What qualifies a musician as “great?” Perhaps it’s the goosebumps and chills that are sent down our spines when they begin to play, or the inability to stop ourselves from dancing along. Great musicians have no language, they develop art that is so innately impactful, we involuntarily give ourselves to it.
I have covered many musicians and loved even more. Today, however, I share with you all, someone great.
If you were living under a rock like me and had not heard of Zeshan B., I feel sorry for you, and my pre-Zeshan life. This Chicago based, gospel and Sufi trained musician is everything I love about our hyphenated identities and so much more. As a son to Indian immigrants and a Times of India journalist, he has turned thoughts into action by writing lyrics so riveting and timely, in his album “Vetted.” From Black Lives Matter to his linguistic parallels in Urdu, Punjabi and English, Zeshan’s Dravidian roots and commitment to community are parallel to none. Whether it was singing for President Barack Obama or sitting down with Democracy Now’s Nermeen Shaikh and Amy Goodman, Bagewadi has just begun.
Gearing up to release his new single, “Nausheen,” just after the incredible, “Brown Power,” featuring Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, Hasan Minhaj, Jesse Jackson, Aparna Nancherla, Nina Turner, and an inclusive array of representatives, reverends, and artists, Zeshan agreed to tell us a little bit about the man behind the magic.
Well, it’s how we think, right? It’s the currency of our psyche. I mean I guess we think in images and shapes too, but we think in words primarily–so it’s really become sort of sacro-sanct with the human existence/experiment.
And perhaps that’s why I feel it’s so important to learn as many languages as you can because you only enrich your brain with that currency. Growing up as a brown person in a bilingual household. I honestly thank the heavens that neither my Naani or Naana spoke English because it forced me and my sisters to learn Urdu so that we could communicate with those two loveably cute, old human beings.
It served me later in life –the increased “sound inventory” helped me to pick up languages real fast. Before I knew it, I was picking up Spanish pretty well in high school. And then Spanish provided me a sort of linguistic bridge into Italian, which I got damn near fluent in when I studied abroad in Italy during my college days. And then when I started singing professionally, Urdu provided the same sort of “bridge” into Punjabi, which I can sort of fake my way through now.
2. We believe music has no language, what reactions do you receive on you multi-tongue songs from the public?
You’d be surprised just how much love I get from people who have zero connection to Urdu or Hindi. Because yes as cliche as it sounds, it’s def true–music is transcendental in that way. Doesn’t really matter what language it’s in as long as it’s got that groove!
3. As a vocalist who draws from his hyphenated and global identities, do you experience “imposter syndrome” in any genres?
I used to but not anymore. I mean definitely not when I sang anything that is overtly desi i.e. anything in Urdu or Hindi. Real talk, when I sing in the language of my ancestors, I don’t feel the slightest iota of imposter syndrome. Because let’s be real here…just look at me. I am about as unmistakably Indian as they get.
No fair & lovely cream on this South Indian. And because of my indigenous, dravidian phenotype, I’ve never once been mistaken for any other ethnicity. It’s funny, I recently got a DNA test done just because I was curious. But boy those results were pretty uninteresting–it came back as 100% Indian. I called my Dad and said, “Hey guess what, Dad? I’m 100$ Indian. My Dad was like, “Let me get this straight…you paid money to obtain that information? I could’ve just told you that for free”. The man has a point. And because I very much “look the part” there was never any hiding from it.
So when it comes to singing the music and language of my people, I think I have a genetic mandate to sing that music and perhaps why those vocal stylings and aesthetics come so naturally to me–because they are me. So no, definitely no imposter syndrome there!
However, at times I did in fact feel that way about singing R&B. I mean I grew up singing that too–I sang in gospel choir in high school and I ended up being the lead soloist of an all black choir. Plus my parents listened to black folks’ music as much as anything else. In fact, my pops used to write for the Times of India on black literature and expression back in the 70s. So yes, I did indeed have a healthy dose of exposure to it growing up.
