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East Eats West
Emily Gertz, 18 Jun 05

mtvdesi.jpg"Live from Jackson Heights, Queens, it's MTV Desi!"

In late July, MTV will premiere MTV Desi, a new music tv offering aimed squarely at second-generation Indian-Americans (desis). The channel will mix Bollywood videos with Asian Massive, add a shot of M.I.A., offer up cross-generational comedy (one suspects a la The Kumars at No 42), interviews with bicultural artists, profiles of happening desis and live house parties.

It's a mass culture tap into the notion of transnational identity -- the idea that despite a degree of assimilation, immigrant communities now retain close ties to their native cultures, thanks to easy air travel, transglobal business and trade, and you-are-there communications technologies. Unlike previous generations (say, that of my grandparents and parents, early 20th century immigrants and first-gen Americans, respectively), the "old country" isn't being left behind forever. This hybrid identity leaves a lot of young Asian-Americans hungry for pop culture that reflects their ties to both West and East.

MTV Desi will be the vanguard for two other Asian-American channels: MTV Chi, a melange of Chinese diaspora popcult, and MTV K, merging South Korean and Korean-American pop music. Says MTV exec Nusrat Durrani, "This country has had the African-American experience, the Hispanic-American experience, and now it is the time for the third-largest group, the Asian-Americans." While of Russo-Jewish extraction, I look forward to getting my fixes of Karsh Kale, DJ Cheb i Sabbah, Tabla Beat Science et cetera that much more easily.

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