(aka “Vivek Bald’s Films and Stories”)
Vivek Bald, writer, filmmaker, and MIT professor, reads from his new book Bengali Harlem and the Lost Histories of South Asian America and presents clips from his work-in-progress, the film In Search of Bengali Harlem, and an excerpt from his rarely seen 2003 documentary Mutiny: Asians Storm British Music, about South Asian youth, music, and anti-racist activism in 1970s-90s Britain.
Vivek Bald in person
More details below.
Mutiny: Asians Storm British Music (dir. Vivek Bald, 2003)
Combining music documentary and social documentary, Mutiny: Asians Storm British Music charts the meteoric rise of South Asian electronic music in 1990s Britain, focusing particularly on the decades of cultural cross-pollination and political struggle that led up to that pivotal decade. Shot independently on digital video between 1996 and 2002, Mutiny features Asian Dub Foundation, Talvin Singh, Fun^Da^Mental, Anjali, State of Bengal, and many others, documenting a crucial moment in the cultural and political coming-of-age of Asian Britain.
“Concert footage, TV clips, interviews and more are briskly interwoven into an energetic documentary.” –Variety
“Great fun – a journey through some of the most historic moments of the diasporic musical movement.”
–Gurinder Chadha, Bend It Like Beckham
Bengali Harlem and the Lost Histories of South Asian America
(Harvard University Press, 2013)
In the final years of the nineteenth century, small groups of Muslim peddlers arrived at Ellis Island every summer, bags heavy with embroidered silks from their home villages in Bengal. The American demand for “Oriental goods” took these migrants on a curious path, from New Jersey’s beach boardwalks into the heart of the segregated South. Two decades later, hundreds of Indian Muslim seamen began jumping ship in New York and Baltimore, escaping the engine rooms of British steamers to find less brutal work onshore. As factory owners sought their labor and anti-Asian immigration laws closed in around them, these men built clandestine networks that stretched from the northeastern waterfront across the industrial Midwest.
The stories of these early working-class migrants vividly contrast with our typical understanding of immigration. At a time when Asian immigrants were vilified and criminalized, Bengali Muslims quietly became part of some of America’s most iconic neighborhoods of color, from Tremé in New Orleans to Black Bottom, Detroit, from West Baltimore to Harlem.