Still though, when I got out of music school and started singing full time (or trying to, at least) I was a little reluctant to sing R&B because I was worried about cultural appropriation. But then as word got around, some things just fell in place that put me at ease–when iconic black leaders like Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Otis Moss gave me their instant seal of approval, and when I was getting engaged to sing black music in black spaces such as the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s Chicago march (which, interestingly enough, I was asked to sing the black national anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing”) and when I got invited time and again to sing at Black churches–lets just say it went a long way in mollifying me.
I found a real nexus between the musical idioms of black and brown people–the blue notes that we sing. Notes that are bent. Notes that are jagged. Rooted in oppression and instability. I sing those notes. Those melismas are the foundation of my creative process. a lot of soul searching and finding that nexus point, I found my very own voice. A voice that was totally unique to me and so it’s always felt genuine and organic in that way.
4. Being compared to legends like Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding and Sam Cooke, do you have South Asian music idols as well?
Ohhh, you bet! My childhood pretty much starts and ends with Mehdi Hassan. That man was from another planet. Some of my earliest musical memories are of his voice and of those beautifully tasteful orchestrations that they were churning out in Lahore back in the day. His phrasing. His diction. His intonation. SO much to learn from listening to an artist like that. I bop to Mehdi Hassan pretty much every day of the week and I know/possess just about every single one of his recordings.
And there are so many others! Where to start? Ustad Bismillah Khan. Noor Jehan. Manna Dey. Kishore Kumar. Mohammed Rafi. Shaukat Ali. Pandit Ravi Shankar. Ustad Vilayat Khan. I could go on and on. If you think about it, the Indian subcontinent has been SO kind to this world when it comes to musicians. And all of these artists have influenced me immeasurably.
5. You have single-handedly altered what representation means for South Asian artists, what do you hope for them musically?
I guess I’d really hope that South Asian artists continue to grow musically and branch out. There’s more to the musical world than spoken word, hip-hop and bhangra.
Not that I dislike those things — I’m just saying there’s a vast world out there. Perhaps what could help is if we connect with our roots more. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying everyone should know the ins and outs of Hindustani music; I can’t say I know much of it myself. But I think that no matter what we do, we should never forget what we have inherited. And in our case, we’re talking about a five-thousand-year-old tradition of music from a subcontinent that the world fought over just because they wanted to be us. The story of Mother India is in so many ways the story of the world. And when it comes to our music, it’s an entire universe. Read about it. Be proud of it. Rep it.
I’d also love to see us hold each other to higher standards of professionalism and excellence. By that, I mean that I’ve worked with South Asian artists and I’ve often seen a certain lack of attention to these things — coming late to meetings or rehersals or missing deadlings. All the while citing this sort of implicit ‘desi standard time’construct. It’s like we take advantage of each other and we run game on each other like that, and I say running game because I know that we wouldn’t pull this sort of shenanigans with white people! Anyway, I guess what I’m saying is, I’d love for us to project brown excellence.
7. We can’t not ask, what was it like singing for President Barack Obama?
Well, it was interesting to see the secret service take apart my harmonium to inspect it–was def a first for me! (and probably for them too lol). Aside from that, I guess the whole thing was really surreal. There I was, the grandson of poor Indian villagers about to sing for the leader of the free world. For some rea
son, it made me think of this story my dad told me once that when he was a kid, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru came to his village and my Daada Ji hoisted my dad up on his shoulders so he could get a glimpse of Nehru–don’t ask me why, but once I set foot in the East Room to meet President Obama, I somehow I felt things came full circle with that story. It was an honor to perform for him and he really appreciated my singing — got to hang with him a little too.
It was funny because I had actually met him a long time ago back in Chicago when I was a kid at an event at our mosque (yuu’d be surprised how many of us Chicagoans have met him or seen him in some capacity or the other back in the day). When I told him that I met him when I was a kid he said,
“Aww man! You ruined it!”
I said, “Ruined what, Mr. President?”
He said, “It’s not good manners to make someone feel old.”
