A Glimpse Inside A Music Festival Celebrating Diasporic South Asian Identities

A Glimpse Inside A Music Festival Celebrating Diasporic South Asian Identities

Last weekend saw East London coming out in full form as the Dialled In festival kicked in its second edition. Not to be mistaken as some regular gig, Dialled In comes packed with cultural relevance and an initiative directed at uncovering a ‘new South Asian underground’ pushing genres like Punjabi garage, grime, dub, and rock mixed with Indian classical music into the mainstream.

While Dialled In seems to be a fairly new festival, its approach towards rallying forward the legacy of 80s and 90s Daytimers rave scene, is deep-rooted in diasporic history.

Dialled In Music Festival

According to Azeema, Daytimers were vibrant bhangra-and-bass underground rave parties held by South Asians in the UK.

The historically significant events were attended by thousands of South Asian students bunking school in the UK to dedicate themselves to celebrating their Desi diasporic identities and exploring the breadth of South Asian creativity on the dance floor. Regarded as a mass cultural moment, every Wednesday would find clubs across Northern England and West London packed with South Asian youth that included first-generation immigrant women especially, claiming their space and shedding the subservient, repressed stereotypes of the West. Giving way to a generation of singers, and new-age DJs, the movement helped many kids shape their interpretations of British-desi identities and find a balance between two polarizing worlds.

Organised by notable South Asian collectives like the Daytimers and NO ID, the festival took place in East London with an explosive lineup of South Asian artist takeovers at Hackney art venue ‘Earth’. It featured more than 30 acts including creatives like Sitar maestro Anoushka Shankar, Yung Singh, Anish Kumar, Hungama, and Pxssy Palace followed by an after-party headlined by electronic powerhouse Four Tet.

Challenging the predominantly whitewashed spaces of the art world, the festival aims to pave a path for emerging South Asian creatives and aims to create a safe space for community-building in what feels like an immersive music festival.

A brief conversation with our friend Pooja Sivaraman, a volunteer at the festival revealed that with the Ramadan season falling at the same time, the festival had guaranteed provisions for people fasting to skip food queues and head out for prayers, adding to the ‘unity in diversity’ sentiment that the diaspora reinstates time and again. Divided into three different rooms — the hall known as the rave space, the theatre allocated for the biggest acts of the night like Anoushka and Hungama, and the kitchen that featured food stalls, DJ spaces and a dance floor, the festival proved to be an immersive experience for all.

While the festival truly delivered an unforgettable turn-up experience, it also opened the path for a discussion around immigrant communities and the need to usher in creative spaces that celebrate the unmissable impact of brown creatives.

“It was absolutely amazing to be in a space where for once, your skin colour and identity wasn’t the thing being questioned or put on a radar. It wasn’t something tacky or forceful. Dialled In was really of, for, and by the brown community - right from the organizers to the music to the attendees, it was a celebration of the vast expansiveness of brown culture and what it stands for and signifies in 2022.”

— Yatin Sri, an attendee at the festival.

It was remarkable to note the grand display of collective energy that the space represented as South Asians from near and far flew in to participate in the iconic festival and cheer on their favourite artists performing. Electric crowds, a soul-soothing variety of Asian cuisine including butter chicken and momo stalls and a sense of belonging wafted through the much-anticipated festival. Putting desi music on the map, preserving a vibrant brown club culture, and signifying a cultural blend of British and Indian identities, this is an exciting space that is certainly worth checking out for yourself.

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