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Ruby Sircar

The identity-creating syntax of sonic media productions of the second South Asian generation in Europe

This paper will try to discuss a necessary problematic/difficult/multilayered/ multi-facetted self-defining approach of a "generation" which tries to define its own identity/surroundings/self-build and self-defined community through the sonic media, as it is no longer possible to formulate it by setting up ethnic and geographical boundaries (even genderised or class boundaries, as too often suggested), especially looking at the situation of women producers within the limitations of the South Asian community. [Thus the definition of terms, which should take place in the title of the paper, has already proven to be a struggle, beginning with the vague term "South Asian second generation". Many producers of media/sound/content, active in the South Asian community today, are – even though their products are seen as "second generation" – neither second generation nor South Asian, some are mixed race, belong to other ethnies/minority communities, are third or even first generation. The second generation which I will be looking at is as such not a closed entity. I will also narrow the term "South Asian" further down to people which are connected (either origin- or content-wise) to the Northern part of the South Asian sub-continent – Pakistan, North India and Bangladesh –; this is a necessity due to the language as well as cultural differences between the North and the South of the sub-continent. Music and sound productions which root back into the cultural field of the Northern subcontinent either have language or tradition in common and are thus easier to compare, analyse and being defined as a core of products. Most of the popular music or sound productions of the South Asian second generation work off from the background of the folk music of North India and Pakistan (Bhangra or even Baul – i.e. Asian Dub Foundation – ), the sufi tradition (Qawwali) and the classical music influences of the Northern style/school (Hindustani Music). The second generation sound productions are further very much linked to the Bollywood soundtracks which also root in a North Indian music tradition – this is why I think that this paper should focus on productions within this working grid.]

Popular music and sound productions are, as far as I can see at the moment, the basic syntax which enables the "second generation" to articulate itself. Sound is the premier media which creates the grid to allow any second generation to define its own identity/community. If we take a general look at the development of South Asian popular music during the last 40 years we will see quite clearly that it could be regarded as the syntax of self-definition for today’s second generation. First it was the music/the lyrics/the sound of the parent generation which defined the still locality bound terms of home and culture, then the sound productions of the second generation and contemporary South Asian productions (Hindi Pop and Bollywood Tracks) melted partly into eachother and created – along with Western sound – the language which is used to code/define the second generation, a language no longer bound to locality but media. As the traditional role o  the woman (mother) defined by South Asian culture is seen as the carrier of culture/religion/the private and home the emancipation of women from the home-bound definition of their function within their community can be seen parallel to the emancipation of sound/music from localty and becoming a free self-defining entity. [South Asian women often started to work in the media related work as their first step out of the home, as it was still community-defining, culture related and seemed to be the linear public route to what their earlier society-defined status at home/private had been – culture carriers/creators/preservers.] This can also be seen by looking at the careers and productions of South Asian women working in the media field during the last 50-60 years, i.e. from Lata Mangeshkar and Asha Bhosle to Heart Kaur and Shweta Shetty.

The field of analysis within this essay of South Asian second generation sound/media productions will be geographically limited to Great Britain and Germany. There are of course very active popular music scenes in the Carribean, Canada (Vancouver), Scandinavia (Oslo, Stockholm) and theUS (New York and the Bay Area), but they are mostly just connected to the party scene and are neither self-reflecting nor self-defining, here the sound is just used to preserve the image of the parental homeland and to define the own community as a locality-bound one against other localitybound ethnical minorities. It is possible to see such preservational routings in Great Britain and Germany as well, but I think that, especially in Great Britain, sound productions have been carried one step ahead and are no longer local-definers. [I will also not take into account productions in Great Briatin and Germany which hang on to local bindings or even made the step (back(?)) into religious fundamentalism or fell for racism/sexism.]

Naturally the sound productions could not have made the self-conscious step – out of the local bindings – without a critical, self-defining perspective/ongoing discussion and an activist as well as intellectual/theoretical/academic(?) background. This background was given as an ideological and theoretical Überbau to them through the aproaches defined by literary, culture, gender, political and art critics, mainly related to the post-colonial field, feminists, anti-globalists, marxists and researchers formulating the left spectre of the critical contemporary discussions. A theoretical background which also needs to be discussed, analysed and carried further by this paper. The paper is a necessary step for an emancipated theoretical and critical second generation background to make, on its way to an independent field, no longer bound to post-colonial, and therefore locality defined theories. The second generation was able to create its own self-definition, rooted within media and independent content, and thus emancipated itself from geographical and racist/sexist definitions; it is now no longer possible to keep on relating to theoretical roots without presenting a contemporary perspective/outlook. Post-colonialism is like a binding religion which can no longer hold against long needed (at least since 1996, when South Asian mainstream music made the step into Western consciousness with Cornershop’s "Brimful of Asha". As an emancipated form of popular music it could no longer be exotisised, as during the Fusion era in the 1970s) reforms. By trying to analyse and document the phenomenon of a second generation which places itself as well as its cultural productions and language within the liquid form of media. Make the step which was already furthered and suggested when post-colonialsm merged with anti-globalism. 

Ruby Jana Sircar 2002