Rock’n’roll is a white man’s game. I do not say this to be controversial… just ask Sam Phillips
Growing up as an Indo Canadian, I had a hard time figuring out where I belonged. Music was the escape, the fantasy. In my case, I connected with rock’n’roll.The majority of my other desi friends gravitated towards R&B/Hip Hop. Being a teenager in the 90s, there was a pretty clear divide btwn different music styles… they defined your style and who your friends were. So, in my case, the majority of my friends were suburban white kids who listened to Mudhoney, Supergrass, Blur, Teenage Fanclub, MBV, Nirvana, Pixies, Swervedriver…. you get the point. Alternative bands made up exclusively of white, male (Pixies aside) musicians. I never fully flaunted my Indian-ness… I actually tried to mask it. I’d go to temple and sunday school on the weekends, but during the week I’d be hanging with my friends trying to be like them. I picked up the bass in ‘93 and started playing around in bands and tried to fit in. In ‘97 I took a family trip to India (first one 15 years). Meeting my extended family and travelling started stirring something up inside of me. I came back to Montreal with sitar in-hand and a strong sense of self. Then I heard Cornershop’s single “Brimful of Asha” (https://youtu.be/lM7H0ooV_o8) their ode/commentary to/on Indian cinema (http://www.cornershop.com/2012/01/brimful-explained). A Velvet Underground-ish pop tune about Asha Bhosle?? My mind was blown. I bought “When I Was Born For the 7th Time” as fast as I could and tried to learn everything I could about Cornershop. Here was a band, with a first generation Indo (British) leading them. Tjinder Singh was no follower; he had a clear vision and identity. He was singing about things that mattered. He did not hide his culture. He sang about things that mattered to him: society, racism, being Sikh/Punjabi… And the music covered so much ground: funk, disco, hiphop, VU moments, DJ moments, The Beatles (I mean, Norwegian Wood in Punjabi???). This was an album about the history of rock and roll.
All this to say, this album taught me to make art/music that is real and has meaning (and that a little sitar never hurt anybody). I can’t thank Tjinder & co enough for this.
So, in the end, maybe R’n’R doesn’t have to be just a white man’s game…