Each week, we’re asking different writers, artists and others to share some of their current favorites. This week we feature picks from Tanzila “Taz” Ahmed.
1. Thuggee Cult
I “discovered” the Los Angeles-based group Thuggee Cult when producing the album Beats for Bangladesh: A Benefit Album in Solidarity with the Garment Workers of Rana Plaza, a project of Mishthi Music. Named after the roaming gang of bandits, their beats are fresh like a cracked pomegranate and their lyrics have enough subversiveness to make Edward Said proud and Miss America haters fall to their knees in confusion. And, of course, for the subaltern to twerk.
Listen to their track “Thomas Friedman and the Orientalist Express” on the Beats for Bangladesh album and stream their latest EP Can the Subaltern Freak? whenever you want.
2. Bong Mom’s Cookbook by Sandeepa Mukherjee Datta
When my Mom died two years ago, I became obsessed with trying cooking Bangladeshi food — because it reminded me of her. “Trying” being the key word here — I had taken note of none of her recipes before her passing. And unfortunately, the “Indian” food you find in popular Indian cookbooks for Americans was missing the fish, mustard oil, and spices that reminded me of my mother’s Bangladeshi cooking. During frantic googling I stumbled upon Bong Mom’s Cookbook, a blog by Sandeepa Datta, a Bengali mother in New York who was trying to capture the taste of her home, with an American twist.
Not fusion, Sandeepa’s recipes take into consideration the foods you can find easily in the US, the busy schedule of American living, healthier recipe adjustments to the classics and the finicky tastes of children. All her recipes are laced with beautiful narratives of, well, everyday life. Not exotic travel or motherland lust.
I was delighted to learn that her blog was turned into a book, and I ordered it as soon as I could. The book reads like a novel with recipes interspersed. It tangibly reminds me how Bengalis love mustard oil mashed veggies, milky sweet doi, fresh greens with shrimp for flavor, and fish curry (fried first Calcutta-style). Not a month goes by where I don’t visit her website for recipes of the current season. I highly recommend the book — especially if you are a newbie cook like myself.
3. Nisha Sembi and Khushboo Gulati
I’ve been procrastinating from writing lately by taking a paintbrush to the raw skateboard. My art has been directly inspired by two artistic muses — both young Desi Californian women that incorporate henna patterns into street culture.
The first is Nisha Sembi of Kalakari Collective, a Bay Area street artist who sprays, tags, and stencils whatever she can. She’s recently been showing her work internationally, from London to Mumbai to Oakland. Check out her site and watch this video and tell me you’re not impressed.
The second artist, Khushboo Gulati, I met in 2011 when she came as a teenager to a camp I organized at called Bay Area Solidarity Summer (BASS). She was the only one to take advantage of our graffiti wall. Since then, she’s blossomed into an amazing artist who incorporates feminist social justice themes into her colorful henna-patterned pieces. Follow her art on her Kalisherni tumblr.
4. Totally Radical Muslims
It takes an ’80s kid to crack a sly smile at the sound of the words “Totally Radical Muslims” all stringed together. Side pony tails on hijabs, neon doubled socks under burkas, and Hypercolored prayer mats are NOT what you will find within the pages of a Totally Radical Muslims zine. This month, the “TRM” released a second volume, a zine full of poetry and prose from Muslims on the margins with the themes of Karbala and Resistance. Volume 1’s theme was Islamophobia.
Does the term “radical Muslim” get you filled with FOX-fueled frenzied paranoia? Relax. These kids are a collective of Oakland based Muslims who started creating zines to confront, share, name and re-imagine experiences of Islamophobia. Pick up Karbala Fired Resistance Stories at www.totallyradicalmuslims.com, or if you’re in Los Angeles, come to the Night of Open Mic, Poetry & Prose release party for the zine on October 11 at 7:30 p.m. at The Last Bookstore downtown. I’ll be hosting.
Tanzila “Taz” Ahmed is an activist, storyteller, and politico based in California and currently works as the voter engagement manager at Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles. She also organizes with BASS and South Asians for Justice. A long-time writer for Sepia Mutiny, she was published in the anthology Love, Inshallah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women, and in Totally Radical Muslims. Her projects include Mutinous Mind State and Mishthi Music. Find her rants at @tazzystar.