Category Archives: Video

San Zhi: New band in town

It’s a different kind of joy listening to new bands – they’re fresh, and their gigs always seem intimate. It’s not like paying a ridiculous amount and getting a seat that’s not even worth the price. (Read my previous posts on To Kill A King and Benjamin Francis Leftwich.)

Last week, I paid £3 to see San Zhi at the Dalston Servant Quarters, and I must say that it’s one of the best gigs I’ve been to in a long time. This new London-based band is not only impressive but gets infectious.

I came across San Zhi through a friend who is a friend to Suraya, the female vocalist of the duo; the other member is vocalist and guitarist Peter Howarth-Brown.

The Egyptian and English duo met during their university studies and what started as a bedroom project is now out in an EP form.

San Zhi’s music is dreamy. Their single “Ice Light” starts with drum beats which in seconds is overlapped by guitars and keyboard before Suraya and Peter’s vocals sets that dreamy mood. While Suraya’s voice is distinct, Peter’s voice is difficult to ignore – there is some sort of unparalleled harmony that works perfectly fine.

Blakholes” also start with a distinct drum beat and a constant keyboard tune until Suraya kicks in – listening to the song, again, it’s very dreamy with a dose of heavy guitar and vocals that’ll at least keep you awake and make you realize that you’re still in San Zhi’s musical sphere.

“It struck us how many metaphors are being used to describe our music and perhaps especially those conveying the feeling of being transported into another world,” Suraya told me.

While listening to them, you can’t help but think about the influences from Aluna George and also The xx. During their session with BBC 1, Rob Da Bank says, “The xx, watch your back,” after San Zhi’s cover of Lauryn Hill’s “The Ex Factor.”

San Zhi’s music, according to Suraya is all about how they feel.

“Our main focus at this point is to make the music we feel,” she told me. “[We want] to express in lyrics the effect of cosmic and global vibrations in surreal terms whenever and wherever the mood takes us.”

San Zhi’s music has been on a loop since I’ve discovered them – it’s addictive.

I’m very much looking forward for their music in future, and hopefully a great album.

As the Guardian‘s Paul Lester puts it: “This pop duo tick all the right boxes for huge commercial success – they just need the right producer.”

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Bollywood: Bringing us together

I can speak Hindi not because I took classes, but I grew up watching Hindi movies. Well, that’s how influential Bollywood can be.

I have grown watching Shah Rukh Khan and Salman Khan growing old, and  Sri Devi and Madhuri Dixit disappearing from the silver screen. I’ve also witnessed the birth of the new generation of actors and actresses who now keeps Bollywood up and running as ever.

I can say that India’s multi-billion film industry has become an important part of my life, and I think I can somewhat speak for the rest.

We have laughed with it. Oh, the girls have cried their hearts out. And on some occasions, we have certainly bonded for Bollywood. In so many ways, I feel Bollywood has brought us together, as friends and as family: Watching a classic in the living room with my family, hearing them how much they adore classics, or bunking college classics to watch the early morning, cheap show of the latest Karan Johar movie.

And not to forget the music and typical Bollywood dance moves. Songs like “Jai Ho” has become an exemplar, making young, old, desis and bideshis (foreigners) show their moves.

On Saturday, about 200 people danced to “Jai Ho” at Victoria Embankment Garden in London. People joined in a synchronized Bollywood dance event to raise money for charity. It seemed like Bollywood bringing people together, having fun, and doing something for a cause regardless of their age or race. It was purely for the love of Bollywood, as it looked.

Bollywood has also helped me bond instantly in a foreign land.

Last year, in Durban, as the cab driver was listening to songs from “Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham,” I asked him if he liked Bollywood. The conversation that followed led to a “discount” and a good deal for a ride to the airport just because we loved Bollywood!

Maybe because it is so close to our culture and we can relate a lot with the characters and the plot, Bollywood seems to be close to our hearts. C’mon, I bet we all have remembered our friends and wanted to go on some trip while watching “Dil Chahta Hai” and “Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara,” if not anything else.

And as I am writing this, a list of Bollywood tunes is blaring on my iTunes, and I cannot stop saying, “There’s something about Bollywood!”

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Notes from Nepal: A health condition less known to Nepali women

It’s been about six months that Meena Chaudhary has had her life back.

For five years this 24-year-old from western Nepal’s Bardiya district had been constantly leaking urine that barred her from stepping outside her house; she was unable, yet compelled to do the household chores.

Unaware of the fact that it was a disease that could be cured, Meena and her family lived with it every day.

Like Meena, thousands of women in Nepal, live with this  medical condition known as obstetric fistula, a hole between the bladder and the vagina resulting into leakage of urine and stool.

