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Book: Turntable Stories

Chapter: Vinyl Disruptions

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.46298


I am proposing to write a memoir-based, creative nonfiction essay on the role of vinyl in an immigrant South Asian family, spanning the 1970s to the early 21st century in Toronto, Canada. I want to share stories about the role that records played in my parents’ connection to the world they left behind, especially for my father who was renowned musician in southern Ontario’s classical Hindustani music scene. However, the thrust of this essay will be on how me, my siblings and other South Asian friends in our social circles relied on vinyl to cultivate our unique sense of cultural identity, one that was undeniably hybrid, but not in the East-meets-West sense of the term.

While cultural identity is the key theme of this essay, it will also branch out to reflections on professional identity, and how vinyl latter helped me as well as my brother find careers in music journalism, DJ culture, turntablism, electronic music production and in his case, songwriting and production work for artists such as Drake.

In many ways, this essay is about disrupting the two meta-narratives of second-generation, diasporic South Asian youth in the West: the one of “culture-clash” and the one of reconciling “the best of both worlds”. Music plays a critical role in enabling these disruptions, especially since the anecdotes here will deal with multiple genres including post-punk, hip-hop, and the many sub-genres of electronic dance music, not to mention the variety of subcontinental Indian forms both traditional and modern.

Vinyl records will play an important role in the piece, but it also opens the ecosystem of record shops, cassette culture, radio media and nightlife as the spaces through which my now multi-generational diasporic South Asian family’s identities were (and continue to be) created.

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