Selected Yambient Words

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Bobby Friction <3 Yam Boy and Mr Lingo

Bobby Friction dropped our entire set from the Indian Electronica Festival on his Friction show on Tuesday just gone. They even kept in the unprofessional bits and the swearing... god I was shouting...

Go to and hit LISTEN AGAIN for Tuesday's show. We are 1 hour and 3 minutes in...

Off to India next week! YAY!!!! SO EXCITED!!!

I am full of news today!

Katie, Katie, Katie...

I miss you babes.

I'll see you soon though.

I promise.

Till then, my whole body aches for you.

Goodbye South London

Thank you for an impressively dense three years filled with discovery, stereotype-bashing and challenges. I knew nothing about South London before I went there. I went to Brixton for a few gigs, I had visited Clapham once or twice but generally, I avoided it if I could. I was all about Brick Lane... keeping it cosmetic in the East.

Here some short vignettes that will always remind me of South London, and of where I made my nest with Katie, Herne Hill... ahhh Deronda Road. [smile]

-Gujarati Yam Boy:

I got my moniker from South London. A gift from Brixton that sung to me of grittiness, paradoxes and exotic fruit and vegetables. Our Saturday ritual was to hit the Coldharbour Lane market for some fresh fruit, vegetable and interesting BIG frilly knickers. On the corner of Electric Lane and Atlantic Road was the most vibrant of all the grocers, a Bollywood-blaring audio/visual assault of a shop called Kashmiri Yam Boys. It was our favourite. One night walking home drunk with Katie, we were discussing my stage name and what it should be. I was quite taken with Councilman Kesh. But she wasn't sold. She thought it was [rightfully] stupid. As we walked past our favourite grocer, she said that I should be the Kashmiri Yam Boy! She added, "Except, you're Gujarati. Maybe you should be the Gujarati Yam Boy." I laughed. I was sold. "Yes, I exclaimed. That's what I shall call my EP." I texted friends with the suggestion, Katie was amazed she was being taken seriously. I was serious and a half. Especially when the first few texts rolled in from Rob and Neel: YES!! WE LOVE IT. I was thus Nikesh Shukla, Gujarati Yam Boy... soon shortened to the sweeter veggier Yam Boy.

The shop may no longer exist... but it will live forever in my recorded works!

Reggae Bread:

The first year we lived in Brixton, we lived off Atlantic Road, where all the bakers and butchers reside and pump their wares to the heaving masses. We were right in the centre of the action. The street below us was a veritable animation of bustling people shopping in the carnival spirit, laughing, shouting, crying and dancing to the rhythms of the day. Every Saturday morning, without fail, the baker opposite us would open up at 7am, stick on some PUMPING lover's rock or melodic gospel and starting cooking up the bread. We would rock out to the music, and boy, it felt like summer every day as the gentle tones of Gregory Isaacs filled our flat. Only in Brixton.

-Way of the One-Legged Man:

This happened to my friend Rob. I take no credit for seeing this. It still harks to the genius of South London. Rob and a friend were walked up past the Bug Bar in Brixton when a one-legged beggar came and asked them for change. Before they began their protestations of no change, he suddenly looked across the road and shouted "OI!!" to someone. He told them to hold on and peg (legg)ed across the road to face someone. He hit this person with one of his crutches and baited the guy into a fight. He dropped his crutches, placed the stump of his leg in a rubbish bin to steady himself and put up his dukes. COME ON THEN!!!! The guy punched him and he fell into the bin, with all his change falling out. He was unable to get up.

He eventually returned laughing at his bad luck.

Okay, so there's a sad side to that story but still, sounds hilarious!

-I Even Like the Guy Who Tried Jukk Me For A £1:

One day a guy tried to jukk a pound off me. I said I had no change. He told me to take my wallet out and check. I said no and walked off. He followed me for a bit then walked off. A week later, I did a gig at the Dogstar and I was walked down the road and he emerged out of an off-licence with a bottle of champagne (unopened) in his hand. He asked me for a pound, then told me to give him a pound, then told me to get out my wallet. I was thoroughly intimidated. I pointed my guitar at him so there was distance. He kept going to lift up the champagne bottle. I kept saying I wasn't taking my wallet out to check (goodbye wallet) so could he just leave me alone. He was getting more and more agitated with my refusals that he was getting more and more physically aggressive. He cornered me against the shutters of a closed shop and ordered me to give him a pound. I said no and tried to walk off. He stopped me. An old man suddenly appeared and placed himself firmly between us... "Leave the bwoy alone," he drawled. "He said he got nothing." To me, he urged, "walk away son." I did, thankful that the old man had interjected... for all its aggression and moodiness, Brixton still has a heart and a sense of community.

