Tuesday, November 13, 2007

on ancestors

"Do you think when a tree dies all its work is finished? Of course not. It then has the work of decomposing, of becoming soil in which other trees grow. It is very careful to do this, left to itself, and not hauled off to a lumberyard. If it is hauled off to a lumberyard and if nothing is left to decompose and nurture the young trees coming up...Disaster!"

Alice Walker
in Now is the Time to Open Your Heart

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Go sign the petition

On whose backs our wealth?
In whose name those bullets?
Whither our conscience?

The number of signatures reached above 1000 tonight. That's 1000 people who were willing to brave police intimidation, walk up to the building and sign their name to a petition calling for peace and freedom in Myanmar.

Will you join them?

Myanmar Embassy, St Martin's Drive (opposite Tanglin Mall)

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Baa Baa Black Sheep in Raag

Friday, September 28, 2007

Happy 100th Birthday, Shaheed Bhagat Singh!

Revolution is an inalienable right of mankind.
Freedom is an imperishable birth right of all.
- Bhagat Singh

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Asian Dub Foundation @ WOMAD 24 Aug 2007

Update 29/8: This review is now also available at Readings From A Political Duo-ble.

They came, they sang, they played, they fucking rocked! After years of relying on their music as an outlet for anger against oppression and as inspiration to work for social change, it was the most wonderful experience to finally see them perform live. Their 1 hour 20 minute set consisted of some new tracks from their upcoming album as well as a good mix of songs from their previous albums. My favourite was Fortress Europe – that song just lends itself so well to a live performance. It was angsty, angry and resistance-fuelled. My least favourite was the Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan track. It was cool that they wanted to pay tribute to him; after all, it’s his 10th year death anniversary. But to be honest, the performance straddled the line between music and noise a bit too closely for me. I think the recorded track works well because you can clearly hear the beautiful fusion of qawwali, rock, punk, etc, whereas there was too much feedback and audience cheering in the live session to get a full sense of the composition.

I liked that they picked a lot of songs with socio-political messages to perform last night – besides Fortress Europe, they also sang Rise to the Challenge, Kill Racism and a new track about those getting left behind and trampled on in India’s impending rise to superpower status, before ending the night with Rebel Warrior. Musically, I realized that it’s really in the live performance that their unique and label-defying style comes through. Simply seeing the DJ booth, tabla, electric guitar and dhol on one stage complemented by smooth vocals with a dose of hardhitting lyrics was a phenomenon in itself. Without having to deconstruct their sound, listening to their performance of Riddim I Like proved their musical credentials like nothing else could.

Even while ADF’s musical style is a constant reminder that South Asians don’t all play the sitar and sing in ululating aahs (and smell like curry and live in ashrams and…), they continue to push the envelope all on musical fronts in their explorations of hybridity. I particularly enjoyed the way in which the tabla and dhol were pretty much the percussionist backbones of their music. Having now taken a few dhol classes myself, it was exciting to see how the traditional beats blended with the other instruments and how new beats were created to work in the context of their sound.

Throughout the concert they kept up a lively engagement of the audience. During portions of songs where the music stopped to allow for Hindu spiritual incantations, they would raise their arms into the air, point their faces to the sky and assume a position of spiritual reverence, encouraging the audience to do the same. It was funny because I think it was meant to be at least partly in jest – a subtle parody of religious dogma and unthinking compliance, but I’m not sure if most of the audience ‘got’ that.

In fact, I’m not sure if most of the audience ‘got’ ADF at all. This is the only thing that tempered the experience of the performance for me. As with other such music festivals, the crowd was made up mostly (and this is of course a gross assumption based on physical appearance, accents, snatches of overheard conversations, my limited social network and the steep $58 ticket price alone) of Western expatriates, kids of Western expatriates, university students and middle class 20/30/40somethings. Since I currently fit into the last category, I implicate myself and interrogate my own social position in my critique of the audience as well.

The beauty of music, and of all art for that matter, is in its ability to elicit enjoyment at many different levels and from many different perspectives. There are no laws against enjoying music on a purely superficial level. Political music, however, wants to do more than simply elicit pleasure. It wants to ask questions, raise awareness, it wants to criticize, educate, surface alternatives and explore other possibilities, and it wants to move people and inspire them to action. The depressing thing is I’m not sure if ADF accomplished that last night. It was clear that most of the people around me did not know ADF’s music – most didn’t seem to recognize the song titles when they were announced and weren’t mouthing the songs lyrics. Worse, there was an obvious disconnect between what the band what trying to say and what the audience understood. For instance, when a band member said “We want something from you… We want your oil! Sound familiar?”, I turned and saw “huh?” looks on the faces of the group of people standing next to me. And when introducing the song about India’s poor, they started talking about how some people are saying that India is going to be the next world superpower, and people actually starting cheering. The band looked disgusted and one band member groaned, “No, no, no. That’s not necessarily a good thing. We want equal power for everyone!” Towards the end when they were about to start singing Fortress Europe and said, “This song is for all immigrants, refugees and asylum-seekers everywhere”, the cynic in me began to wonder how many of the people who cheered were really Singaporeans who mutter under their breath about losing jobs to foreign talent and who chose to blind themselves to the Bangladeshi workers shuttled in on lorries at the end of the night for clean-up.

All in all, though, it was a good evening and I’m glad I finally got to see ADF live. One can only hope that for the members of the audience last night who had never before been exposed to ADF’s music, that their ADF concert experience would at least propel them to dig deeper into and find out more about the band and hopefully, their broader political message. In the meantime, watching the Asian Dub Foundation perform might just have restored a little bit of my own commitment to fighting injustice and reinvigorated the spirit of resistance that I thought I was coming close to losing.

Friday, May 25, 2007


Sometimes democracy works like magic!
Party in power can tally
election results to victory!
Judges can stop vote counts making election mockery!
Citizen’s welfare takes back sit for
Military priority!
Truth becomes powerless conspiracy!
Conspirators run Government with legitimacy!
Mighty power invades foreign countries for democracy!
Installs dictatorships as convenient allies!
Revolution against occupation becomes insurgency!

Protests for democracy are silenced as militancy!

by Deepak Sarkar

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


"I am SICK of lame reasoning, faulty logic and threats that my country is going to collapse under the Muslim threat, the Opposition Party threat, the poverty threat and the Inefficiency threat. How about the threat from ineffectual, self-interesed, and not very bright politicians who do not show tangible results in spite of being lauded as the best damn brains our paltry population has to offer?"

From: The Art of Dumbspeak

Oh great

I changed my template and lost all my links. Lovely.

And only realize it 15 hours later cos I did the template-change on the sly at work. And was blogging on the sly at work cos the home computer is the most popular piece of technology in the house with up to 5 people vying for it at one time. I think it's about time to get my own piece of metal.

Links will be back up soon. She says, mostly to herself and a host of random people who've googled 'bimbo' and found her thanks to one regretful post.
Welcome to the club, France.