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Friday, June 29, 2012

I still haven't posted on any of the things I said I was going to post on

But I will! I promise so hardcore that I will.

Today I would like to post on some sort of failurish attempts at working on my project. This isn't like, one of those things that is going to talk about failure and me failing and my resistance to failing before accepting it and having an epiphany that really failure, while painful can be good and I learned a bunch of stuff and blah blah blah.

No, nothing so tired as that. I mean failurish because it didn't quite work, but it has potential. So I have been discussing how I am having difficulties in finding a good population to work with. I tried something new, and you are probably going to say I am kind of dumb for thinking this would work, but it still could. I have started attending Hard Rock Cafe's live music nights. I know, Hard Rock Cafe. With all the loud music and not being able to hear yourself think. The thing is, the live music format creates this stage/dance area that breaks down the impenetrable fortresses of tables that usually exist in restaurants and creates this space where it is possible to approach people. The problem of course is my own introvertedness and the loud music. But it has so much potential. The alcohol and the friendly atmosphere provide the best meeting place I have yet discovered to get in contact with the more likely to read upper echelons of Indian society. If I were actually anything remotely close to outgoing I could make it work. But alas, I am not.

I am not sure exactly how to work with this experience in the context of my postcolonial studies and all that. What I attended last night was clearly an essentially western experience. The idea of the rock concert, the consumption of beers, the conspicuously western food, even the band. They were all Indians, but they sang in English. It was composed of a drummer, three lead singers, a guitarist, and two bassists (I think). They sang a couple covers in addition to their own songs and also did a downtempo mashup of Lady Gaga's Poker Face and Paparazzi. I'm not sure if they know what lg is singing about in poker face, but oh well. We will let them enjoy their west aping innocence.

There were some variations though. For instance, the band had three lead singers, which is almost unheard of in the standard American band. Also, one of the lead singers was a flautist...which was kind of random. The girls were dressed in modern Indian woman casual, which is basically western except with an Indian flare. It is mostly visible in the different cuts of shirts and dresses. I think the most interesting thing about it is that it doesn't look funny or out of place or anything. I actually looks surprisingly fashionable. It could easily pass as a trend in the U.S. The men dress more overtly western. A few wore t-shirts or dark colored or striped button up shirts. However a lot of them wore white button up shirts tucked into belted jeans. They look like they had just come from office and taken off their ties. It looked a little humorously geeky to me actually. The way the men dressed, more than the girls actually, seemed to represent how this concert idea has either been appropriated or poorly imitated in India. I don't really know which it is at this point, to be honest.

The weirdest moment of the night and actually one of the most surreal moments I have ever had in India happened just before the band went on. If you have been to a Hard Rock, you know that they blast music the whole time. It's not my favorite part. You guys can read sarcastic understatements, right? Anyhow, so I was txting someone and I suddenly hear someone yell "YMCA!!!!" and suddenly everyone gets really excited. Two people sitting on the couch nearest me start sort of doing the YMCA dances and I am just sitting there thinking "wait, what?" And suddenly the YMCA song comes blasting over the stereo and all the waiters get on stage and I am surrounded by Indians singing along robustly to the YMCA song and doing the dance. There were even a couple of people standing on the bar. Everyone was so excited. It was so bizarre. And then it ended and everyone went back to what they were doing like nothing had happened. I wish I had had a camera with me. It kind of has to be seen to be believed. So now I am trying to find a context to place this experience in. This Indian concert thing was so quintessentially western. The idea of Hard Rock Cafe and the live music in English in a very western style and format could have easily occurred anywhere in the U.S. But there were so many things about it that were so very, very undeniably Indian about it.

Now I am left puzzling over it. Is it a sign of continued western colonization through ideology and business? Is it a sign of India's cultural robustness that it is absorbing the culture of other  countries and making them its own? One summer is not enough time for this. Even after a few years here.


  1. Rock culture and India have such an interesting history. I love hippie culture and style, and even though I knew it was the case, I didn't realize until I got to India just how much of the hippie culture was reverse colonization. The New Age, the colors, the sitars showing up in the Beatles' music...

    It seems that your experience at Hard Rock is a kind of full circle thing, not nearly as simple as some might want to call one-way colonization.Modern rock culture comes in a big way from hippie culture, freedom, drugs, sex, independence. And a lot of hippie culture was a Western absorption of Indian spirituality, fashion, and values, though, as you are seeing, absorption is never complete and one culture often misunderstands the culture it is trying to become more like. Do you think you could take this statement, "Is it a sign of India's cultural robustness that it is absorbing the culture of other countries and making them its own?" and replace India with America, at least in the context of the hippie movement (if not also the Westernization of Zen, etc., etc.)? What are the implications of either of those statements?

    1. wow, what a genius idea
      i never even thought about that
      partially because i don't know anything about hippies or rock and roll, haha
      but this is so exciting
      i have so much more to think about now

      although i think part of the problem with considering it from the reverse with America is that I think with America it isn't necessarily an issue of relative strength or weakness of culture as much as it is a sort of cultural vacuum
      but maybe that isn't true