When she was growing up in leafy Buckinghamshire just outside London in the Seventies, Anjula Acharia-Bath, founder and chief executive officer of Desi Hits!, traversed the separate cultures of her British homeland and her parents' native India.
When she was growing up in leafy Buckinghamshire just outside London in the Seventies, Anjula Acharia-Bath, founder and chief executive officer of Desi Hits!, traversed the separate cultures of her British homeland and her parents' native India. "I didn't have what I wanted — the best of the East and the West," Acharia-Bath recalled. "I spent my whole childhood not wanting to be Indian. I grew up in an area that was incredibly racist. At one point, swastikas were painted on our garage door once a month; every month my father was painting the garage."
A turning point came during high school, as friends of Acharia-Bath began going to her house for her aunt's curry, no longer asking her if she ate curry all the time. (She ate it around twice a week.) For the 36-year-old founder of the nascent, online pop-culture hub Desi Hits!, that shift in her friends' outlook hinted at the beginnings of a sensibility fusing aspects of Desi, or South Asian, culture with Britain's more traditional, Western influences.
These days, she said, Bollywood is outselling a lot of Hollywood releases in the U.K., like "Sometimes Happy, Sometimes Sad" (2001), which trumped the Tom Cruise star power of "Mission Impossible III." And hip-hop has long been fused with Indian sounds, such as Bhangra, folk music originating in northwest India whose sometimes pulsating beats make for an easy blend with the street motif. "Kids being born and raised in two cultures now are making Desi sounds their own, versus, say, The Beatles finding Indian music, cutting a track [with it] and it being more self-contained," Acharia-Bath said of a difference she perceives between songs such as Jay-Z and Punjabi MC's Desi fusion "Beware of the Boys," and "Love You To," an early foray by The Beatles into the Indian sounds of tabla drums and sitar, on "Revolver" (1966).
Jump-cut to 21st-century San Francisco, where the sharp cultural distinctions she found were a surprise (and a reprise) for Acharia-Bath, who arrived there six years ago when her husband took a job with Intel. Though she's now developing fusion entertainment projects with Violator Management artists 50 Cent and LL Cool J, and an eight-part comedy series with IFCtv and former "Saturday Night Live" cast member Chris Kattan, the Desi Hits! ceo said the U.S. is probably five years away from a time when South Asian culture takes hold well beyond the three million people who are thought to be regularly creating and partaking of it here. It's at that point she'd expect to see a stronger influence in music and film stemming from Desi, a play on the word desh (land, as in from the motherland). So far, she considers its impact here "minimal."
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