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‘Dictating what is India n’: backlash over Urdu phrase in fashion advert

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‘Dictating what is Indian’: backlash over Urdu phrase in fashion advert

Released just as festival season is kicking off across India, it looked like your average advert for festive attire. Models posed, resplendent in red and gold, showing off the newest collection by Fabindia that was said to “pay homage to Indian culture”.

Yet, in just a matter of hours, the poster had sent convulsions through India. A boycott was called against Fabindia, a staple brand in the country, and by the end of the day the advert had been taken down after it was deemed offensive to Hinduism by members of the ruling Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) and right-wing Hindu groups.

The vehement objections to the Fabindia advert were a direct response to the name of the collection, “Jashn-e-Riwaaz”, a phrase that means “celebration of tradition” in Urdu.

According to BJP figures, rightwing commentators and Hindu groups who waded in, the use of Urdu in an advert for a clothes collection associated with Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, was “culturally inappropriate” and offensive to Hinduism.

Urdu is a language which has its origins in India. It is recognised in the constitution as one of the country’s official languages and is what some of India’s most celebrated poems and love songs are written in. Yet in recent years its use has become increasingly politicised in the public sphere, often decried as the “Muslim” language of India’s rival, the neighbouring Islamic country of Pakistan.

Tejasvi Surya, a BJP MP, tweeted: “Deepavali is not Jash-e-Riwaaz. This deliberate attempt of abrahamisation of Hindu festivals, depicting models without traditional Hindu attires, must be called out”. His call for an economic boycott of Fabindia quickly gained traction online.

The objections and trolling escalated further over outrage that the women in the Fabindia advert were not wearing a bindi, the coloured decorative dot often worn by Hindu women on their foreheads, and a subsequent hashtag #NoBindiNoBusiness began to trend on Twitter.

Rohit Chopra, a professor of communication at Santa Clara university who studies Indian media, described the objections to the used of “Jashn-e-Riwaaz” in the Fabindia advert as “completely bizarre”.

“It’s part of this BJP imperative to somehow purify Hinduism, to have this model of Hinduism which is completely divested, and bleached clean of any Islamic or Muslim influences,” said Chopra. “But it’s bogus. Language does not map on to religion; just as Hindi is not the exclusive property of Hinduism, Urdu is not the property of Islam.”

Fabindia later clarified that the collection was not its Diwali collection, which would be released later, but still chose to take the advert down. “We at Fabindia have always stood for the celebration of India with its myriad traditions in all hues. Our Diwali collection called ‘Jhilmil is Diwali’ is yet to be launched,” said the company spokesperson.

‘Teaching Muslims a lesson’
It was not the only advert this week to face such accusations of religious offence against India’s Hindu majority. On Friday, an advert by a tyre company featuring one of Bollywood’s biggest actors, Aamir Khan, was accused by BJP MP Ananthkumar Hegde of creating “an unrest among the Hindus”. The advert featured Khan, who is a Muslim, advising people not to burn polluting firecrackers during Diwali.

According to Hedge’s complaint letter, aside from insensitivity to Hinduism, the real problem the advert should have tackled was the “nuisance” caused by blocking of the roads during Muslim Friday prayers and “other important festive days by Muslims” and the “great inconvenience” caused by mosques broadcasting the call the prayer.

For Chopra, there were parallels between the “sectarian targeting” of an advert starring Khan, a prominent Muslim actor who in the past has condemned the rising religious intolerance in India, to the ongoing saga involving the son of another major Muslim Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan, who was recently arrested on drugs charges and denied bail, in a case where the credibility of the case has been questioned and that many have condemned as politically motivated.

“This is all about teaching Muslims, especially prominent Muslims, a lesson: that even the biggest names in Bollywood are not protected from the Modi government,” said Chopra.

Also this week, an advert depicting a lesbian couple celebrating the Hindu festival of Karwa Chauth was pulled on Monday after a BJP Minister Narottam Mishra called it “objectionable content” and threatened legal action. The hashtag #BoycottFem then began trending on Twitter, with the company accused of offending religious sentiments. The company Darbur India Limited issued a public apology and removed the advert on Monday evening.

The incidents are not isolated. Since the BJP, a Hindu nationalist party, came to power in 2014 led by prime minister Narendra Modi, such accusations of insensitivity to Hinduism have been levelled more and more at films, television series and now advertising, as popular culture and media are viewed increasingly through a prism of religion in India.

Last year, an advert for a jewellery company, Tanishq, that depicted a Hindu woman married into a Muslim family had to be removed after it led to its shops being attacked, thecompany being viciously trolled online and calls for it to be boycotted.

Similarly in 2018, Close Up toothpaste pulled their #FreeToLove ad featuring Hindu Muslim couples after it was subjected to a vicious online hate campaign.

