Bombay’s history is woven around tales of cosmopolitanism. But while the grandiose architecture of the colonial city gets all the attention, the vernacular architecture built by the cosmopolitanism from below in the so-called “Native Town” nearby is too often overlooked.
In the southern Indian port city of Kochi, millennia of merchant cosmopolitanism have contributed to the growth of a diverse and syncretic culture that combines faiths, practices, and forms from across the Indian Ocean rim. The history of Syriac Christianity and Sephardic Judaism in the region offer a unique perspective on Kerala’s historic relationship with the Middle East.
Ajam co-editor-in-chief Alex Shams interviews Shahana Rajani and Zahra Malkani about their new edited volume “Exhausted Geographies,” which explores representations of the urban space of Karachi, Pakistan through mapping.
The items collected for the Ajam Digital Archive will allow us to document and record history from below—how it was actually lived, experienced, and understood. It is precisely these histories that were ignored in favor of tales that focused exclusively on wars and revolutions, rarely giving us a sense of how life was lived amidst it all.
Despite the Zoroastrian community’s waning numbers, the urban fabric of Mumbai’s older neighborhoods remain dominated by symbols and reminders of the Parsi and Irani communities’ success in the Subcontinent.
Shahzad’s rap attempts a resurrection not only of a distinct Sindhi language, but also a Sindhi culture. His songs aren’t just in Sindhi, he also sees them as a continuation of the long Sindhi tradition of Sufi poems. While other Pakistani rappers, prominently BillyX, rap about topics deeply taboo in Pakistani society – sex and intoxicants – Shahzad seeks to reinvigorate a more traditional subject matter. But why through rap? Why resuscitate a tradition through a medium that is foreign to it? He likens it to wearing western dress when going to school; the medium does not compromise the message.
Languages such as Punjabi and Pashto offer a versatile slang to many a Pakistani street. And the streets are where lyrics overwhelmingly situate rap. The introduction of Punjabi-American rap into Pakistan invigorated its rappers by furnishing them with a vernacular familiar with their experiences. Far from a shadow of its American progenitor, contemporary Pakistani rap thrives in engaged dialectic with local and global trends in the genre.
As a cultural production with a decidedly liberal agenda, Khuda Ke Liye’s failure to challenge the conflation of Islamic religious conservatism with misogyny and anti-Americanism, and the converse equation of liberalism with feminism and pacifism vis-à-vis the U.S., highlights an internalization of the War on Terror narrative among many Pakistani liberals.