-The Snowman:

The most perfect day I spent at Brockwell Park, one of many perfect days in Brockwell Park, was the day it last snowed in London. The entire park was white and pristine. No one had entered the park as it was a work day. I was on my 'writing day' and Rob was 'ill' (for ill, read hungover). We walked through the park, trying to spoil the perfect untouched blanket of white as best we could. The park was so still and so quiet. We rowdied it up with a snowball fight that spanned the entire width of the park.

-Neighbours Who Like to 'Chill Out':

We saw so many people we knew at the Big Chill 05. But none surprised us as much as when Katie and I were sat at a doughnut stand at 1am, munching away and a couple approached us, asking if we lived on Deronda Road. "Yes", I replied. "Are you my stalker?" Turned out that they lived two doors down from us. We had a brief chat before awkwardness set in and we got back to festivaling it up. Katie and I wondered that they seemed lovely and we should make friends.

We didn't. We were lazy. They ended up getting pregnant. And we lived the rest of the year two doors down from each other. Then, 2 weeks before we left Deronda Road, I ran into one of the couple in our local newsagents and we had a 30-40 minute chat about everything under the sun. They were amazing. And we'd missed out on the chance to be friends. London teaches you to keep people at arm's length. And we did, to our detriment. Over the last 2 weeks, we would chat constantly. We gave them herbs on leaving. We squandered an opportunity to build our own local community. At least, we know it's possible in London... well, South London.


I love SOuth London. I want to go back. I want to go deeper, to Dulwich or to Herne Hill. It's a truly wonderful part of London. So untouched by the hype and posture of East London, the toffy opulence of West London and the non-descriptness of North London. It is overflowing with community, character and verve. There are so many cool places to go, but you got to find them. They won't get billboard coverage like clubs in Soreditch might. But you'll have better nights at them.

Plus, you're near countryside and trees and families and the ability to have a coffee if you'd prefer. Organic local produce is in abundance, and everyone smiles. Plus, James Nesbitt lives round the corner.

Dad picked me up on the final day and we loaded up the final bits of Katie and my lives into his car. I held back the tears. Katie wasn't there to see the flat off. I was on my own and feeling maudlin. I packed up the car, did a final clean of the flat, said goodbye to each room, remembering 3 good things that happened in each, locked the door, kissed and walked outside into the warming sun...

I walked around to the passenger side of dad's car and I was confronted by the old Jamaican lady who lived opposite us. I had never spoken to her before.

"My dear," she quivered, for she was old. "Please could you open this tin of soup for me?" She held out with her shaky arthritic hands a tin of mushroom soup. I smiled and obliged her. I opened the lid for her and handed it back to her. She placed an unsteady hand on my cheek and smiled with the force of a thousand children... "You are a true gentleman and a sweetheart." She winked, turned round and disappeared into her house opposite. I smiled back, took one last look at 25 Deronda Road, got in the car and was driven off.

One chapter closes, another begins...

Monday, August 28, 2006

Indian Electronica Fest

Saturday saw the first ever Indian Electronica Festival take place over two floors and 8 hours at 333 in Old Street. I put aside my fears and doubts about 333 (I hate that place: dingy, oppressive, dirty, death incarnate) and went along to perform alongside such luminaries as Abdul Smooth, Bobby Friction, Shiva Soundsystem, Bandish Projekt and Visionary Underground. I was Shane-less, the first time in about a year I was to perform myself outside the magical universe of the D'Archetypes, and without that well-oiled machine to have as my crutch, I was nervous as hell about performing Yam and Goonda material live again. Plus I was on first.

The club filled up quickly and we dropped two D'Archetypes tracks live to set the mood. They had everyone bouncing and nodding. Mr Lingo was joining me on decks, scratching and vibing the crowd. We hadn't rehearsed.

