From The Beatles to Britney
December 13, 2003 8:56 AM   Subscribe

So the issue of India's rise in the IT world ("penetrating America's economic core," worries Business Week) has been discussed (here and here), but what about their influence in pop culture? It's hard to escape Panjabi MC in the UK. Jay-Z and Missy Elliott sampled S.Asian music, and now Britney Spears has a bhangra-flavored remix (even if her love of "Indian spiritual religions" doesn't mean she's heard of Hinduism). And there's more -- a Baywatch actress is the first foreigner to star in a Bollywood flick. From Pop Idol to American Idol, now there's Bollywood Star. "Bend it Like Beckham" director Gurinder Chadha is doing a Bollywood version of "Pride and Prejudice." Is this just the exotic flavor of the month, or a cultural shift in line with the economic changes ahead? (and, just for fun -- a dig at the whole S.Asian music collaboration thing, from a site that appears to be The Onion for British Asians)
posted by fotzepolitic (12 comments total)
I'd hardly call it the flavour of the month, as it has been building up over the past several years. Movies like ghost world, bands like Cornershop, records like Bollywood breaks, Dj's like Talvin Singh, have been bringing indian culture to the fringe masses for years. Hell, indian graphic design purses and rice sack handbags, which used to be hip a few years back and can now be purchased at Target. Chronicle books even has replica postcards of indian matchbooks and several publishers have coffee table books chock a block with photos of bombay, indian advertisements, etc.

To be honest, I wouldn't be surprised if the Brit bit is actually a signal that the trend is waning (sorry, britney!). Where it will go from here is anyone's guess, but I imagine the culture vultures will continue moving east. I swear not a day goes by that I don't read or hear about China being the next big thing. We shall see...
posted by shoepal at 9:25 AM on December 13, 2003

And don't forget Asian Dub Foundation. Rather than flavor of the month, I'd say it's been bubbling around for many years (Apache Indian?).

I'd agree it's waning, but it'll be back in less than a couple years.

I swear not a day goes by that I don't read or hear about China being the next big thing. We shall see...

Big influence in Western film, not so much in music. Maybe because Chinese pop is too derivative of Western pop, most lacking any distinct cultural flavour.
posted by bobo123 at 10:30 AM on December 13, 2003

Great links, thanks fotzepolitic and shoepal.
posted by moonbird at 5:12 PM on December 13, 2003

Bollywood showtunes leave me cold, but I can't get enough of classical Indian-DJ hybrids. DJ Cheb i Sabbah is one of my favorites, and his website is worth checking out just for the over-the-top graphics.
posted by fuzz at 6:18 PM on December 13, 2003

earlier this year TCM did a Hooray for Bollywood festival too...I guess it's either in the air, or marketers or somebody are looking for a successor to the Latin boom a while ago.
posted by amberglow at 6:22 PM on December 13, 2003

Did anybody else hear Panjabi MC on ER this week?
When I first saw this post I thought it was motivated by the show.

PS Yes, this is something you'd need to own a TV to know about.
posted by Octaviuz at 7:35 PM on December 13, 2003

Have to agree this isn't anything new. Pop remixs have been around since I was back in high school, when the only people buying them were South Asian teens. Britney's entry just means it's on its way out, or she's finally clued in.
posted by wannabehippie at 9:01 PM on December 13, 2003

KPFT in Houston has a nice 2-hour Bayou Bhangra show you can listen to on RealAudio. There is a fun new movie that was made in Houston called "Bollywood/Hollywood" on the relationship of US-born Southeast Asian-Americans to their more recent immigrant counterparts.
posted by pomegranate at 5:16 AM on December 14, 2003

Don't forget my favorite, Nitin Sawhney.

Although it is a Joe Claussell remix, Moonrise (When Worlds Collide Version) by Nitin Sawhney is one of the most amazing tracks I own. Imagine being serenaded by Rai singer/songwriter Cheb Mami as if you were in Algeria and slowly, over the course of 12 beautiful minutes, being transported to Spain in a duet of vocals and genres. If you can find it, it is really a beautiful remix.
posted by gen at 6:08 AM on December 14, 2003

Let us not forget the great Satyajit Ray.
posted by shoepal at 9:01 AM on December 14, 2003

a Baywatch actress is the first foreigner to star in a Bollywood flick.

ahem, don't forget samantha fox. Rowr.
posted by BigCalm at 3:54 PM on December 14, 2003

There's also a musical called Bombay Dreams, about a guy who wants to become a Bollywood star, which has been playing in London for a couple years and is coming to Broadway in March.
posted by SisterHavana at 11:34 AM on December 15, 2003

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