My Dil Goes Mmmm

May 8, 2024

The title of this article is taken from a song released in the early 2000s that I grew up listening to, from the Indian film Salaam Namaste. It was one of the few songs at the time that mixed both English and Hindi language in a popular track, a trend that would grow as time went on. I chose the title for this work because this song represents a marriage of the Western world with Indian music in my eyes. Dil means heart in Hindi, so the song title translates to My Heart Goes Mmmm.  This relationship between Asian Americans like myself and cultural music is not talked about often. For many of us, the music our parents or grandparents listened to is not only an integral part of childhood but also our earliest memories of cultural exposure. For me, I often reflect upon why as an adult South Asian music has become a favorite genre of mine and why this music particularly is a great comfort to me during difficult times. The answer of course lies in several places scattered throughout my childhood. My parents had a CD with classic music from Indian cinema burned onto it that they would play in the car all the time when I was young. This paired with my exposure to Indian cinema and the music in these films from watching movies with my grandparents might explain my soft spot for the genre. However, I have always known that the real reason goes much deeper than that. 

Though I have fond memories of those moments with my parents and grandparents, it isn’t just these good times that this music reminds me of. It was because of my exposure to Indian music that I first felt positive about my own identity as an Indian American. Growing up in a small town in rural Massachusetts, I wasn’t exposed to much of my culture and my parents made the conscious decision to not teach me their first language. Though they had my best interests at heart, this caused me to feel disconnected from that world, stuck in a place between the Western world and my ancestral homeland. Therefore, the most important tether I held onto growing up in this country was Indian music; my knowledge and love of it was something entirely my own. A much younger me saw it as one of the only parts of myself that was entirely Indian.

As I grew older I also recognized the importance of Indian music exposing me to Indian languages in ways that I would not have been able to experience in a childhood that was fairly isolated from cultural influences otherwise. Despite not knowing Hindi or Punjabi, I was always able to discern the correct pronunciation of words due to my love of Indian music. This love of music goes hand in hand with culture, and this is not exclusive to South Asian communities. In fact, I find many people place similar importance on food and its relationship to culture. However, for me, I find that nothing makes me feel quite so joyful about my culture than our music. Not to mention, from music stems dance, an aspect of cultural identity that many resonate with greatly. Just another example of the many traditions that would be incomplete without ethnic music and its beauty.

In short, this piece is a thank you letter to Indian music and my parents for burning a CD with all their favorite songs and playing it religiously. I am forever grateful that Indian music gave me a way to love and appreciate my culture, a connection that I would feel wholly incomplete without. I hope this inspires others to reconnect with their cultural music, or even try listening to music from other cultures! If you would like to start with Indian music I have linked my own Spotify playlist below, happy listening.

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