8. Your music reflects on society, how it pivots and changes. What is currently inspiring you and in the new album?
I think that empathy has inspired me as of late. I feel that we live in a world of apathy. In a spiritual blackout. If it’s anything that gets me going with all this, it’s trying to feel some sense of empathy when I’m surrounded by apathy. And consequently, I feel that empathy and more specifically, tenderness inspired this album.
Where’s the tenderness in music today? You listen to lyrics of the older stuff like BillWithers (rest his soul! I’m still so heartbroken over his death the other day) singing, “We all need somebody to lean on”. Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions when they sing, “I’m so proud of being loved by you”. Ella Fitzgerald singing “Let’s build a stairway to the stars”. Sam Cooke singing “You send me” You listen to lyrics of a Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions when they sing, ‘I’m so proud of being loved by you’ or a Sam Cooke singing ‘You send me’ Or in our case, Mohammed Rafi singing ‘Suhaani raat dhal chuki. Na Jaane tum kab aaoge.’
Such tenderness in all of that! Such beauty! Such poetry. It’s all inspired by empathy. And I’ve tried to employ that kind of empathy and tenderness in “Nausheen” and for that matter, in the rest of the album.
9. How has COVID19 impacted you and what are your thoughts on the effects on artists/arts professionals?
Oh lord! Where to start? Well, for one, my hair is getting a lot longer–and there’s all of a sudden quite a few more white hairs in there lol. But for real, it’s just bananas with all this COVID mess. First of all, my wife is a doctor — an anesthesiology resident at Johns Hopkins Hospital (by the way, she’s a brown girl too — of the Latinx persuasion). So that said, she is literally in the trenches and on the front lines of all this. It’s amazing how her and her colleagues have mobilized to take on the sheer onslaught of ICU cases at such great risk to themselves (which puts me at risk too) but I am so proud of her.
And then if that weren’t enough, when it comes to just me personally and my career, it’s hard to put in words how disruptive COVID has been. I had a run of shows at Lincoln Center that got cancelled. The release of my single, “Brown Power” was to be amplified by some potential TV appearances that are now postponed indefinitely or cancelled because of newsrooms now having to cover COVID 24-7. My wife and I are supposed to move to New York in June and I honestly have no clue what that’s going to look like. Let’s just say, I picked a hell of a time to release an album!
But as with anything, I think the smart thing to do is adapt accordingly. I’m now investing pretty much all my time and energy in generating content from home (in fact, if you want to hear me perform ‘Nausheen’ and the other songs live, Lincoln Center is featuring me in their new ‘At Home‘ concert series!) And with that, I’m discovering just how uncomfortable I am in performing solo without my band — but perhaps it’ll prove to be a rite of passage for me.
‘Nausheen’ is, I guess part fantasy and part reality. By that, I mean it’s a song that expresses a very stark reality that South Asian women are across the board way more intelligent, thoughtful, imaginative, and just overall impressive than South Asian men. Like hands down. But it’s also somewhat fantasy too–I mean yes, it’s a love ballad, and parlays some of the infatuations I felt esp in my bachelor days or my college days with various “Nausheens” (I picked the name Nausheen because it’s such a beautiful name, so evergreen, so traditional, so effervescent) and those amazing young desi women were just SO out of my league, you know. And so yes, it sort of has that fantasy love ballad vibe.
But I think, more importantly, the fantasy aspect and the reality aspect sort of in my mind combine to articulate an idealist vision for the future. And by that I mean, look I grew up in the diaspora, you know I’ve been to India and Pakistan many many times throughout my life and as much I love desi culture and I love going to the motherland, I think I’ve seen just how backwards and misogynistic our society is. And being a south asian male myself, I’ve seen just how low the bar is set for men, and how unfairly high it’s set for women. I mean I get such a big pat on the back from desi ppl for the fact that I’m “domesticated”–that I know how to cook and clean.
