Sounds from the Other Side

Afro-South Asian Collaborations in Black Popular Music

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Elliott H. Powell

From Beyoncé’s South Asian music-inspired Super Bowl Halftime performance, to jazz artists like John and Alice Coltrane’s use of Indian song structures and spirituality in their work, to Jay-Z and Missy Elliott’s high-profile collaborations with diasporic South Asian artists such as the Panjabi MC and MIA, African American musicians have frequently engaged South Asian cultural productions in the development of Black music culture. Sounds from the Other Side traces such engagements through an interdisciplinary analysis of the political implications of African American musicians’ South Asian influence since the 1960s.

Elliott H. Powell asks, what happens when we consider Black musicians’ South Asian sonic explorations as distinct from those of their white counterparts? He looks to Black musical genres of jazz, funk, and hip hop and examines the work of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Rick James, OutKast, Timbaland, Beyoncé, and others, showing how Afro-South Asian music in the United States is a dynamic, complex, and contradictory cultural site where comparative racialization, transformative gender and queer politics, and coalition politics intertwine. Powell situates this cultural history within larger global and domestic sociohistorical junctures that link African American and South Asian diasporic communities in the United States.

The long historical arc of Afro-South Asian music in Sounds from the Other Side interprets such music-making activities as highly political endeavors, offering an essential conversation about cross-cultural musical exchanges between racially marginalized musicians.

Background photo by Chris Bair on Unsplash

Winner of the Phillip Brett Award from the American Musicological Society and the Woody Guthrie Award from the International Association for the Study of Popular Music–U.S. Branch


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    Sounds from the Other Side: Afro-South Asian Collaborations in Black Popular Music is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0):
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    This book is freely available in an open access edition thanks to TOME (Toward an Open Monograph Ecosystem)—a collaboration of the Association of American Universities, the Association of University Presses, and the Association of Research Libraries—and the generous support of the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Learn more at the TOME website, available at:

    The University of Minnesota Press gratefully acknowledges the financial assistance provided for the publication of this book by the AMS 75 PAYS Endowment of the American Musicological Society, supported in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

    The publication of this book was supported by an Imagine Fund grant for the arts, design, and humanities, an annual award from the University of Minnesota's Provost Office.

    Portions of chapter 2 were originally published as “Coalitional Auralities: Notes on a Soundtrack to Punks, Bulldaggers, and Welfare Queens,” GLQ 25, no. 1 (2019): 188–93; copyright 2019 Duke University Press; all rights reserved; reprinted by permission. Portions of chapter 4 were originally published as “Addict(ive) Sex: Toward an Intersectional Approach to Truth Hurts’ ‘Addictive’ and Afro-South Asian Hip Hop and R&B,” in Popular Music and the Politics of Hope: Queer and Feminist Interventions, ed. Susan Fast and Craig Jennex (New York: Routledge, 2019), 173–86; reprinted by permission of Taylor and Francis Group.

    Copyright 2020 by Elliott H. Powell