Bollywood, California: Navigating Cultural Appropriation as an ABCD
What is the difference between “cultural appropriation” and “cultural appreciation”? In his debut book of essays, Soundstorm: Musings on the Madness of the Modern Music Ecosystem, 22-year-old Saransh Desai-Chowdhry recalls navigating the diffusion of South Asian musical trends into American music and media as a child. There were times when hearing sitar samples on Top 40 radio made him feel validated by the dominant culture he belonged to. Other times, witnessing American pop stars don auspicious religious symbols on MTV stages as nothing more than haphazard accessories felt alienating — even nefarious.
As many young South Asians face such shifts in media representation, this talk aims to pose questions about identity, creative expression, globalization and commercialization. What makes the moral boundaries of cultural exchange so nebulous? What does the entertainment industry’s emphasis on multiculturalism mean for the next generation of South Asian Americans? And in what ways are young people being shaped by consuming pop cultural representations of their heritages that straddle the line between understanding and insensitivity?
Saransh Desai-Chowdhry is an author, marketer, artist manager and musician who calls NYC home. He is a recent graduate of New York University, where he crafted an interdisciplinary concentration in Cultural Entrepreneurship, earning highest honors. Throughout college, he interned at music companies such as Sony Music, Live Nation, and Roc Nation, managed independent artists, and studied cultural criticism and musicology. He spent an immersive semester in Paris as a French minor and was a leader on campus in business, music, and writing-oriented organizations. Originally from Los Angeles, Saransh earned a Sangeet Visharad degree in Hindustani vocal classical music after eleven years of training. Today, he works as an Associate at AlphaSights and the Social Media Lead for Trailblazers, a new media platform focused on highlighting pioneers across the South Asian diaspora.