I’m like why? I should know how to do all that! My sisters don’t get congratulated for doing all those things. Which back to what I was saying, I think that has EVERYTHING to do with why South Asian women have evolved to be the superior group. They’ve had to put up with so much bullshit from men that they’ve just become so much more intelligent because they’ve had to co-exist subversively with men who have no idea how to treat them with respect. I guess the idealism in Nausheen for me is, ‘boy, wouldn’t it be nice if it wasn’t this way.’
If instead desi women were in charge? I mean I guarantee you if desi women were in charge, the situation in India and Pakistan and Bangladesh would be like 100x better, and the partition would’ve never happened. The wars would’ve never been waged. The BJP and the Jamaat-e-Islaami (who I think are both two sides of the same coin) would’ve been reduced to fringe movements that everyone would just laugh at. Everyone would be held to a higher standard.
Would love it if Nausheen took over. And that’s sort of the broader message of this song. Hope you all dig it!
If I wasn’t speechless before, I am now. “Nausheen” is available on all streaming platforms, and be sure to check out his exclusive Q&A with Brown Girl Magazine.
January 18, 2023January 18, 2023 5min readBy Arun S.
From receiving his MBA from Harvard business school to being the CEO of Asia’s largest music festival brand Sunburn, Karan Singh combined his interests to push his passion for music! Singh received his bachelor’s degree in management from the London School of Economics and Political Science. He worked as an investment banker for three years at Ambit Corporate Finance before working at Sunburn which is a part of his family’s business. Sunburn started providing the music festival experience starting in the year 2007. The first festival was in Candolim, Goa. The music festival brand has put on over 5,000 events over the past 15 years. In 2022 The Sunburn Festival will be in it’s 16th year. Continue reading to learn more about Karan Singh’s journey with the Sunburn music festival!
What does the Sunburn brand offer and what made you have the festival in Goa as opposed to other parts of India?
We believe that Sunburn offers a really unique experience and is a melting pot of diverse people & cultures from not only across India but around the world. Goa is the ideal setting for this as there is something magical about Goa in the winter-time and truly enables us to tap into that global audience.
Safety at live events has always been a concern among concert goers. Considering recent, events more individuals have asked brands and artists to do more to ensure audience safety. What are you doing to ensure safety for live concerts?
Safety is a huge priority for us. We work with the best-in-class security agencies as well as closely with the police and requisite authorities. For anyone in the crowd a Sunburn safety officer will always be close by and easily visible. We also run an awareness drive on both social media and on ground.
What was the first Sunburn Festival like and what did you learn from this experience?
The first ever Sunburn Festival was in December 2007, and I had actually attended it as a fan, not part of the crew. However, it was absolutely eye-opening as the first proper music festival on Indian shores and opened up our minds to a world of possibilities.
As Sunburn houses so many electronic dance musicians who have been your favorites throughout the years?
It is difficult to pick from the list however the favorites for Sunburn, in no order and because of the amount of love they have shown Indian audiences, are Martin Garrix, DJ Snake, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike, Hardwell and Armin van Buuren.
Do you plan to expand the festival to add other genres into the mix as well as more activities?
We have already expanded into different formats like Arena, Campus, Club, Reload and things like merchandize & academy. In terms of genres, we have been dabbling with genres like rap, hip-hop and pop, however our focus remains on electronic dance music.
What can someone expect from the festival as first-time goers?
Apart from a state-of-the-art production & line-up, one can expect a special experience, meeting interesting people from all over the world, and embarking on a creative journey of the theme for the year.
How does the festival help local musicians from Goa as well as the surrounding areas in India?
This year we had set up for the first time a special stage and village in the festival only for Goa which gave a platform to local Goan artists. But beyond that a huge focus for us has always been to showcase domestic home-grown talent and indeed 60-70% of the line-up each year is locally sourced.
What was the experience like this year in 2022 and how is it different from previous years?
The biggest difference was that this was the first time the festival was back to its full scale since the pandemic hit after 3 long years. It was a fantastic release for everyone there. Our theme was “the future is now” and this was reflected across the festival experience and particularly in the main stage design – termed “Cyberpunk City” which received rave reviews from all.
What was it like having the legends Black Coffee and Afrojack this year as well as the DJ duo Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike?
