Just published in India Currents!

For over 15 years the nonprofit Society for Art & Cultural Heritage of India has been recognized for its partnerships with Bay Area arts institutions and local and international artists and scholars. Kalpana Desai, SACHI President, talks with India Currents about the creative programming that showcases the richness and diversity of the Indian artistic tradition.

Artist Jitish Kallat and Dr. Madhuvanti Ghose sitting on Kallat's installation Public Notice 3 installed on the Woman’s Board Grand Staircase at the Art Institute.

How does SACHI connect to the current South Asian Bay Area arts scene and the institutions that support that scene?
SACHI is a community driven organization. SACHI has carved a special niche for generating rewarding learning experiences especially in the visual arts, but also through film, theater, book discussions, conversations, textile workshops and music and dance demonstrations. SACHI has a long standing relationship with art institutions like the Asian Art Museum, the Palo Alto Art Center, the Cantor Arts Center, the Mills College Art Museum, and the Berkeley Art Museum. In addition, we share a strong affiliation with the Center for South Asia at Stanford and the Center for South Asian Studies at UC Berkeley. Over 15 plus years, SACHI has partnered with nearly 50 Bay Area and international groups.

What does SACHI bring to Bay Area arts and culture that is unique?
The South Asian visual arts space is one that has room for a wider reach beyond artistic and academic circles. Performing arts often provide rich context in elucidating and illuminating concepts explored in the visual arts. We bring together different forms of artistic expression in creative ways for a dynamic and multi-dimensional understanding of Indian culture. The recent exhibition on yoga at the Asian Art Museum, for example, inspired a children's yoga workshop. Similarly, a Thumri-Kathak music and dance performing arts event in conjunction with the Maharaja exhibition beautifully evoked an atmosphere of court entertainment.

Swami Vivekananda, Hindoo Monk of India, United States, 1893, Poster (color lithograph), copy of original from Goes Lithographing Company, Chicago, Vedanta Society of Northern California, courtesy of Asian Art Museum

How does SACHI represent both classical and contemporary arts?
Our close association with Bay Area museums and our connections in Chicago, Washington D.C., New York, Los Angeles, San Diego, Seattle, London, Mumbai, and Delhi enables SACHI to access both scholarship and living artists from a wide geographical spectrum. Contemporary art is an area that interests SACHI in many ways, because it intersects with current events. The SACHI team stays connected to both the classical and contemporary realms, as well as folk art traditions. 

What are you most excited about in the May lineup of SACHI events?
A highlight mid-May SACHI event is on May 18th. This event is exciting because it brings together Swami Vivekananda as a reformist thinker and pairs him with a contemporary Indian artist, Jitish Kallat, whose Public Notice 3 was installed on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. This event will make a powerful statement about the state of the world through Vivekananda's timeless message of universal harmony and Kallat's creative transformation of this message. The Art Institute of Chicago curator who worked closely with Kallat during the installation, Dr. Madhuvanti Ghose, will be presenting the talk.  On May 23rd, SACHI is hosting a talk by Vedanta scholar Prasad Vepa, Trustee of the California Institute of Integral Studies. “The Not-so-Hidden Secrets of Yoga in the Bhagavad Gita” will provide a philosophical exploration of the yoga exhibit.

Public Notice 3, Site-specific text-based light installation, Grand Staircase of the Art Institute of Chicago,
Gift of the Artist, 2010.418

SACHI started in 1997. How have you seen the organization change and develop over the years? 
SACHI has evolved organically over the years, and it continues to grow and flourish with the changing composition of its talented and dedicated volunteer Board. The scale and number of programs launched annually has perhaps doubled over time. As a result, SACHI’s visibility in the art and culture world has increased with a greater demand for program participation than it can comfortably accommodate within its existing framework. That SACHI has found a place in the program agenda of museum and university settings on a consistent basis is something we are particularly proud of. 

“Public Notice 3:  From Vivekananda to Kallat”
Dr. Madhuvanti Ghose
Sunday May 18th, 2pm 
Samsung Hall, Asian Art Museum
200 Larkin Street, San Francisco
Free after museum admission

“The Not-so-Hidden Secrets of Yoga in the Bhagavad Gita”
Prasad Vepa
Friday May 23rd, 2pm
Education Classroom, Asian Art Museum
200 Larkin Street, San Francisco
$15.00, limited seating


TiEcon 2014

Just published in India Currents!

Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra

“For over 20 years, TiEcon has showcased some of the most successful companies around the world and brought together the entire ecosystem of entrepreneurship including venture capitalists, thought leaders, successful entrepreneurs as well as aspiring entrepreneurs,” says Venktesh Shukla, President of TiE Silicon Valley. TiE started at a 1992 lunch meeting in Silicon Valley, and now hosts 60 chapters in 17 different countries. Its annual flagship conference, TiEcon, attracted 3600 participants from over 50 countries last year.  “TiEcon 2014 is centered around phenomenal speakers and a strong technical agenda… it’s also a chance to speak face-to-face with successful entrepreneurs,” says BV Jagadeesh, TiEcon Co-Convener and Managing Partner of KAAJ Ventures.

Manoj Saxena

“I believe 2014 is going to be a defining year… cloud architectures [will] go from experimentation to deployment and when big data goes from promise to production. The entrepreneurs at TiEcon will likely have a large impact on how these innovations develop,” says Jim Whitehurst, President and CEO of Red Hat. The first day of the conference highlights three breaking topics: the internet of things, big data, and cloud infrastructure. “Each of these topics represents billions of dollars in new potential value creation for entrepreneurs,” says Pradip Madan, TiEcon Co-Convener and venture builder in healthcare and the internet of things. In the internet of things, participants will explore the potential to provide meaningful and useful applications through device connection. “After the internet in the mid-90’s, I don’t think anything has had the potential to be as big as the internet of things” opines Jagadeesh. Big data, the analysis of large data sets to inform business decisions, promises to create incredible responsivity to the customer. Cloud infrastructure, or companies’ ability to use and share infrastructure when needed, “creates tremendous flexibility in scaling” says Jagadeesh.

Shahid Khan

The biggest draw of TiEcon is its speakers. “IBM announced plans to invest $1B in a new business dedicated to building out the Watson ecosystem… Manoj Saxena, now Managing Director at The Entrepreneur’s Fund and most recently IBM’s Watson Division Head, will engage Mike Rhodin, IBM’s Senior Vice President for Watson, in a discussion on opportunities in cognitive computing” explains Madan. Dr. Romesh Wadhwani, Founder, Chariman, and CEO of the Symphony Technology Group “reflects a force of vision and persistence that will set a strong example for TiEcon attendees” says Madan. Shahid Khan, President and Owner of Flex-N-Gate as well as owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, will discuss how entrepreneurship extends beyond the high-tech ecosystem. Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Bollywood Producer, will talk about inspiration in producing Bhaag Milkha Bhaag. “Competing as an athletic champion requires the same determination as succeeding as an entrepreneur” concludes Madan.

Romesh Wadhwani

The second day of TiEcon focuses on personal growth. “Each of the keynote speakers brought sustained vision, courage, charisma, and determination to their work. Understanding their views is what complements a tech entrepreneur’s training,” explains Madan. Second day conference topics include healthcare, youth, entrepreneurship, technology services, energy, and impact investing while participants hear about the successes and challenges of experienced entrepreneurs. “Time is of the essence; participants can learn from ‘old mistakes’ to move forward rapidly,” says Jagadeesh. Young startups will bring their innovations to the TiE50 competition and companies will showcase their products and services in Expo booths. “Entrepreneurs looking for co-founders will find them in FounderConnect. Entrepreneurs looking for funding will meet VCs and angel investors in VCConnect. Those looking for mentorship in a specific topic will be able to do so in MentorConnect,” explains Madan.

TiEcon is volunteer-run. “All our volunteers are here for various reasons: networking, brainstorming, meeting founders, and providing mentorship. We’re very excited to give back to the entrepreneurial community” says Jagadeesh. “I hope to bring new perspectives to my work from TiEcon. I am also looking to build new teams and find new partners, and expect to do both” says Madan. TiEcon 2014 is a high-contact opportunity for all entrepreneurs to connect and learn. “I believe in a flat world of opportunity for every entrepreneur, man, or woman, from any region of the world. I believe that each of us should have the opportunity to maximize our intellectual and social productivity through entrepreneurship. The demographics, scale, and impact of TiEcon flatten the world ever more each year,” concludes Madan.

