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Simon (89)

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Journal of Simon (89)

Wednesday June 05, 2002
04:20 PM

Beyond Skin

[ #5448 ]
Just 5 miles from India's nuclear test site, children play in the shade of the village water tank. Here in the Rajahstan desert, people say they're proud their country showed their nuclear capability. ...

Nitin Sawhney is a fantastic artist, and turned up often enough in my chillout collection that I thought I'd buy an album. I got Beyond Skin, which seemed pretty uplifting in Borders, but now I listen to it sounds amazingly bleak.

It couldn't have been timed for greater effect, both internationally and personally. (I've been reading When The Wind Blows recently, and been trying to avoid reading Hadashi no Gen. The clips on that site don't really do it justice - Eiko says she found the Hadashi no Gen series in her local library, and was too scared to even go near the shelf it was on. I would be, too.)

The idea behind the album was two-fold: first, to explore what it meant to be a British Indian - was it the religious beliefs, the skin colour, the heritage, or something else? - second, the album was very obviously inspired by India's nuclear tests four years ago. The music is haunting but subtle; the narrative is shockingly relevant.

The opening words of the album, from Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee:

Today, at 1545 hours, India conducted three underground nuclear tests in the Pohkran range.

And its closing words, from Robert Oppenheimer:

We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried; most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita. Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and, to impress him, takes on his multi-armed form, and says, "Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."

I suppose we all felt that, one way or another.

... Villagers say they're already suffering side effects. The government scientists say there was no radiation leak.

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