fremont Hindu Temple and Cultural Center for which we had to buy a church and convert it for reasons of not being able to get permit because of Hare Rama Hare Krishna movement making people get the wrong impression of religious conversion.
Besides heading this center, I provided free medical service to many every Sunday, got involved in many other cultural, social and civic organizations. I also became President and Chairman of Federation of Indo-Americans, National Political Forum, Chamber of Commerce, Professional organizations and so on. In 1993, I founded Festival of India and Parade which has grown from 5,000 to 200,000 attendees in 2015. It has been a long journey and I prefer it that way. We have added lots of properties along the way and in 2014 was the first FOG Movie Fest. Last year our festival expanded tremendously and this year it promises to rise further up.
3. Why is the event based in Silicon Valley?
Primarily because I am based here since the past few decades, long before it was called Silicon Valley. This is known as the IT capital of the world and we are doing our part in bridging arts & culture, as well.
Sitting in the technology hub in Silicon Valley, we can inspire a lot more innovation in film making and digital and other means of film distribution and thus reaching out to the masses globally. Silicon Valley is the place where ideas and dreams get realized and converted into wealth. Through forums like Investor Pitch, we bring Angel Investors, Venture Capitalists, Bankers and Entrepreneurs (film-makers) onto a single platform. From Diversity and Ethnicity point of view, Silicon Valley is like the United Nations.
4. What does the future hold for FOGSV?
We’ve had an excellent response from the audiences. After having done Festivals for 24 years, we’re confident FOGSV has a bright future. We’ve gotten volunteers from across the communities and great resources to continue carrying the show. Like every year, we keep expanding and make it bigger and better.
5. How did FOGSV get off the ground?
We had a great platform of Festival of India and Parade for 22 years. Transforming to Festival of Globe with addition of Movie Fest, Awards, Fashion, Summit was easier. We as Indian Americans take pride in championing this Initiative by opening it up to all diverse communities while keeping our Indian base with Independence Day Celebrations.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
Special thanks to Bollywood actor Prashantt Guptha for arranging this interview.
With Memorial Day upon us, it is worth sharing a little-known fact about the deeply revered and beautiful Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC. The Memorial will be forever tied to the hills of South India.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial has a unique and unmistakable design by Maya Lin, with a centerpiece consisting of two walls of solid polished black granite, each one 246 feet and 9 inches long. These walls list the names of 58,307 American men and women who were killed or MIA due to the Vietnam War, etched into stone. The gigantic blocks of black granite were imported all the way from Karnataka, India, the home state of my family and one of the few places in the world where shiny black granite is to be found. It helps make the Memorial reflective- in more ways than one- with a spirit that extends to other monuments, including the 9/11 Memorial in New York City.
We’d like to salute those who have fallen in the Vietnam War and other wars in service of their country. As the United States and India build toward a closer military relationship, it is worth noting the other important ways the two countries are meaningful to one another.
Photo Credit vvfm.org
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
What a remarkable week in US history. The great human experiment with democracy in America has arrived at a dangerous moment. Many people ask me why as an observer of US-India bilateral foreign policy I spend so much time commenting on the sad reality television of domestic US politics. The reason is elementary. He or she who arrives in power in America will have profound effects on India’s future. Meanwhile, India’s own experiment with democracy is at a less mature and more delicate stage, and it is important for Indians to learn the stark lessons to be derived from the litany of poor American decisions: the slave trade, the treatment of Native Americans, the Civil War, Vietnam, Iraq, and yes, Donald Trump in 2016. In the next episode, we might witness democracy being voted off the island.
In a way Donald Trump has done the United States and the world a favor by perfectly embodying the worst instincts in the United States of America today so that we can work toward dealing with it. We’re not here to litigate this truth, because we hold it to be self-evident. Rather, below we will simply break down how we got here politically, because nobody else has successfully done so. It has nothing whatsoever to do with policy.
Now that Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee, we’ve begun seeing the predictable expressions of shock, disbelief and horror among liberals and moderates, and badly misguided analysis of why he won. Trump fans of course saw this coming from a mile away and explain his victory in bizarre terms, such as “America will vote for Donald Trump because once he’s in office, ISIS won’t even dare to mess with America ever again.” Yes, nihilistic terrorists will retire their suicide vests out of fear of the furry head and that’s why he’s winning. Right.
For the record, I too predicted the Trump victory, and even endorsed Donald Trump, in September 2015. His victory became obvious for one exceedingly simple and elegant reason requiring only three letters: E-G-O. Shockingly, despite a candidate who is defined by a pathological ego run amok, Trump’s ego is not the one to blame here. It’s the fault of many others on both the left and the right.
The Republican Party Clown Car, 2016 Edition It takes a near toxic dosage of self-obsession for ANY person from either party to convincingly tell the world every day for several years that they would be the best possible leader of the free world. In a watered-down field of 17 deeply flawed Republican candidates, all driven by their own outsize ego tripping, the time was especially ripe for a figure disliked by most of his own party to win the nomination with just a minority of the total votes. If a party is going to deliberately run a clown car, then it should not be shocked when the biggest clown takes over the wheel.
Let’s look at the results in the first state to vote in the primary, Iowa, courtesy newyorktimes.com. The Iowa circus is responsible for gifting the world Donald Trump and Ted Cruz as the front-runners for the rest of the GOP primary season despite the highest negative ratings. This small state, with less than 100,000 votes, started the narrative that this was going to be a Trump vs. Cruz race nationwide.