Chopra pointed out that this was a relatively new development, and while Indian advertising predominantly featured upper caste Hindu families, it also has a history of being “very secular and inclusive” and had often depicted Hindu-Muslim unity.

Notable examples include the popular 1989 television advert for the Bajaj scooter, which showed people from all Indian religions happily riding down roads on their two-wheelers, multiple ads for Red Label tea showing Hindus and Muslims drinking chai together, a 2016 advert by Surf washing power released for Ramadan, and a 2017 United Colours of Benetton ad that played on stereotypes of communal violence to show a picture of Muslim-Hindu harmony on the cricket pitch.

While Chopra said objections to such adverts were nothing new, “they used to come from fringe extreme individuals and organisations who were dismissed almost instantly”.

“Now, it’s prominent BJP voices who are legitimising these extreme views,” said Chopra. “Dictating what is ‘Indian’, what is ‘Hindu’ and what is ‘Muslim’, and making them mainstream.”

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R&B hitmaker R. Kelly due in court for sex abuse sentencing

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R&B hitmaker R. Kelly due in court for sex abuse sentencing

R& B star R. Kelly faces the possibility of a quarter century or more in prison when he is sentenced Wednesday in a federal sex trafficking case in New York.

A jury found Kelly, 55, guilty of racketeering and other counts last year at a trial that was seen as a signature moment in the #MeToo movement.

Outrage over Kelly’s sexual misconduct with young women and children was fueled in part by the widely watched docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly,” which gave voice to accusers who wondered if their stories were previously ignored because they were Black women.

U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly is set to impose the sentence at a federal court in Brooklyn after hearing statements from victims and possibly Kelly himself.

Prosecutors are seeking a minimum 25-year term, while the defense says a sentence of 10 years or less is all he deserves.

Kelly’s lawyers argued in court papers he should get a break in part because he “experienced a traumatic childhood involving severe, prolonged childhood sexual abuse, poverty, and violence.”

They added: “His victimization continued into adulthood where, because of his literacy deficiencies, the defendant has been repeatedly defrauded and financially abused, often by the people he paid to protect him.”

The jury convicted the “I Believe I Can Fly” hitmaker after hearing about how he used his entourage of managers and aides to meet girls and keep them obedient, an operation prosecutors said amounted to a criminal enterprise.

Several accusers testified that Kelly subjected them to perverse and sadistic whims when they were underage.

Kelly, born Robert Sylvester Kelly, used his “fame, money and popularity” to systematically “prey upon children and young women for his own sexual gratification,” prosecutors wrote in their own filing earlier this month.

The accusers alleged they were ordered to sign nondisclosure forms and were subjected to threats and punishments such as violent spankings if they broke what one referred to as “Rob’s rules.”

Some said they believed the videotapes he shot of them having sex would be used against them if they exposed what was happening.

There was testimony Kelly gave several accusers herpes without disclosing he had an STD, coerced a teenage boy to join him for sex with a naked girl who emerged from underneath a boxing ring in his garage, and shot a shaming video of one victim showing her smearing feces on her face as punishment for breaking his rules.

Evidence also was presented about a fraudulent marriage scheme hatched to protect Kelly after he feared he had impregnated R&B phenom Aaliyah in 1994 when she was just 15. Witnesses said they were married in matching jogging suits using a license falsely listing her age as 18; he was 27 at the time.

Aaliyah worked with Kelly, who wrote and produced her 1994 debut album, “Age Ain’t Nothing But A Number.” She died in a plane crash in 2001 at age 22.

An earlier defense memo suggested prosecutors’ arguments for a higher sentence overreached by falsely claiming Kelly participated in the paying of a bribe to a government official in order to facilitate the illegal marriage.

Kelly’s lawyers also said it was wrong to assert he should get more time because he sexually abused one of his victims — referred to in court as “Jane” — after her parents innocently entrusted him to help her with her musical career.

“The record shows that Jane’s parents directed Jane to lie to the defendant about her age and then encouraged her to seduce him,” the papers say.

Kelly has been jailed without bail since in 2019. He’s still facing child pornography and obstruction of justice charges in Chicago, where a trial is scheduled to begin Aug. 15.

 

AP

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Tems, Wizkid bag wins at BET Awards 2022 (Full list of winners)

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Tems, Wizkid bag wins at BET Awards 2022 (Full list of winners)

Nigerian music superstars, Tems and Wizkid bagged impressive wins at the recently concluded Black Entertainment Television (BET) Awards ceremony on Monday, June 27.

On the eventful night that took place at the Microsoft Theatre, Los Angeles, Tems whose real name is Temilade Openiyi went home with two awards.