Afrojack and DVLM are both Sunburn & India veterans, it was amazing having them back crushing the main stage after very long. Black Coffee for us was something very new and exciting, to have a special artist and a unique sound like that close the main stage on day 2. However it was very well-received and took our experience to the next level.
As you have had the artist Avicii back in December 2011 how do you feel he revolutionized Electronic Dance Music?
Avicii is one of my all-time favorite artists and his show in December 2011 was actually my first one working on Sunburn so will always be extra special. There is no doubt that he revolutionized EDM by taking massive risks and introducing an entirely new sound which a lot of others then followed, but no one as well as he did.
How does it feel to be in charge of one of Asia’s biggest Electronic Dance Music Festivals?
It feels great, we have a very young but ambitious and hard-working team and our primary focus is to continue delivering the best possible experiences for our fans, artists and partners. India is such a vibrant and exciting market that I cannot help but be pumped about what the future holds.
Do you feel Electronic Dance Music is a misunderstood genre?
More so in a country like India possibly yes, where people who are not exposed to these experiences sometimes have preconceived notions about EDM festivals and the like. Oftentimes those people are also in a decision-making capacity and can directly affect the industry. However, things are certainly improving as the industry overall gets bigger and gets more acceptance.
What does music mean to you, Karan Singh?
Music provides a sound-track to life, it is something which is always there!
How do you choose to react when you receive negative comments about the Sunburn Festival?
Well, you have to be able to differentiate between those which are just trolling and those which are constructive or fair criticism. The latter is very important as it helps us to look at ourselves and continually improve, we are still a long way from where we eventually want to be.
Lastly, what do you hope individuals take away from this interview with Brown Girl Magazine?
I hope it allows us at Sunburn to reach a wider audience of the desi community around the world and hopefully get some more people to fly down to Goa for Sunburn Festival 2023 which I can promise you all will be the best one yet!
Dimitri Vegas Like Mike
We have had a long connection with India. The first time we played here was more than a decade ago. Going from clubs to being a regular feature at one of Asia’s biggest electronic music festivals which is now an institution in itself. It’s been an exciting evolution to see how Sunburn has grown over the years. The fans at Sunburn are some of the most insane and every show is a special one. We’ve always had an incredible experience at Sunburn.
Honestly, the energy I feel when I am in India is one of the most amazing things. I would say the culture and energy is what keeps me coming back! India is like a second home to me, just like Sunburn. I feel so comfortable and welcomed here. I’m always excited about coming to India and playing at Sunburn, experiencing new cities, meeting more of the people, hearing more of the music, and seeing more of the country that has influenced me so much.
Sunburn has helped dance music artists world over to tour India and connect with their Indian fans and I’m always excited about performing at the festival.
I’ve a long history with the Sunburn team. They are a great team to work with and they also give the fans amazing experiences. As an artist, I want to be a part of providing fans with lifelong memories and so we all share the same vision.
Sunburn is one of the pioneers of the dance music festival scene in India and has been instrumental in creating a truly world class platform that supports the dance music industry and all of its stakeholders. I’m always excited about touring India with Sunburn.
In an age where algorithms dictate viewership, Nancy Jay uses her love of dance to propel herself onto TikTok’s “for you” pages. Jay is an Indo Guyanese, Bronx native who began dancing at the age of three. As an influencer and content creator, she amassed a social media following of more than 500,000. Versed in many styles of dancing including Caribbean, Bollywood, urban and Latin, Jay can be spotted in soca music videos such as Linky First’s “Rock and Come in” and “Jeune Femme,” Adrian Dutchin’s “Roll” and by soca king Machel Montano’s “Mami Lo Tiene.”
Many content creators are typecast into the niche but Jay has defied this norm and proclaims she is more than just a dancer.
“I dance, travel, post lifestyle and beauty content. I’m an Indo Caribbean woman who enjoys being myself and promoting my culture. I like showing viewers it is okay to be who they are and embrace what they look like, despite what they see on social media. I did not plan on being a TikToker. As I started posting videos, the love and support I received from viewers was amazing. I have never experienced anything like that before on Instagram, where I started my content journey,” Jay said.
