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Archive for the ‘Asia’ Category

Can hip hop improve US-Pakistan relations? (BBC)

16 November 2011

Relations between the US and Pakistan are going through a fairly difficult period.  American lawmakers have questioned the sincerity of their ally and Pakistanis express anger over the use of drone strikes.  Now the US State Department is launching a new cultural initiative to try to win over young Pakistanis.  Wendy Urquhart reports.

US State Dept. sends Chen Lo to Vietnam

After a successful t our of the Middle East and North Africa , the US State Dept. has dispatched Hip Hop ambassador Chen Lo on a tour of Vietnam.

From Vietnam News

US consulate sponsors hip-hop programme

HCM CITY — Three hip-hop performers from the US will conduct training programmes in Ha Noi, Hai Phong, HCM City and Can Tho between May 9 and 22.

Break dancer Brandon “Peace” Albright, rapper Chen Lo and DJ Scan will take part in the programme sponsored by the US Department of State and the US Consulate General in HCM City.

The programme is part of a series of events which the consulate organises to promote cultural exchange and mutual understanding between the people of the US and Viet Nam.

American hip hop is at the centre of a worldwide music and fashion trend that crosses social barriers and cuts across racial lines.

The group will conduct a two-day training and exchange programme (May 17-18) at the Dance School of HCM City for 35 local break dancers, rappers and DJs.

The training will include a brief history of hip hop and hands-on demonstrations of artistic techniques.

After HCM City, the group will travel to Can Tho City to conduct a similar programme on May 20 – 21 at the Can Tho Cultural Centre.

Each American hip-hop envoy has previously participated in US Department of State cultural exchange programmes in other countries.

US Embassy Sponsors Hip Hop in Nepal

From the US Embassy in Kathmandu (courtesy of CAO Terry White)

From March 1-6, the U.S. Embassy sponsored Hip-Hop themed workshops, master classes, and concerts, reaching more than 2,500 Nepali youth.

The U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu sponsored three hip hop artists from the Global Block Foundation targeting youth in Pokhara (approximately 200km west of Kathmandu) and the capital Kathmandu from March 1 to 6, 2010.  This program was a part of the State Department’s Performing Arts Initiative.

In Pokhara 90 hip-hop enthusiasts attended workshops and more than 1,000 students enjoyed public exhibitions at their school premises.  In Kathmandu 320 youth hip-hop enthusiasts attended six different workshops, master classes and lectures with themes ranging from “Origins of Hip-Hop” to “Basic Rhyme/Positive Expression.” In addition, 600 students in Kathmandu enjoyed an interactive public exhibition at their school. The group also participated in a jam session with local musicians in front of 250 music lovers. The Global Block Foundation’s program culminated in a night concert in conjunction with local artists and musicians with 300 audience members.

The participants were principally youth (particularly high school aged students), musicians, educators, rappers, and dancers. Approximately 30% of all participants were female.

Very glad to see Terry White keepin Hip Hop Diplomacy alive wherever he goes. More on this soon…

My name is Khan and I’m not a terrorist

“My name is Khan, and I am not a terrorist” . This is the leitmotif of the new film from acclaimed Bollywood director, Karan Johar, and it is one that bears repeating, especially in the United States. The main character, a Muslim Indian with a severe case of Asperger’s syndrome (played by Bollywood megastar Shah Rukh Khan, who is also Muslim), first utters these words at the very beginning of the film, as he is being roughly searched at the San Francisco Airport. This sets up the primary theme of the film (which Khan’s grandmother whispers to him before he sets out for America), that “there are two kinds of people in the world, good and bad”. What she doesn’t explain to him, however, is that most people tend to extend this judgement over entire groups and have difficulty making exceptions to their deeply-ingrained prejudices. Such is the painful truth that Khan is forced to learn in post-9/11 America, as a series of anti-Muslim attacks unfold, including one that results in the death of his wife’s son, who isn’t even Muslim. Khan sets out on a Gump-esque mission to tell as many people as he can that he is “not a terrorist”, including President Bush, to whom he shouts those very words at a rally and is promptly tackled by Secret Service and sent to an FBI detention center for interrogation. Khan is eventually released when 2 young Indian journalists come across video footage of the rally to corroborate Khan’s story but the point has been made: In the US, if you’re name is Khan, you will be treated like a terrorist.

And, in the great tradition of art imitating life, this point proved true last summer when Shah Rukh Khan, the actor who plays Khan in the film, was detained at Newark Airport for over an hour of “secondary questioning”. Khan, one of the biggest film stars in India and the developing world, was on his way to New York to promote “My Name is Khan” when this tragically ironic twist of fate occurred. Below is a news report from CNN-IBN.

By the end of the 2.5hr film, Khan has also journeyed to a poor village in the deep South and helped save a Black church after a Katrina-esque hurricane, establishing an interesting link between Muslims and African-Americans and setting up the requisite happy ending (a natural law in Bollywood) in which the newly-elected President Obama awards Khan for his heroism and says to him, “Your name is Khan and you are not a terrorist!”. Then everyone in the crowd joins hands to sing “We Shall Overcome”  and we all live tolerantly ever after.

But only in the movies. In the real world, President Obama has fallen well short of the promise he made last April, in Cairo , “to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect…” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Doha last month, at the US-Islamic World Forum , conceding that the Obama administration had not yet fulfilled many of the policy changes it had promised and pleading for patience. The Secretary spoke of “shared responsibility” but the general consensus across the Arab World is that the US commitment has been “insufficient and insincere”. One need only look at the stalled Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and ongoing occupation of Gaza, the still-open detention center at Guantanamo, the expansion of the war in Afghanistan, diplomatic deadlock with Iran, and a lack of cultural engagement to see why Muslims the world over are feeling disappointed and deceived.

Meanwhile, the White House recently announced the appointment of a new “special envoy” to the Organization of the Islamic Conference , a group of 57 states that considers itself the collective voice of Muslims around the world. And, guess what… the special envoy is a Muslim! But, luckily for him, perhaps, his name is not Khan. It’s Rashad Hussain, a deputy White House counsel who helped prepare the Cairo speech last year. The White House touted this appointment (which comes less than 1 year after the State Dept.’s appointment of a ‘special representative’ to the Muslim world, Farah Pandith ) as “an important part of the president’s commitment to engaging Muslims around the world based on mutual respect and mutual interest”.

In honor of all the Khans in the US and abroad who are not terrorists, I will withhold my applause until Mr. Obama and his special representatives actually get on the stage and start singing the song they promised us all we would hear. They may not know the exact words yet, but it couldn’t hurt to take a cue from one very hopeful Hindi film and just start humming “We Shall Overcome”.

Here’s a teaser from the official website with a familiar melody…

And here’s the full trailer with English subtitles

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