Top 10 Brown Bands (Or, Mom, Why Didn’t You Let Me Take Guitar Lessons?)

By Anupa Mistry

We all know white people listen to bands with white people in them, so why can’t I be partial to bands with brown people in them? Oh, you ain’t know there exists a significant body of work beyond M.I.A.? THERE DOES:

1. Das Racist: Here’s a sample lyric from “Ek Shaneesh” which basically made me feel 75 per cent less alone in the world:

Listening to Three Stacks, reading Gaya Spivak
Listening to KMD and feeling weird about Naipaul
Fly or style warz, war style Warsaw
Listening to jams with they pops about dem batty boys
Listening to Can while I’m reading Arundhati Roy
Yeah, yeah, my pops drove a cab homes
Now I drop guap just to bop in the cab home

I MEAN, WE ALL FELT WEIRD ABOUT NAIPAUL, RIGHT???

2.  Shilpa Ray and her Happy Hookers: Shilpa Ray, the coolest possible incarnation of a harmonium-playing Bad Indian Girl (I can’t believe that website still exists).

3. Yeasayer: Anand Wilder: a name I’d hate on a white guy (judgy face, Devendra Banhart), but turns my eyes into hearts on a brown.

4. Woodhands: They’re Canadian so I want to take Paul Banwatt to my former Brampton high school and make him play songs in the cafeteria underneath a sign that reads, “Choices: You Have Them.” (Only I’M allowed to make these jokes about Brampton.)

5. Bat For Lashes: Her name is Natasha Khan and she painted her face, minus the lazy “tribal” connotations, before Drew Barrymore and Kelly Osborne. And, OMG, Gwyneth Paltrow in that “I AM AFRICAN” campaign, which makes me feel both embarrassed for her + pukey. Back to Bat For Lashes who also rules because she did Kings of Leon’s song better than them!

6. Vampire Weekend: I actually don’t really give this band a pass because their music is basically colonialism in MP3 form. But Rostam Batmanglij is Iranian and gay, and I always give it up for the gay ethnics (hey parents, they exist!). OH, but Vampire Weekend is all happy sounding and shit, and how can I not be into that? All the more reason to be suspicious. Shout out Miriam and Amadou!

7. Jai Paul: Drake’s lifting of Jai Paul’s one and only song, “BTSTU,” means it is obviously the hottest shit out. Know how I know I’ve got a trace of “Hindustan Zindabad” in me? Because hearing Jai Paul’s whispery-sweet vocals used to fuel sub-par rapping (“too fucking busy/too busy fucking”) put me in a faux-murderous rage for at least five hours. Oh, shiiit!

8. Norah Jones: ROYALTY. Aside from owning a few 70s pop LPs, my parents basically don’t pay attention to any Western music. Here’s what my mom listens to now: bhajans, Bollywood oldies, Norah, bhajans. ALSO, OMG:

9. The Kominas: In grade six, I had the biggest crush on Tony Kanal from No Doubt because he was the first cool Indian musician I had ever seen. MY ultimate 90s couple broke up before I even knew they existed: Tony + Gwen = 4eva. The Kominas have multiple (!!) brown guitar players for maximum crush potential, plus they covered a Bolly classic at BBC’s Maida Vale studios, PLUS PLUS they are like, actually, part of a movement.

10. Vijay Iyer: A former mathematician turned jazz pianist who covered M.I.A.’s “Galang” on his Grammy-nominated album, Trio? Bestill my “Marry Up” heart.

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