In conversation with Jay, the following answers have been condensed for concision and clarity.
Why is it important for you to create content related to your Indo Caribbean roots?
Growing up, I never felt represented as an Indo Caribbean on television, in movies, social media or anywhere else. My goal as a content creator is to promote the Indo Caribbean culture through my content and be the representation the Indo Caribbean community needs.
Are there unspoken rules about being a content creator or an Indo Caribbean woman on the platform?
Being an Indo Caribbean woman on TikTok can be challenging when you are trying to find your identity and do not feel represented.
Jay explains her frustration with the lack of Caribbean representation and acknowledgment from platforms, as well as her goals as a content creator in this video.
Do you ever experience a block, similar to writer’s block, when it comes to creating content? How do you overcome that?
I have yet to experience a block. However, I do have days where I want to take a break and just relax instead of filming. As a content creator, it is important to take breaks and schedule days to just relax because being a full-time content creator is a 24/7 business. It can be draining and you may lose your sense of reality when you have the mindset that everything is content. I enjoy taking a day or half a day to cook, watch TV or go shopping with my partner without the worry of filming any of it.
How has your social media presence changed your daily life?
When I am in public, supporters approach me to express their love for my content and sometimes ask for a selfie. When I find people staring at me in public now, it’s most likely because they recognize me from social media and not because I look funny.
In May of 2021, I used my platform to reach out to brands and ask for their support in a project I named ‘Nancy Jay Gives Back.’ I put together care packages, using products donated by brands, and drove around the Bronx sharing them with people experiencing homelessness or those in need. Seeing the happiness on their faces upon receiving these bags was priceless. Additionally, I spread some extra joy through dance. I remember one lady telling me she’d never been to a club or party so I told her I’ve brought the party to her and we danced to her favorite genre of music right there on the street.
Jay plans on continuing this project as her social media presence has grown.
How has your family reacted to your social presence?
My family has always been supportive of my talents and the path I have chosen. My first public dance performance was at the age of 12. I performed a fusion of Bollywood and chutney music at middle school events. When I got to high school, I participated in our talent show to a fusion of Bollywood, chutney, soca and top 40. I won the talent show three or four times. I also performed for fundraisers organized by mandirs in Queens, the Bronx, weddings, sweet sixteens and other social events.
My family always came out to support me. They love seeing my content and always encourage me to film and create. My mom in particular tells everyone about my TikTok videos.
While enrolled at John Jay College, Jay founded the first West Indian student organization called “West Indies Massive.” She captained the dance team, taught dance classes and won the talent show multiple times while pursuing her Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice with a minor in law and police studies.
Any advice for creators who may not have the support of family?
Do not let this discourage you. If content creation is something you truly want to do, stay consistent and eventually your family will support you for doing what you love. Social media is still new to some and the idea of it being someone’s career or business is new as well. I say be patient. Also, talk to them about your social media goals, as perhaps they do not understand the full picture.
What is your dream partnership and why?
My dream partnership would involve acting. I’ve always wanted to be an actress, preferably a Bollywood actress because I know I would kill those dance numbers (haha!). Also, I would love to partner with Sandals Resorts and bring that Caribbean flavor they should be promoting.
Jay has collaborated with major brands like Samsung Mobile, Norwegian Cruise Line, AC Hotels, Disney Music Group, and Dunkin which is paramount for the Indo Caribbean community.
“I am the first Indo Caribbean woman to work with Norwegian Cruise Line as a content creator. Cruise travel is a huge part of my content journey. I love cruising and creating unique experiences and content. While cruising, I connected with the crew while most people typically do not. I treat everyone with respect,” Jay said
“I started a fun series called ‘Cruise Dances with the Crew’ back in August of 2021. There’s a playlist on TikTok with all of the fun dances. Prior to my first video, I had not seen anyone dancing on cruise ships with the crew. I guess you could say I started that trend.”
