13/05/2015 13:28 BST | Updated 13/05/2016 06:59 BST

ABCs of Asian British Culture


Culture is, by definition, fundamentally esoteric. One definition tells us that it's the "arts and other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively". A moving target, I think you'll agree.

And while culture changes, develops and questions itself, it impacts on the collective that regards it, that collective in turn feeding back into that very manifestation of human intellectual achievement. This symbiotic process occurs over an extended period of time in most cases. But not all...

What on earth am I talking about? You might be mistaken for thinking this is a script for some Radio 3 Arts programme, the sort of programme that has Latvian poetry and music played on instruments constructed solely out of discarded animal skins.

As immigrants, Britain's Asians arrived in the UK with a very dislocated culture. Our parents tried desperately to keep us connected to our heritage but it proved too challenging. India was another world and our new lives were British.

The immigrant generation worked hard, settled their families and educated their kids. The arts weren't even on the radar. Lawyers, doctors, accountants...steady jobs with steady incomes.

Our generation emerged and needed some creative outlet. Lawyers, doctors and accountants love theatre, cinema and music. And as the shackles loosened with our generation, some of us became artists. We found a way of fusing our heritage with our present. Talvin Singh, Nitin Sawhney, Fundamental all led the way, musically. Tamasha and Tara created theatre. Goodness Gracious Me became primetime entertainment. British Asian art emerged.

And while this new identity, this dual identity forged its way, my generation felt confident enough in itself to revert to exploring our heritage.

The last decade and a half has seen the mainstreamization of British Asians but also a marginalisation. Our position has ebbed and flowed. It's no coincidence that Alchemy emerged halfway through this process, celebrating the Britishness of local Asians whilst bringing the sub continent to a wider, British audience. Our intellectual achievements have never been so rigorously regarded by such a heterogeneous collective.

Hardeep will perform with the best of British Asian comedy at ALCHEMEDIANS LIVE part of ALCHEMY, Southbank Centre's festival celebrating cultural connections between the UK and the South Asia. The festival takes place between 15-25 May