Dr Kundu Yangzom, Professor and Head of Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Patan Academy of Health Sciences, says that in developing countries like Nepal, about 90% of fistula are caused following an obstructive or mismanaged labor. Another 10%, she adds, is uterogenic – that is, when the bladder gets injured during other gynecological surgeries.

“This kind of situation is particularly prevalent in young girls whose pelvis is not mature enough to have babies,” points out Yangzom, a fistula expert in Nepal. For 27 years, she has operated on more than 350 of the 420 (the estimate now is 600) cases reported in Nepal.

According to the recent data from the United Nations Population Fund, an estimated 200 to 400 cases of fistula are found every year. So far, there are only about 4,600 prevalent cases in the country. At least two million women in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and the Arab region are living with fistula, and some 50,000 to 100,000 new cases develop each year.

But in a country like Nepal racing to meet the Tier 5 of the Millennium Development Goal that aims to improve the maternal health, the Himalayan nation seems to have sidelined an aspect of maternal health affecting thousands of Nepali women silently.

In my interview with Nepal’s Health Secretary Sudha Sharma (she resigned last month), she said that the general impression compared to other health burdens such as uterine prolapses, which is highly prevalent in Nepal, fistula cases stands at a minimal level.

“For comprehensive management of all urological disorders in women related to prolapse and fistula, the government is helping the Maternity Hospital to develop itself as an urogynecological center,” Sharma gave an obvious reply.

As plans and policies are being discussed on paper and development works are being materliazed in the hospitals in city centers, women in rural Nepal are still deprived of every basic right—from health to education.

Meena and her village is a telling example. The nearest health care facility is hours away, and so women don’t bother to visit health facilities during pregnancy.

Also these communities have no skilled birth attendants; complicated deliveries could leave the mother and child dead or have women live with conditions as fistula.

And so is the reality as hundreds of women suffer in silence or die in deprivation of their right to basic health care.

Nepali version

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Women to be the ones most affected by changes in ESOL policy

Bishnu Maya Ale seems confused over the usage of proper nouns. As her English teacher explains to a small-sized class, Ale, whispers with her classmate, another Nepali, to check her answers.

Ale, in her 40s, is one of the many Nepalis who attend the English for immigrants program, known as ESOL, in the United Kingdom.

At a centre in Harrow, one of London’s boroughs, a group of men and women — the majority of them are women and most of them from Nepal — attend to enhance their language skills and sharpen their conversational ability.

But the recent changes on ESOL policy might change the scenario for many learners, especially women and the elderly.

The changes in the funding and eligibility criteria targeting people actively seeking work, says Geoff Trodd, Manager of Adult Community and Family Learning at Harrow Council, would have an impact on elderly, children and mostly women who would not meet the new eligibility criteria.

According to the latest report by Department for Business Innovation and Skills, women constitute a majority of the ESOL population: 68.1% in 2009-10.

One of the clauses of the latest change has a provision for free tuition only for learners in receipt of Job Seekers’ Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance.

Trodd says it is important for everyone to have an opportunity to acquire the language skills.

“It helps with community cohesion and community integration,” he says. “Especially for women and elderly, it is a vital tool to stop isolation.

Linda Lee, an ESOL teacher for 13 years, agrees. But at the same time she also notes that most of the women live and find comfort in their small communities, and that they don’t bother to venture out.

And even if they do, they tend to get through the language barrier for there is a big South Asian community speaking and sharing similar culture and even language up to a certain extent.

“But you need to learn the language of the country you’re living in,” Lee says. “If you live in any country and you don’t speak the language you’re going to feel isolated.”

And learning the language with the goal to fit into the new society is Rama Devi Rai, who came to the UK three months ago.

Though her English is a step ahead of most of the Nepali women in the class, Rai says she needs to improve.

“In order to get a job [and also promotion] you need to have an advanced level of understanding and conversational English,” she says.

“Also it helps with carrying your day-to-day life. You don’t have to be dependent on your husband and children.”

Rai expresses her happiness on having an opportunity to take the English classes without having to pay. She adds that it wouldn’t be feasible for her to continue if she were to pay.

For some women, the latest change in policies could play a part in hindering their opportunity to learn. But Ale says believes in the notion that where there is a will, there is a way.

For her, it’s about more than mastering the language. It’s about making one of her dreams come true.

“I have never stepped into a school or been in a classroom,” Ale says. “I always wished I could go to school, and I’m doing that here.”

Ale says she paid £250 when she started in 2007 and £450 the following year. Though studying for free at the moment, she says she is ready to pay the amount if she doesn’t fit into the new eligibility criteria.

“I’ve always wanted to go to school and learn,” she says. “Now I’ve been able to at least come this far, and even if I have to pay I’ll continue. I want to learn English.”


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Preston residents want their library back

Priya Shah’s reminiscences of growing up and reading at Preston Library could now only be a memory.