Nancy intertwined this partnership with her content and further put herself on the map.
Another pivotal partnership for Jay occurred in March 2021 when Dunkin chose her as one of 10 from a nationwide competition to feature her signature drink on the local menu.
How has content creation changed in the past two years?
Within the past two years, my content and style has grown tremendously. My gear list has also grown tremendously. I’ve been a content creator full time for a little over a year now. I have had more time to focus on the presentation and editing of my content.
What else do you want your viewers to not know about you or your work?
I stay true to who I am. Supporters who I’ve met in person can attest that I am the same, in-person and online. I like to keep things relatable, fun and authentic. I am working with a lot of big brands. I try to incorporate dance in all my content to capture my passion, diversity and culture.
I started teaching Caribbean Dance Fitness classes and private dance lessons officially in 2016. Since Covid, I moved everything online. Not only have I helped many learn how to dance but I have also helped build their confidence through dance and expression.
Lastly, I love traveling and encouraging others to live their best life.
Jay is more than a dancer; she is unapologetically herself. She maximizes opportunities and is building a brand that highlights her Indo Caribbean roots – a culture often not highlighted in mainstream media.
“After so Long” is a poetry film created for Simha’s EP, which is streaming on Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon Music. The poem was collaboratively written by Simha, a U.S. native, and Jae, who is based in India, during the 2020 lockdown. “After so Long” was recited by Simha and their parents. In 2022, I directed and produced the film through my studio, Star Hopper. “After so Long” premiered on Nowness Asia in March 2022.
This film is a worldwide collaboration among trans and queer south-Asian artists from the United States, India and Canada. It was recorded, shot and filmed during the lockdown of 2020 and 2021.
Awake at 10 am but out of bed at noon,
I want to be here where I lose myself in these sheets
Glancing through half-shut eyes
At the gold pressing past my window
The glimmer remarks on the ledge of my bed
But the voices are so loud
Like dust collecting in the corner of my room
I am unaware to why I’m still here
With the chilling doubt of the breeze…
I’m swept into lucidity After so long
Mil rahi hoon mein aaj iske saang barso baad,
(Today, I’ll be meeting them after so long)
Koi paata nahi diya tune
(But with no destination sight,)
(What should I do?)
(Where should I go?)
Shayad agar mein chalne lagoon,
(Perhaps, if I keep walking)
Inn yaadon ki safar mein
(Down this road of memories)
Mujhe samajh mein ayega,
(I will find out)
Yeh rasta kahaan jayega,
(Where this road leads)
Inn aari tedhi pakadandiyon pe baarte hi jaana hai,
(Through the twists and turns of this winding roads, I must keep going on)
Mujhe mil na hain aaj uske saath,
(I wish to meet them today)
(After so long)
I feel like I’m retracing my footsteps
From these concrete stretches
To broken cement walls
Chips and cracks forge their way for new designs
I see the old abandoned buildings
That once held the warmth of bodies
Now just hold memories
Supporting the nature’s resilience
In vines and moss
After so long
Dhoondli shishe mein jaaga leli hai
(These isty mirrors have offered refuge)
Bikhri hui laatao ne,
(To these scattered vines)
Zameen pe uchi ghaas pe
(Amidst the tall grass stretching from the ground)
Lehrati kamsan kaliyaa
(The swaying little buds)
Bheeni bheeni khushboo bikhereti
(Spreading honeysuckle scent through the air)
Phir wahi mausam,
(I lose myself in reminiscing, the same season)
(The same heart)
(After so long)
Phir bhi mein chal rahi hoon aaj
(Still, I keep carrying on today)
Khudko khudse milane ke liye
(In the pursuit of my higher self)
Inn galiyo se guzarna hain aaj
(I must pass through these streets today)
Chaalte chaale jaana hai aaj
(I must keep going on today)
Kabhi hum milenge kisi mor paar
(Someday, we’ll meet again, somewhere on this road)
(After so long)
Kabhi hum milenge kisi mor pe
(Someday, we’ll meet again, somewhere on this road)
(After so long)
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