Indians From All Directions splices together footage of diasporic South Asian musicians that have found a toehold of visibility — however fleeting — in modern pop music. Amid recent calls for increased representation in the arts and media by a digitally empowered generation of youth with ancestry in the south Asian subcontinent, "Indians From All Directions" is a catalogue of pioneering artists, across genres, generations, and regions.

I first showed this piece as part of a baithak/salon series for Pamila Matharu’s 2019 solo show One of These Things is Not Like The Other at A Space Gallery in Toronto. I was initially asked to re-formulate a piece I wrote, about what comes after representation, for a talk but I also questioned the efficacy of another debate delivered in a vacuum. I thought it might be more effective, or serve as an actual resource, if my response to the show came in a different format — one that might be easily consumed and shared. It would also be a personal challenge for me to edit a video piece.

Simply put, this project allowed me to unload or put down a lot of information that I’ve been carrying around in my head for years. I’ve been fascinated with brown kids making art since I was 11-years-old, listening to No Doubt — mostly for the bassist, Tony Kanal. From there, I’d notice other brown faces peeking out from my steady diet of music video and early internet music consumption: Kim Thayil of Soundgarden, LAL from Toronto, State of Bengal and Asian Dub Foundation, Voxtrot. Everywhere I looked and listened — from mainstream pop to hip-hop to club music — there were people that looked like me. In the last few years, as representation has become an obsession of young people of all marginalized identities looking for role models, I started to suspect that a lack of a canon of South Asian pop stars left many of ‘us’ feeling as though M.I.A. really was it. Or that Nav’s insistence that he was the “first brown boy to get it poppin’” was true. It’s not. And the assumption is ahistorical! The lack of connections being made across generations, caste/clan-affiliations, musical style, etc., was alarming. This isn’t to say that brown people have made it; I just want to push back on the idea that we can only be one thing in order to get ahead.

A note on the title: This video takes its name from a 2013 collaboration between Das Racist and A Tribe Called Red, playing on the dual association of “Indian” to refer to people from the South Asian subcontinent as well as Indigenous peoples of North America. However, the content features ‘brown’ people of all faiths, from various diasporas spanning South Africa to the West Indies, and includes those of Pakistani and Sri Lankan origin as well. “Indians” is not meant to privilege the experiences of one group over another, but instead offer a rare moment of ethnocultural solidarity — a mashup celebration of brownness, as experienced in the diaspora.

Featured clips:

The New Music, “Bhangra Fever” (1993, City TV)
Cornershop, “Brimful of Asha” (1997)
Sum 41, “In Too Deep” (2001)
Raveena, “Honey” (2018)
Bat For Lashes, “All Your Gold” (2012)
Asha Puthli, “The Devil Is Loose” (1976)
Kindness, “This Is Not About Us” (2014)
No Doubt, “Don’t Speak” (1995)
Shilpa Ray, “Morning Terrors Nights of Dread” (2017)
Das Racist, “Rainbow in the Dark” (2011)
Apache Indian, “Boom-Shack-A-Lack” (1994)
M.I.A., “Galang” (2004)
Monsoon, “Ever So Lonely” (1982)
Riz MC, “Post 9/11 Blues” (2006”
Nav, “Some Way” (2017)
Jay Sean, “Down” (2009)
Big Baby Gandhi, “Been A Villain” (2012)
Anik Khan, “Big Fax” (2018)
Charli XCX, “Break The Rules” (2014)
Biddu, “Rain Forest” (1976)
The New Music, “Bhangra Fever” (1993, City TV)
Bass Is Bass, “I Cry” (Live on Electric Circus, 1995)
Young The Giant, “Cough Syrup” (2010)
Voxtrot, “Firecracker” (2007)
Kapil Seshasayee, “The Agitprop” (2019)
Asian Dub Foundation, “The Rebel Warrior” (1995)
Karmacy, “Blood Brothers” (2006)
Steel Banglez, “Your Lovin” (2018)
Queen, “Bohemian Rhapsody” (1975)
The Kominas, “Choli Ke Peeche” (Live at the BBC, 2010)
Billy Talent, “Try Honesty” (2003)
Melanie Fiona, “Give It To Me Right” (2009)
Zayn Malik, “PILLOWTALK” (2016)
Vijay Iyer Trio, “Human Nature” (Live at KNKX 2011)
Nitin Sawhney, “Homelands” (1999)
LAL, “I Know Your Face” (2012)
Anoushka Shankar & Norah Jones, “Traces of You” (2013)
Tommy Genesis, “Execute” (2015)
Talvin Singh, “Jaan” (1997)
Panjabi MC, “Beware of the Boys” (2003)
controller.controller, “History” (2004)
Soundgarden, “Black Hole Sun” (1994)
Rafiq Bhatia, “Breaking English” (2018)
Kohinoorgasm, “Azadi is Freedom is Fate” (2016)
Jai Wolf, “Indian Summer” (2016)
Sid Sriram, “It Isn’t True” (2019)
Horsepowar, “Queen” (2015)
TLC, “No Scrubs” (1999)
The New Music, “Bhangra Fever” (1993, City TV)