I took to the stage in make-up (sadhu style... errr... no homo... honest!), a long white dhoti and my discontented terrorist t-shirt, launching into the ethereal abstract love musings of Nuclear Sonnets. It endeared me to people, especially U'Mau's playful Nigerian chant. I kept falling off the stage as it was tiny, and the whole thing looked ramshackle. I was giving it maximum energy. The acoustic numbers didn't work so I stuck to the beats... people rocked out to 5 Year Plan, and bounced to A Tale of Two Call Centres... Mr Lingo kept the mixing strong and I kept the vibe going, dancing, falling over, dropping to my knees and giving it some welly. We even swore on Asian Network. got everyone to shout some swearing and sent out spiritual thoughts to Marc Lee Brown, Goonda and Shane for their absence over the evening. I certainly missed Shane the mostest... it was strange and not entirely right not performing alongside him. Lingo held it down though and rocked it. He even got big ups for being heavy... so much for rehearsals!

Then it was about the silliness. Lingo and I caught the silly bug and ran downstairs to throw shapes at Fusing Naked Beats who was rocking it big-time with some DNB. We did silly dancing jerked our bodies about majestically and made spectacles of ourselves. Then it was back upstairs to MC for Abdul Smooth and then downstairs to rock out to Bandish Projekt, who were amazing. This festival was amazing. We were loving it. In our silliness (read :drunkenness:) we decided to do a rogues gallery of all the performers... in headloacks. So we spent the rest of the evening stealing beer from behind one of the stages and taking photos of Dr Dar, Mayur from bandish, Bobby Friction et al in headlocks with us. They were all surprisingly compliant. Suddenly it was back upstairs to rock out to JamRock and loads of other bangers from Janaka Selecta before the fatigue crept in. It was time to leave. We walked from Old Street to London Bridge and got a bus home to zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Wicked night... big up Abdul Smooth and the Videowallah for putting up with our brand of ultra-silliness, and to the Sikh guy who bought us both drinks for doing a good set and to the moody girl with a matching tatoo with one of my mates who wasn't impressed with they compared them, Qasim for the amazing festival, Deepal for coming down and everyone for laughing with bemusement. Normal service resumed next week when the D'Archetypes head to India.



p.s. Mrs Yam: I miss you [sad face]

Monday, August 21, 2006

White Van Klan

Imagine my surprise when our removals van turned up yesterday morning and it was one of those white transit vans. Out of the van strode Maneesh and Paddy, two desis with a serious love of Rishi Rich. Two moustachioed muskateers of the London road. Two stereotypical white van drivers.

My initial reaction to seeing the white van was fear. I am after all a London cyclist. And who do I fear more than those bendy buses that suddenly lurch out at you with their middles free of spinal integrity: maverick white vans who rule my streets and seem to have multiple blind spots and a total disregard for speed limits.

*An aside: these guys completely replied on their sat.nav. systems that seem determined to take everyone down the long routes... despite knowledge of other short-cuts. Why?*

So we piled everything into the white van, and despite my protestations that certain things were precious, it was all just shoved in. Driving in the white van, I got to experience what they're like from inside the belly of the beast. I watched as they jumped lanes, pushed in and sped along. These guys had a little device on their dashboard that would sense speed cameras and beep at them to slow down as they neared the speed cameras. There's no point rushing through the roads and then slowing down just for a camera. Surely that's more dangerous. They were even making comedy racist comments that I couldn't ignore. They would then suffice them with something a bit more respectful... as their conscience kicked in. They talked about mistresses and nudist beaches and swore at other drivers, all to a bhangra/Rishi Rich soundtrack.

I don't feel any more love for white vans after my experience. If anything, I hate them more because they aren't faceless and they are deserving of my contempt as a cyclist, as a human and as an observer of the frailty of human life.

Slow down.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Why I don't drive...

I hate the idea of playing god.

Also, I have this innate fear that one day, in the car, I'll go suddenly crazy and lose control of my facilities. I will then open the door of the car and fall out. Or I'll be sat there leaning against the window and the door will suddenly open and I'll fall out. Or I'll suddenly give into some subconscious urge to kill myself and open the door and through myself out.