According to Brent Council’s Library Transformation programme, the Council decided to close six of the 12 libraries in the borough. Preston Library in Preston Road is among the ones on its deathbed along others in Kensal Rise, Barham Park, Neasden, Cricklewood and Tokyngton.

The Council decided the closure of the six libraries in April, but locals have challenged the decision despite a high court judge dismissing the claims that it is “fundamentally flawed and unlawful.”

“It’s ridiculous,” Shah says of the Council’s decision, stating her determination to fight.

Standing outside the library, now boarded, with other locals, Shah is a part of the Preston Library Campaign, a part of the Brent SOS Library Campaign working to save the libraries.

“People think libraries are the soft touch, they’re the easy ones,” she says, adding, “ [Council thinks] no one uses them and so they can close. People do use them…they can afford the libraries and people are using them.”

The libraries, according to the Council, will help them save the £104 million that will help them improve the services of the remaining libraries.

Though the Council declined to comment on the issue, it’s press release cites “unsuitable locations,” and “badly in need of expensive and unaffordable repairs” as being the reason for closing the libraries.

The press release further states that the closure of these libraries will not affect the communities.

“Under our proposals all residents will be within one-and-a-half miles of a new and improved library.”

But locals disagree.

Doreen Gill, 71, frequently comes to stand outside the barricaded library and show her solidarity with others. Gill, who has been living in the area since 1946 says the closure of the Preston Library will affect the elderly.

“Old people used to come here to read and socialise. Where will they go now, since many of them are not able to take a bus to the closest library in Wembley?”

And to save their libraries, locals have raised more then 30,000 and collected 10,000 signatures, and countless messages on the boarded wall, to appeal the council in court that has been granted for November.

Along with his community, Counsellor for the Preston Ward, Harshadbhai Patel, believes that the Council’s and the court’s decision is wrong.

“We are expecting the decision will be in our favour,” he says.

Video produced and reported by Wendy Anstead, Stefania Barbaglio and Bibek Bhandari.

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Occupy London evokes a sense of community among campaigners

On October 15, the starting point for Occupy London Stock Exchange campaign, Floellia helped a young university student to set up a tent. Hours later, the like-minded two bonded and crashed in the same tent along with another person on a cold London night.

“Three strangers crashed in a tent for a night, and I’m sure we’re going to be friends forever,” says Floellia who didn’t want to identify her last name.

On the fourth day since the campaign began in London following other cities around the world, most of the people showed solidarity and spoke of support for their presence in the St Paul’s area. They reflected a sense of community and a selfish motive.

Organized by the Occupy London group, largely a campaign through social media, the organizers say roughly 4,000 to 5,000 became a part of the event on Saturday. While many came and went, some of the few determined to stay back, camping on tents outside St Paul’s Cathedral in London’s financial district.

London’s event marks the ongoing “occupy” protests around the world aiming at economic injustices criticizing governments for being influenced by corporations. The protests have been followed by more than 900 cities worldwide.

Phil McKeenen, 37-year-old broadcaster who runs an Internet radio station sees events like these as “defining point of our civilization, not just generation.”

He says that it’s not the time people sit in their kitchens and discuss the issues but come out and take a stand.

“We’re actually going to take these opportunities we have and come here, say something and try standing up for it,” he says.

And so far, according to David Ham at the campaign’s information center, though the numbers keep fluctuating, some 100 tents have been set up with about 600 people.

He says people of “all classes, all regions, all cultures” has created a good communal atmosphere adding that “its democracy at its best.”

And people were exercising their rights within a community of people sharing the same values, progressing toward a common goal.

Braving the chilly wind and cold autumn nights, men and women bundled in blankets and sleeping bags, shared tents. While the communal kitchen cooked and provided food, a small first aid center was set up with doctors and nurses. There is also a media center and a library that hosts lectures and workshops.

“It’s all like-minded people with like-minded ideas,” McKeenen says. “It’s a real diverse bunch which goes to accentuate the profundity of what’s going in here [and] we want a profound change.”

But can these people, battling the cold, out of their homes and on the streets lead into a solution?

While many might think the negative, Jack Hartup, 21, thinks it is possible.

“Even if it doesn’t it’s not the way u look at it,” he says as he sits inside the tent as the wind tries to blow it away. “Doing a protest isn’t going to change everything, its more about taking a stand and making your voice heard.”

The banners that surrounds the area makes it apparent what they’re there for: against the financial prejudices and big companies corrupting the world. the Tahrir Square, City of Westminster sign a reminder of the people’s power.

And that’s only the way, Floellia says.

“If we had another way that we would be listened to, I’m sure we would do that than sleeping on cold floors,” she says. “But unfortunately that’s the choice we have.”

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Check this space for video tomorrow.

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