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Booker prize awardee Marlon James asks writers to stay away from activism


Jaipur: Jamaican, Marlon James who won the 2015 Booker Prize said, writers should stay away from activism as it increases the risk of didacticism.

“I think the writer enters a dangerous zone by becoming an activist. Didacticism will destroy a book. Writers should try to do their job and let activists do theirs,” he said on the ninth edition of Jaipur Literature festival.

James, a professor of English at Minnesota’s Macalester College, feels writers need to strike a balance when it comes to dealing with social issues.

He won the Booker Prize for “A Brief History of Seven Killings”. The novel, set in the 1970s and 1980s, is based on the story of an assassination attempt on reggae star Bob Marley. The book explores the turbulent political situation in Jamaica and the West during that period,

“It’s not really about Marley. It’s about what happened to the man who tried to kill him and all the people whose life got affected by the assassination attempt,” says James.

The book is told through fifteen characters including gunmen, dons, and politicians. Interestingly, the author hasn’t mentioned Marley by name. But what led to the book?

“I was curious about the assassination attempt on the singer in 1976. Nobody talked about it. Being a writer, I was attracted to the holes in the story, to the unanswered questions and to fill in the gaps,” he said.

James says his literary sensibilities were formed in Jamaica though he moved to the US later for work and he is not quite sure how his book would be accepted in India as it had explicit scenes of sex and gore.

“I have noticed that in India, writers face censorship. My book is quite explicit. I don’t know how it will be accepted,” he adds.

Though there is no direct censorship in Jamaica, he feels that the country still harboured an outdated Victorian sense of morality.

“Writers keep writing without caring much about consequences. It’s our hope. The balancing of freedom and censorship is a very slippery slope,” he feels.

How has life changed after Booker? “People give importance to what I say now. If I put something on Facebook, it becomes the headline of The Guardian,” he chuckles.

His next book will be an ‘African Game of Thrones’, set within the continent.

“I was sick of arguing about whether there should be a black hobbit in the ‘Lord of the Rings’. The book will be drawn from the African folklore that is rich and diverse,” he said.

A big fan of Salman Rushdie, he loves many Indian authors. “I have too many favourite Indian writers. I am a fan of Amitav Ghosh, Amitava Kumar and Jeet Thayil among many others,” said James adding that he admired Anuradha Roy’s book, the Indian contender in the Booker race.(IANS)

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Chainsmokers on How they dealt with the fame that came after the release of their hit song “Closer”?

The Chainsmokers admire Indian music and say that it was cool to work with globally popular Indian star Priyanka Chopra

Chainsmokers duo are behind the hit single
Chainsmokers duo are behind the hit single "Closer". IANS
  • It is important to use the popularity to send out a positive message
  • India is holding onto its cultural music
  • A lot of musicians in the US want to use their music for political activism

New Delhi, September 10, 2017: They felt “strange” with the fame that came with the popularity of their single “Closer”, and feel they still have a lot to prove.

American DJs and production duo The Chainsmokers say they want to push themselves and experiment. And they want to spread “positivity with their music without any propaganda.”

In a joint email interview to IANS, The Chainsmokers duo Andrew Taggart and Alex Pall reflected upon their journey in the music world and how they are dealing with the fame. They mentioned it is important to use the popularity to send out a positive message amid all the “craziness happening in the world”.

“That song (‘Closer’) gave us a lot of acclaim in a good way. (In) a lot of cases for DJs, people know the music but don’t know what they look like. And ‘Closer’ became so big. We made a couple of TV appearances and we felt famous for the first time, it kind of felt strange,” the duo said in their joint reply.

The duo, who wrapped up their two-city India tour on Friday, also appreciated how India is holding onto its “cultural music”.

The Grammy Award-winning artists headlined the Indian leg of Road to ULTRA, an independent festival brand, brought to India by ULTRA Worldwide and Percept Live. The fest made its foray into the country with Road To ULTRA show in Mumbai and Greater Noida.

The New York based artists exploded onto the music scene with viral hit “#SELFIE” in 2014. They followed it up with hits like “Roses” and “Don’t let me down”, for which they won a Grammy. The success of “Closer”, featuring Halsey, changed the whole game for them.

“We are having the best time and just enjoying every second of the ride but there is still so much more we want to accomplish and we push ourselves to experiment so we are always thinking about what’s next,” they said.

The duo continued the successful ride as they released “Paris” and a single in collaboration with Coldplay titled “Something just like this”.

A lot of musicians in the US want to use their music for political activism.

Ask The Chainsmokers if they also want to use their beats and sounds for a bigger cause, and they said: “It is important to use the resources you have and say the things you believe in, whatever those positive things may be.”

“There is a lot of craziness happening in the world right now and if you have a lot of fans looking up to you, need to create some awareness and spread positivity without a propaganda.”

Talking about their India visit, the duo said: “This is our fourth visit, to be honest…We just weren’t that famous then. We played a fun free festival in Pune. We also went to an orphanage there and met some school kids. Being foodies, we had a lot of naans and tikkas.”

The Chainsmokers admire Indian music and say that it was cool to work with globally popular Indian star Priyanka Chopra. They worked with the Bollywood actress back in 2012 for the single “Erase”.

“It’s amazing how there are only a few countries in the world that support cultural music and India is one of them apart from Brazil and Canada. It is great because there is a strong cultural identity. We have worked with Priyanka Chopra who was pretty cool,” said the “All we know” hitmakers.

Any plans to collaborate with any other Indian actor or musician?

“We were supposed to meet Shah Rukh Khan (after the Mumbai gig) but everything got messed up. He seems (to be) pretty cool and (we) wouldn’t mind hanging out with him sometime,” they said.

But that has to wait now.

“Right now, our schedule is very pretty crazy and we still feel we are relatively new music artists and we have to prove a lot. But there will come a point when we want to put our thing aside and want to work (with) all kinds of artists,” they said. (IANS)