TiEcon 2014
Santa Clara Convention Center
5001 Great America Parkway
Santa Clara, CA  95054
May 16th and 17th
Tickets begin at $225.00



Bhangra, Race, and Gender

This Monday, April 7th, our very own Vicki Virk will be talking with Falu Bakrania, Associate Professor of Race and Resistance Studies at SFSU, about "Bhangra and Belonging: South Asian Music in the Diaspora." If you'd like to attend in person, the talk is from 4:00 to 5:30 pm at 554 Barrows Hall on the UC Berkeley campus. In preparation, and out of a deep sense of curiosity, a number of us Dholrhythmers have been devouring Bakrania's book Bhangra and Asian Underground: South Asian Music and the Politics of Belonging in Britain. What does the bhangra scene look like when viewed through the eyes of an academic? A lot the same, and a lot different, than what we experience on the ground in San Francisco.

Photo Credit: Odell Hussey

Bakrania's project is to examine how postcolonial youth negotiate their identity as both British and as South Asian through clubbing. I don't know whether I'm impressed or jealous that Bakrania got funding to study clubbing in London for almost two years- probably a bit of both. She found the club scene in Britain to be a hotly contested site, with different groups jockeying to assert their notion of identity as important and authentic. In turn, ordinary club goers actively constructed a "hybrid" identity for themselves while at the club, blending British and Asian definitions of identity into something unique. This identity formation followed them out of the club, informing the way they perceived themselves in the rest of their lives. 

Photo Credit: Odell Hussey

In London during the 90's bhangra went head-to-head with the Asian Underground, sparking intense criticism from both sides. Bhangra labeled the Asian Underground scene as culturally inauthentic, pandering to a white market by pulling classical Indian motifs and removing their context to make them easily accessible. The AU scene criticized bhangra right back as uncultured and unintelligent, also pandering to whites. I'm going to quote Nitin Sawhney for having the courage to go on record saying "But bhangra... is so simple, it's unreal. Bhangra is four-four music, it's perfect for Western ears, and that's why it's received such interest." In the tumult Panjabi MC ended up labeled as producing black music, since "Mundian To Bach Ke" is primarily a hip-hop track. In the end the debate really didn't matter; AU music died out as fans chased new trends and bhangra, in Bakrania's argument, never fully crossed over to mainstream success.

Photo Credit: Odell Hussey

The place where Bakrania's research got interesting was when she started talking about women. In case you hadn't noticed, bhangra is pretty male. Quick- list five female bhangra artists besides Miss Pooja. Any luck? Men by and large produce the music and in London it's primarily men who consumed it in clubs. Where were the women while all this is going on? Having an interesting time of it. London bhangra clubs had audiences up to 85% male, and sexual harassment was ubiquitous. As a result, women who attended bhangra clubs were primarily lower class, of a marginalized identity (divorced, separated, single mothers, victims of domestic violence), and prepared to aggressively protect themselves if necessary. Ironically, this caused middle and upper middle class South Asian women to flee bhangra clubs for the AU scene, searching for a place to construct a more authentic South Asian identity without being defined by gendered harassment.

Photo Credit: Odell Hussey

Things are a little bit different in San Francisco now than they were in London. We're a lot less violent; almost all the London clubs Bakrania researched for her book are now closed due to fighting. Sexual harassment still happens, but it's a far cry at Public Works from what it used to be at the Rickshaw Stop. Because white patrons were often prevented from entering London bhangra clubs at the door, our San Francisco crowds are more diverse. Perhaps NonStop falls more along the lines of an AU club from the 90's. With primarily female organizers and an all-female dance troupe, however, we seem to avoid some of the visual exoticization of South Asian women that was part of the decoration and ambiance of the AU scene. 

Photo Credit: Odell Hussey

At most NonStops half of our crowd in non-desi, and our gender ratio approaches 50%. Our dance troupe is also diverse, reflecting our NonStop audience. Bakrania barely mentions white women in her book, although she does castigate one AU group for having a white classically trained dancer on stage. I suppose if you're focused on identity formation in postcolonial youth, other groups are less relevant. But I found Bhangra and Asian Underground doesn't create a useful lens for our non-desi Dholrhythmers (not all of whom are white) and club goers. Bakrania's research also tends to conflate South Asian-American members and club goers, in the case of Dholrhythms flattening the experience of North Indians, South Indians, Fijian-Indians, and first and second generation women as the same. I'm also curious about what bhangra might have to do with the construction of Punjabi identity specifically, as opposed to simply constructing a hybrid South Asian identity.  So many questions, so little time... but it will be fascinating to hear what both our speakers have to say about the similarities and differences between the London and San Francisco bhangra scenes.