First, Tems and Wizkid alongside Canadian recording artiste, Justin Bieber received an award for ‘Best Collaboration’ for the song, ‘Essence’; with the win, ‘Essence’ has emerged as the first African song to win a BET award and Wizkid becomes the first Nigerian and African to win an Award outside the Best International Acts category.

Moments later, Tems, emerged as the winner of the Best International Act.

The Nigerian singer, songwriter and record producer was nominated with other talented acts such as Fireboy, Dave from the UK, Dinos from France, Fally Ipupa from Congo, Little Simz from the UK, Ludmilla from Brazil, Major League Djz from South Africa, and Tayc from France.

Tems also made history at the 2022 BET awards when she became the first African female to win the Best International Category.

With her win at the 2022 BET awards, Tems joins Ice Prince, Wizkid, Davido, and Burna Boy as Nigerians who have won the BET Awards.

Watch the moment she received her award below.

In addition to the usual honors, Diddy was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award. He joins Whitney Houston, Prince, Queen Latifah, Anita Baker, Mary J. Blige, Samuel Jackson, and many more in receiving the honor.

Check out the full list of winners below.

BEST FEMALE R&B/POP ARTIST

Jazmine Sullivan — WINNER

BEST MALE R&B/POP ARTIST

The Weeknd – WINNER

BEST GROUP


Silk Sonic (Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak) – WINNER

BEST COLLABORATION

Wizkid f. Justin Bieber & Tems – “Essence” – WINNER

BEST FEMALE HIP HOP ARTIST

Megan Thee Stallion – WINNER

BEST MALE HIP HOP ARTIST

Kendrick Lamar – WINNER

VIDEO OF THE YEAR

Silk Sonic (Bruno Mars & Anderson .Paak) – “Smokin Out The Window” – WINNER

VIDEO DIRECTOR OF THE YEAR

Anderson .Paak – WINNER

BEST NEW ARTIST

Latto — WINNER

ALBUM OF THE YEAR

Silk Sonic (Bruno Mars & Anderson .Paak) – An Evening with Silk Sonic – WINNER

DR. BOBBY JONES BEST GOSPEL/INSPIRATIONAL AWARD

Lil Baby X Kirk Franklin – “We Win” – WINNER

BET HER

Mary J. Blige – “Good Morning Gorgeous” – WINNER

BEST INTERNATIONAL ACT

Tems (Nigeria) – WINNER

BEST MOVIE

King Richard – WINNER

BEST ACTOR

Will Smith – “King Richard” – WINNER

BEST ACTRESS

Zendaya – “Euphoria” / “Spider-Man: No Way Home” – WINNER

YOUNGSTARS AWARD

Marsai Martin — WINNER

SPORTSWOMAN OF THE YEAR AWARD

Naomi Osaka – WINNER

SPORTSMAN OF THE YEAR AWARD

Stephen Curry – WINNER

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Grammys add new categories, including songwriter of the year

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Grammys add new categories, including songwriter of the year

The Grammys are adding a special song for social change award and five new categories including songwriter of the year, giving the Recording Academy an avenue to honor music’s best composer.

The academy announced Thursday that the new non-classical songwriter category will recognize one individual who was the “most prolific” non-performing and non-producing songwriter for a body of new work during an eligibility year. The category is taking a different approach than song of the year, which awards the songwriter or songwriters who wrote the lyrics or melodies to one song.

“This new category is truly for an expert person at the songwriting craft,” Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason jr told The Associated Press. Songwriters must have written a minimum of five songs in which they are credited “solely” as a songwriter or co-writer.

“Somebody who writes their own music and records it would not be eligible,” he said. “They would have to be doing songs for others. We want to highlight the craft of writing songs professionally for artists.”

“Songwriters are at the heart of our business and industry,” he said. “Nothing happens without songwriters. For us, this was a no brainer. It’s in alignment with all the changes. We thought, ‘How can we do more? Showcase more people and be more inclusive to different genres?’”

The new category is another huge step for songwriters. Last year, a rule update allowed that any songwriter, producer, engineer or featured artist on an album nominated for album of the year could ultimately earn a nomination.

The four other categories include best spoken word poetry album, alternative music performance, Americana music performance and score soundtrack for video games and other interactive media.

The academy created a special merit award that determines best song for social change. The award will be based on lyrical content that addresses a timely social issue and promotes “understanding, peacebuilding and empathy.”

“It’s always the right time to recognize music that’s changing the world,” he said. “I think it deserves a special recognition. These songs are important and impactful. We want to make sure we’re honoring and celebrating that artform. This is a great way to do that.”

Mason said it was yearlong process of accepting proposals to make changes, additions and updates from music creators and professionals that make up the membership body.

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