Review of the Documentary “Pardesi”

A 1992 documentary about the roots of the Asian Underground

Douglas Giles, PhD

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This is a rare documentary, Pardesi, released in 1992 by French filmmakers Martina Catella and Michel Follin, produced by PMA-Ethnies Visions. Most of the dialogue is in English with French subtitles throughout. The word “pardesi” means foreigner or stranger in (ironically) both Urdu and Hindi, from par (other) and desi (country).

I didn’t discover Pardesi until 2017, but I was long familiar with this music having been a world fusion music DJ since 1998. This is the music I love and more so, the independent spirit toward music that I love and admire. I highly recommend it.

Aki Nawaz in “Pardesi”

The Student on a Quest

The film follows Aki Nawaz (Southern Death Cult, Mynta, Getting the Fear, Fun-Da-Mental) as he explores the meaning of the Asian Underground music scene that was emerging in England in the early 1990s. But this is not a straight music documentary but an exploration of the combinations of spirituality and music and East and West. Nawaz speaks with a number of musicians and scholars, and we get some interesting insights on how cultures and music can clash but also can blend and fuse. The film reflects on the problem of identity faced by the children of immigrants who grow up needing to reconcile and balance multiple cultures. Nawaz remarks that “we have a duty to understand our traditions and decide which values we wish to keep.” He seeks to understand how to express the problem of identity through music and the question of how to mix spirituality and music.

Central to the consideration of these questions for Nawaz is his Islamic faith and tradition. In one scene, Nawaz asks Dr. Akbar Ahmed (formerly Chair of Pakistan Studies at the University of Cambridge) “Can I be a musician and a Muslim?” Dr. Ahmed’s basic answer is yes, if done in the right spirit, and among Dr. Ahmed’s words of wisdom is this:

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Douglas Giles, PhD

Philosopher by trade & temperament, professor for 21 years, bringing philosophy out of its ivory tower and into everyday life. https://linktr.ee/dgilesphd