Bridging the divide
The South Side show www.desihits.com is the only Southern targeted, podcasted show in the mainstream - covering music, movies and culture of Goa, Karnataka, Sri Lanka, South India, Malaysia, Singapore, Mauritius and others from the Diaspora.
The show also covers countries such as South Africa, Dubai and Australia where the half billion South Indians/Sri Lankans worldwide or those who speak Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Tulu and Sinhalese reside. The show which airs on www.desihits.com, which is a website that attracts 10 million hits a month, has garnered a lot of press coverage for innovation and has offices in New York, California and London.
The Mirror Magazine speaks to Sri Lankan born a SHANTI OMkar the vivacious personality behind South Side on Desi Hits, as she reveals how the show first came into being, how it has evolved and where it's headed…
Q: When did your show start?
A: We're about to record show 14 in our West London studio! It's been a weekly feature on www.desihits.com since July 2007. The concept is new and very different to all the other shows on the station and in the Internet radio space.
Q: What is your show mainly about? How does it work?
A: It is an English language show which focuses on Southern South Asian music, from Goa downwards in India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Mauritius and the likes. The show also features the music of musicians from the Diaspora (e.g. people of Tamil, Sinhala, Malayalam, Telugu, Kannadam descent from anywhere in the world). Basically it is opposite to the regular shows which feature mainly Bhangra and Bollywood music and South Side encompasses Tamil film music, Sri Lankan Hip-Hop and various genres that are otherwise not given much air-play.
Q: What are the main objectives of the show?
A: Well…we're trying to catch a niche market, which has not been substantially tapped into as yet. There are around half a billion Southern South Asians around the world, many of whom belong to the second and third generation Diaspora and thus, relate to English material as well. This was the main reason to do something to meet the demand of those whose languages/cultures are not catered for internationally.
Q: How do you see the scope/demand for such a show?
A: How I see it, Tamil movies have been making waves in recent years, where UK and European multiplexes and those in US have been showing figures and box office takings to be in the Top 20, e.g. Azhagiya Tamil Magan at No. 14 and Sivaji which got to No. 9 in 2007. The UK also shows Telugu movies in the cinemas and recently, Eros, one of the world's biggest distributors bought out Ayngaran, the biggest Tamil distributor and companies like Ad Labs and UTV have also been distributing Tamil films.
Furthermore, many of the technical gurus in India hail from the South (A.R. Rahman, Ilayaraja, PC Sreeram, Ravi K Chandran, Rajeev Menon and Mani Ratnam). This show is to pay tribute to all of them and also showcase all those of Southern origin, those who have worked in the South and those from the North who have worked in the South (e.g. Southern director Ram Gopal Verma and my recent interviewee - Nisha Kothari AKA Amoga, who made her debut in the Tamil film industry with Madhavan in Jay Jay.)
Q: How far reaching is the listener-ship?
A: I have listeners as far as Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Singapore, Tasmania, Canada, Surinam, Mauritius, Seychelles and of course Europe, Canada and a major concentration from the USA.
Q: Are you the only host?
A: Yes, I am the main host, but I tend to have co-hosts on all the shows - mainly celebrities who come on and speak and comment on the music played. Terry Mardi, who recently worked with R Kelly and Ash King is my show producer and features on a lot of shows as he's a keen learner of all things South of India and Sri Lanka. He's been eating coconut ice, milk toffee, kottu rotti, mutton rolls and all kinds of Sri Lankan foods as part of his brush with the South.
Q: Who have you featured on the show so far?
A: As interviewees, I have had the likes of Ashanthi De Alwis (Sri Lanka's only female R&B/Soul/Hip Hop artiste), Anusha (first Sri Lankan solo artiste to be play listed on MTV Base in the UK), Pirashanna (Young British Asian percussionist who has recently toured with Ravi Shankar and Anoushka Shankar), Celina Jaitley, Amrita Arora (Bollywood actresses), Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, Arjun Rampal, Jay Sean and many more.
Q: What type of music do you feature on the show?
A: I play an eclectic variety of Hip-Hop, R&B, Alternative, Rock, Roots, Remixes, Classical Raga insights and interviews stemming from Southern South Asia and it's Diaspora. The show features everything from film music and A.R. Rahman, to the likes of talented artistes such as Anoushka Shankar, M.I.A., Anusha, Iraj, Ranidu, Delon, Dushyanthi, Shakti, Krishan, Dinesh, Ashanthi and many, many more.
Q: How do you access the show?
A: It's streamed online and can be played at any time with the click of a button. Previous episodes are available too under the Bollywood channel on www.desihits.com. Listeners can subscribe to the podcast via www.itunes.com also. Desi Hits has the only Asian Apple itunes store and the show is a podcast on there too.
Q: What are your future plans for the programme?
A: My main objective is for the show to grow and expand its listener-ship numbers further worldwide (it currently covers 68 countries around the world).
My upcoming exclusive with A.R. Rahman is much anticipated. The next step will of course be to build video podcasts (vodcasts) of the show, like the recent 50 Cent show or of certain 'must-keep' interviews. One of the main highlights of the show is that it is an inclusive show, so although the likes of Shah Rukh Khan or Aishwariya Rai (who hails from Karnataka in the South) are Bollywood stars, they can all appear on the show as part of my interviewing journey.
For more details visit www.OMkari.net, www.myspace.com/ashantiomkar, www.desihits.com.