The first thing I always do when I get into a car is lock the door... sealing me into the car, assuming that if I do suddenly go crazy, I'll have the lock to get through which will afford me enough time to get ahold of my facilities and decide that maybe I do not want to throw myself out of the car.

The things that go on in people's heads eh?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Sneezing at the London Mela

Ah Ah-Chooooo Ah Ah Ah CHOOOOOOOOOo

For the last two weeks I have been working with a Portugese artist called Alexandre Piedro, a physical theatre impressario and comedian/musician from Lisbon on a project for the London Mela, called Espirro.

We were brought in to spend 6-7 days together writing a 15 minute piece encorporating visuals (provided by the lovely Setla group) called Espirro (or sneeze in Portugese). The piece, wonderfully managed and directed by Lis and Ajay from the Mela, had to be about the journey of peppercorns from Kerala via Portugal to London, and to our dinner tables/pub lunches/picnics al fresco. Quite a feat to manage in such a short space of time but we managed it.

It was quite the experience for me as I have never done any physical theatre or comedy ever before in my life. So to see me standing up in my lurid orange boxer shorts miming and do silly things was quite amazing. The final piece we came up with ventured from mime and sneezing as the main conceit to a quick history lesson on peppercorn trade routes (involving Alex as an impressively camp and paralysed Vasco de Gama)resulting in two annoyed and claustrophobic peppercorns in a jar jostling with each other for personal space and the correct escape route. We ended up with a spoken word piece, with Alex on darbuka and myself doing a peppery poem about the violent act of sneezing. I even sang in Portugese. I ended in a confetti canon burst (which I used to try decapitate annoying teenage girls trying to distract us at the front - don't mess, don't test)... which ended the show perfectly.

I think the crowd was amused and bemused by the whole thing. Between us, we were happy with the piece and the ground we covered and the journey we travelled given the short space of time we had to work on the entire piece. I learnt a lot, I can talk about sneezing in Portugese and I can act out being trapped in a box- ahhhh, the infinite power of the mime.

It was great working with Alex. He's a humble man and a consummate professional. He was extremely accepting of my lack of acting experience and willing to teach, which made the process sweeter. It would have been nice to have had more time for the piece as we could have churned out something completely surreal and abstract. But we left the crowd with something special and truly strange.

This is for the weird and the wonderful...

As for the D'Archetypes performance... we rocked it with maximum energy. The crowd (including a full Yamily crew - or YamFam) was bemused to say the least. I think the characters we portray were a little too dark, too edgy, too close to home for the Asian festival-going crowd. Lessons learnt in any case.

We're off to India in two weeks time, to give the Hindustanis a full D'Archetypal experience. I'm looking forward to it. It'll be interesting to see how our sound and lyrical references translate over there. Well, I should think.

This week I have mostly been:

- packing up the flat for our big African move.
- marvelling at the amount of crap I collect/hoard
- recording vocals for two new Goonda-Raj-produced beats and one Abdul Smooth-produced beat.
- listening to Bobby Friction's show on the Asian Network (Friction - as he has playlisted a Yam Boy and Goonda-Raj track, 'A Tale of Two Centres' for the past two weeks, calling it the funniest and most relevant political track he's heard in recent years/months (*hyperbole alert*).
- listening to podcasts from 6Music's Russell Brand show (absolutely filthy and hilarious) and Xfm's Adam and Joe show (pop culture dissections at their best).
- Eating tuna steaks. I know tuna is on the endangered species list but I don't usually like fish and it's been delicious. From Shane's onion-fried tuna to my own garlic and jerk tuna concoction, it's been a fishy week.
- Lamenting Mrs Yam's impending trip away from me [sad face].
- Seeing the old dear Mama Yam in hospital and trying to be upbeat.
- Reading and putting down a book called "Too Weird For Ziggy" - a collection of interlinked short stories about the depraved and downright paranoid world of rockstars and the lives they lead that make our tabloid column inches all the more colourful.
- Crying, laughing and having wild mood swings.
- Worrying about the state of the world.
- Reading appalling articles in the Daily Star (honest, I found it on the train) about how it's okay to racially profile terrorists as being Asian (what with Islam being a colourless religion spanning Asia, South East Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe) because hey... all terrorists look Asian.

That's about it...



Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Monday, August 14, 2006

The Big Chill and other things...

