Hip Hop meets Bollywood. Theirs is a common story of angsty, defiant, steaming-up-the-windows-from-the-backseat love. Rebellious, wild-eyed, sexy. Bollywood’s otherwise conservative and traditional parental units scoff at this unlikely match. They claim that Hip Hop is dangerously charming with a penchant for thick and slick women, an ostentatious spender with non-traditional pastimes, a fast and loose con artist reinventing himself constantly and hoping to secure inspiration for now with a promise to chase the next pretty young thing when she reveals herself. Besides, they ran the numerology by the local Swami: star-crossed.
After some conflict, a few altercations against nay-sayers on train platforms, and a couple of song-n-dance numbers along the New Zealand hillside, it seems our lovers have finally found a place where they can be free to make beautiful fusion babies.
I had the privilege of speaking with Ms. Bath at length about her experience, what gave her the idea to build DesiHits, and what she thinks her contribution will do for the Hip Hop and Bollywood worlds. I think I may have vetted her more thoroughly than…. Ahem…
ANYWAY! This project of providing a platform for Bollywood sights and sounds to collide with the mélange that is Hip Hop raises a lot of interesting questions about ‘fusion’ as a universal concept, the commandeering and bastardization of culture for the sake of art, the ethics of collaboration…. and whether or not anyone gives a shit about any of that and just wants to dance.
Bath, being a 2nd-generation Desi (read: South Asian) understands that there is a struggle to maintain some sense of authenticity when trying to fuse a largely Afrocentric, revolutionary cultural movement that is learned from the deep seeds planted by Civil Rights and Black Power with the ancient, traditional, and often conservative aesthetic of South Asia. Still, she sees opportunity in the rhythms of new Bollywood music; the culture is trending toward Hip Hop, as if this collaboration were destined, and youth all over South Asia embrace Hip Hop for its danceability but also, perhaps subconsciously, for its rhetoric of defiance and evolution. I recalled a story for Bath, about my time in Mumbai, Bollywood’s ‘hood, when I was walking through a slum settlement and stopped suddenly because I heard Snoop Dogg’s ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot’ blasting out of one of the tin-roof shacks. Most kids in Bombay slums don’t know English, but all kids know the thrill of seeing a beautiful girl do a booty-drop.
When I asked about the political aspirations of her DesiHits movement, if any, Bath was quick to distance herself from all things polarizing. This up-and-coming mogul is focused on union.
She wants to bring the art and aesthetic of South Asia to the West and, so far, has had a lot of support from mainstream acts like the Pussycat Dolls, who sexified the sari even more (is that possible?) by wearing them to a recent event. Sean Kingston also signed up to be a part of what is quickly becoming a phenomenon. His big hit “Beautiful Girls” was transformed into “Bollywood Girls” and is part of a worldwide remix contest (voting ends today!). I spoke to Sean about his experience working with DesiHits and he seems to be all aboard. Kingston explained that hip hop lends itself so easily to Bollywood music because of the strong rhythms and bass as well as its upbeat and catchy melodies. He also showed serious interest in traveling to the subcontinent and performing for his millions of fans.
That said, let’s keep the post-colonial resentment in the closet for the day we resurrect Fanon. For now, it’s time to give globalization a high-five. We’ve got hot outfits, beautiful women, and Bolly-Hop that isn’t Punjabi MC. (I know ya’ll were getting sick of that with a quickness.)