Of greater interest is the sheer number of governors, senators, and non-politicians who cannibalized each other before, during, and after Iowa to the point where two guys with only around 25% of the vote each would be anointed the front-runners. Similar results played out in other states such as New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada: Donald Trump established the lead with much less than 50% of the vote. Thank you George Pataki, Lindsey Graham, Bobby Jindal, Chris Christie, Rick Santorum, Rand Paul, Jim Gilmore, John Kasich, Carly Fiorina, Dr. Ben Carson, Marco Rubio, Jeb!, Mike Huckabee, Rick Perry, and everyone else who made sure that the donations, political operatives, volunteers, media airtime, voters, and America’s short attention span were all chopped up into little pieces in the months before and during the primaries. Thanks for wasting record amounts of money. Thank you for lathering up the right wing base into a froth over Barack Obama’s birthplace, immigrants, homosexuality, terrorism, China, abortion, and guns for years on end, scaring the crap out of our citizens with your political strategy of “sheep tremble, and here come the votes!” in the prescient words of Rage Against the Machine.
If I were one of the many members of the Republican party establishment wringing my hands right now, I would point to this absurd parade of so-called leaders for putting their own ego above their party, and their own party above their country, and failing all three levels in the process anyway. Trump would have been eminently beatable if leadership had consolidated its resources behind one or two viable options and a sensible and inclusive platform with fresh ideas early on and strategized to defeat the cancer within their ranks. That option would have easily won in November too because no party has won 3 White House terms in a row since World War II. But too many egos got in the way. And to a man (and woman), every single one of Trump’s opponents, whether they were in the race or were simply acting as halfhearted bystanders like Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney, fatally underestimated Trump’s hostile takeover of their party throughout this process.
Barack Obama Just as Obama greatly benefitted as a candidate in 2008 from the failed presidency of George W. Bush, his two botched wars and an epic financial meltdown, so too is Trump benefitting from the Obama administration’s shortcomings. Although Americans are in far better shape than they were in 2008, the president has failed to communicate the relevant facts and figures to the American people. Obama has not done a good job of educating citizens about the challenges presented by a changing economy, ISIS, or China, nor has he explained most accomplishments in terms people can understand. As president, he had a bully pulpit, and a chance to renew Americans’ confidence in themselves, and this effort has been inadequate. As a result, Americans are even more polarized than they were before he arrived in the White House. Obama’s ego failed him on this count, because he was under the impression until it was too late that the power of his personality would help heal the rifts that are rendering the American people apart from each other, and cause them to view one another as the enemy. On both sides, party has become more important than country, and we are reverting back to tribal behaviors based on race, income, or geography. This was Obama’s biggest failed promise, and even he recognizes that today.
In such an environment, a backlash against all politicians and all government is a natural result. Obama’s own ego led him to believe that his great successes in office would speak for themselves and he didn’t have to do the hard and, to be fair, perhaps futile work of marketing them to a woefully uninformed and balkanized public. The result could be as disastrous to Obama personally as it is to the country as a whole: the potential dismantling, brick by brick, of all of the hard work that Obama and his team have done over the last 8 years on domestic and foreign policy, while perhaps watching helplessly on the sidelines as Americans begin to violently riot against each other like in the 1960s, egged on explicitly by one party’s standard-bearer.
Yes, Obama underestimated Trump and did not take steps, especially in 2015 and 2016 that could have neutralized Trump’s rise. He has been overconfident that Trump wouldn’t win. He has not been forceful enough about the existential consequences of this race, including during a press conference on Friday when asked about Trump. He had better start if he doesn’t want to hand the White House keys over to the Donald.
The Media. The media entertainment complex is the most unforgivable culprit for giving Trump 99% of the political airtime simply because it amuses consumers the most. In a truly delicious irony, it is the media that would be the foremost victim of a Trump presidency, as we can expect the industry to lose a great amount of freedom, protection, and access to Trump and his cabinet, such as Treasury Secretary Kim Kardashian.
Trump has already encouraged hatred and violence towards journalists on multiple occasions and promised to ban military officials from speaking to the media. He said TV anchor Megyn Kelly was on the rag. His campaign manager manhandled a female reporter and the boss defended it. Trump kicked out a Hispanic journalist from his rally for asking a question. Supporters routinely beat people up in his name, and he hasn’t even yet held a real position of government authority in his life. His supporters send death threats to journalists they disagree with. Just imagine the very real possibilities if Trump had enforcement powers. Trump would make his hero Vladimir Putin proud; we should not be surprised to see media figures harmed by Trump’s henchmen or even thrown in jail for writing something he doesn’t like. The warning patterns are out there for all to see.
In order to make a cheap short-term buck, the media has not only failed us, they have put themselves in harm’s way. Trump has been covered as a serious candidate for fun and games and the reality show audience is entertained, instead of witnessing a proper vetting. The media has planted the seeds for the erosion of their own freedoms. The gigantic egos of media figures have blinded them to the delicacy of their own position and the ability to continue practicing their craft at all. And I’m, um, sort of sensitive to this particular issue.
Next Stop, Ego Train? All of this is to say, there is plenty of blame to go around up and down the ego train. With Republican attempts to stop Trump’s constant march forward already a miserable failure in our rearview mirror, the duty to spare the country and the globe from a Trump presidency now falls on the dislikable shoulders of Hillary Clinton. She is going to need all the help she can get. Bernie Sanders is grappling mightily with his own ego trip, which has lasted long enough. This is war. Hillary underestimated Obama for much of 2008, Bernie Sanders for much of the Democratic primary, and is doing the same with Trump in 2016. Surrogates including Obama and others of all political stripes will need to set aside their own agendas and get with the program. It’s serious now. This is the election of our lifetimes.