I hate it when my lack of organisation/willingness to try and help everybody out results in my upsetting/pissing off those close to me. Patterns: how we wish we could break them and consecrate them into the ground? Instead, I'm destined to live out the rest of my life as a spoilt child.

So it looks like I am going to America after all for a gig. I'd given it up as a pipe dream, seeing as there was no communication between myself and the festival people for nie on 6 months. Apparently it's still all game on. Weirdly, they're doing this on the cheap, so it's only me they can afford to bring out, rather than the entire D'Archetypes crew. Annoying. Not only can I not remember what it's like to perform solo, the more I do as the D'Archetypes I have no inclination to.

The Big Chill:

My last big blow-out with Mrs Yam before she disappears over to the soft waves of the Indian Ocean to begin a new temporary nomad life teaching in Mombasa. I join her in November.

We arrived to the sound of the sun rushing over the fields and into the valley of Eastnor Castle (hardly a castle, more a bungalow with ramparts). Tent pitched and beer-armed, we went to see Jose Gonzalez, opting for him instead of the amazingly named Vashti Bunyan. Jose is a superb guitar player who lacks any real presence onstage. The songs were nice but a little muted on such a huge stage. Everyone politely clapped till a song of his on some advert somewhere for tampax or something came on and the whole place went wild. It was a nice little sight.

Later, we performed before Ursula Rucker. Meeting her backstage was weird as I couldn't really relate to her as I was so racked with pre-gig nerves. Gig-done, job-done, we got to the business of partying with Mr Lingo and friends, dancing to lover's rock and reggae, rocking out to coldcut and pogoing to deep dub. The walk home allowed some cross-legged contemplation of the whole site and then it was zzzz...

Morning brought out the spandex. Chris, the guy remixing our set with incredible visuals, had these scarily all-in-one spandex suits in neon pink, royal blue, scarlet red and black. I got in quick and chose black as it matched my black and silver cape I had pre-prepared. Shane dressed as masi, Mrs Yam as a pirate, and three nuttahs in spandex all set off for Arrested Development. We caused chaos, absolute chaos. Especially the pink man. Hundreds of photos of us were taken, in our traditional tick-tock pose. One woman even made Chris hold her baby for a photo... you can see the divorce court situation now:

Former baby: I wish to divorce my parents on the grounds of negligence.
Officious judge: What evidence do you have?
Former baby: Evidence 1.0: Photo from Big Chill Festival 2006. My parents left me as a baby with three strangers in spandex, a cross-dresser and an evil pirate.

Set two of the Big Chill was on Saturday and was a lot less nerve-racking. Instead it was high-energy, riotous, chaotic fun. We did our set, in loose attire, called up our crew to breakdance and b-boy in full attire and generally be silly. We managed to accumulate a crowd in its 100s by the end, a stark contrast to the 3 people who had been there at the beginning, such was the sheer energy and electricity we created onstage. We got the audience tick-tocking with us (for what reason, they will never know) and we caused a minor riot in a spoken word tent (!) when we offered up free CD's.

Fun fun fun... and then off came the spandex... enough crime-solving for the day. Back to the tent for a snooze before Bugz in the Attic and partying with ND the Sophisticated Party Robot. With him, we danced to DJ Derek, did crap breakdancing to Quantic, jeered and scoffed at Orbital's new band (sounding bizarrely like... well... Orbital) and made people do the limbo in order to get to the main stage. More riots ensued. Then it was the band of the weekend: Sparks. Their brand of morose stagemanship, crap 80's pop rock and amazing visuals was hilarious and hypnotic.

Sunday: rest day... the day was building up to Lily Allen. Before then, some Norman Jay, some wandering about and some other unmemorable stuff... before Lily... ahhhhh... Lily... she was amazing and gorgeous and even when she fluffed her lines, my heart skippped a beat.

HOME = Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

I just spent a week working on a special Visiting Arts commission for the Mela. More on that later though.

"Jerusalem" nears release!!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Yamtastico to the rescue...

Out of the ashes of poor dead Velulah, a new hero is born... he was once a student of yams, a boy...

now he is ready to conquer...


Velulah... justice shall be dispensed in your name...

Read about Big Chill exploits shortly... I shall endeavour to write them this week.