IASL Receives the Survived Collection of the Rekidai Hoan from the Ryukyu Kingdom

By Laila Hussein Moustafa, Assistant Professor, Middle East and North Africa Studies

On March 5, 2019, the International and Area Studies Library (IASL) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign received a donation from Professor Koji Taira. This collection consisted of diplomatic documents of the Rekidai Hoan from the Ryukyu Kingdom. Professor Koji Taira is an emeritus professor in Economics at the University of Illinois.

This blog post was originally published on Global Currents, the blog for the Center for Global Studies. To continue reading, view the original blog post.

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“Meri Gully Mai” – Indian Hip Hop

By Kamini Chavda

Still from the film Gully Boy. © Times of India

With the highest box office collection in India this year, Gully Boy, a Bollywood blockbuster, brings to light the emerging Hip-Hop culture in South Asia. The film has had an overwhelming response, not only in India but also all across the world, gathering positive reviews from audiences as well as critics. The film stars Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt in the lead roles and is directed by Zoya Akhtar.

Rap and Hip-Hop are a relatively new phenomenon in India, and they have gained attention in the past decade. Roger David, popularly known as Bohemia or Raja, introduced rap in Bollywood with title tracks like Chandni Chowk to China, 8 x 10 Tasveer and Desi Boyz around 2011. With this, the Hip-Hop scene started growing in India with rappers and crews forming all across the country. Examples include 2 ShadeZ, Desi Beam, Mumbai’s Finest, Bombay Bassment, etc. Their emergence is largely credited to the popular artist Yo Yo Honey Singh. A native Punjabi, Honey Singh changed the idea of Hip-Hop and Rap in the Indian film industry. After several popular and top-grossing singles and film tracks, a new trend was established in Bollywood with many producers wanting rap artists for their song production. Some of Honey Singh’s hits include International Villager, High Heels, Brown Rang, and tracks from films the Cocktail and Mastan. Honey Singh has won several awards for his music and continues to be the largest contributor to the Hip-Hop genre in Bollywood.

Indian Hip-Hop gained popularity in India’s largest suburban cities like Mumbai and Delhi, especially in the slum areas, creating big names like Divine, Naezy, Akash King and Emiway, who now have music videos with millions of views on YouTube.

Gully Boy is based on the story of the two famous rappers, Naezy and Divine. Naved Shaikh, known as Naezy, comes from Mumbai’s largest slum, Dharavi. Inspired in his childhood by Sean Paul, he started recreating American rap in English. His videos quickly gained popularity because they were not the traditional kind of music people in slums would listen to. He later decided to rap in his own language, Hindi, writing about the daily lives of Mumbaikars and their struggles. His first music video, Aafat!, was created using his iPad and gained millions of views on YouTube. Vivian Fernandez, known as Divine, also comes from Mumbai. Inspired by 50 Cent in his childhood, he started rapping in Hindi with support from his close friends. He is part of the crew Mumbai’s Finest creating music that is authentic to his own life experiences. Naezy and Divine’s breakthrough came in 2015 with the hit song “Meri Gully Mein.” The song caught the attention of film director Zoya Akhtar and inspired her to make a movie about Mumbai rap scene.

Gully Boy loosely portrays the lives and struggles of Naezy and Divine. Ranveer Singh plays the role of Murad Ahmed, an aspiring rap artist. He struggles trying to break through as a musician while facing financial difficulties, turmoil with family and a struggle to find acceptance. Alia Bhatt, who play the role of his long-time girlfriend, Safeena, supports him to achieve his goal. Siddhant Chaturvedi plays the role of MC Sher, a local rapper who discovers Murad’s talent and pushes him to pursue a career in music. Some of the popular songs from this film are “Meri Gully Mein” (recreated for the film), “Apna Time Aayega” and “Sher Aaya Sher.” The music was released under the label of Zee Music Company.

Most of these rappers use social media to share their music with the world. YouTube is a popular platform for these emerging artists, and a lot of their music can be found on their YouTube channels. There has also been a negative response from some of the Hip-Hop followers with the recent commercialization of this music genre in India. Overall, with more than 2,000 rappers creating music in various Indian languages like Punjabi, Marathi, Bengali, Bhojpuri, Khasi, etc., Hip-Hip is perceived to have a positive future in India.

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Global Statistical Resources

Since 2010, the United Nations celebrates World Statistics Day every five years on October 20. The last World Statistics Day’s theme was Better Data, Better Lives, which emphasized “the critical role of high-quality official statistical information in analysis and informed policy decision-making in support of sustainable development.” Below we have gathered some links to global statistical resources that could be useful to patrons.

  • United NationsThe United Nations Statistics Division makes available global data related to development, the economy, the environment, population, and more. Its publications include the Statistical Yearbook, the World Statistics Pocketbook, and the Monthly Bulletin of Statistics.
  • UNESCO: The UNESCO Institute of Statistics has a dedicated website for its Data for the Sustainable Development Goals, which covers education and literacy; science, technology, and innovation; culture; and communication and information.
  • WHOThe World Health Organization’s Global Health Observatory has a variety of health statistics on all countries that are members of the organization. It also has data visualizations about several statistical topics.
  • World Bank: The World Bank provides data that can be searched by country or by indicators like agriculture and rural development, aid effectiveness, climate change, economy and growth, education, energy and mining, environment, external debt, financial sector, gender, health, infrastructure, poverty, private sector, public sector, science and technology, social development, social protection and labor, trade, and urban development.
  • Eurostat: The European Union’s statistical office positions itself as “your key to European statistics” and makes news, data, and publications available on its website.
  • U.S. Census Bureau: The United States Census Bureau has compiled a good list of international statistical agencies (in alphabetical order by country) as well as other statistical resources related to censuses, survey activities, and global health resources.
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World War I Centenary: The Destruction of the KU Leuven Library

The 100-year anniversary of the end of World War I is coming up in November, so to honor the centenary, the International and Area Studies Library is sharing resources and coverage of the war throughout the semester.

On my first official day as a graduate assistant at the International and Area Studies Library, I stared at the computer, my browser full of open tabs as I looked for more information on the German destruction of the Catholic University of Leuven Library. I remembered hearing a story about the August 25, 1914, fire when I went on a spring break class trip to Belgium during my freshman year at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Mariah Schaefer in front of the KU Leuven Library

This is me in front of the KU Leuven Library.

My group, consisting of freshman students in the College of Media James Scholar program; an academic advisor; her mom; and Lisa Romero, the Communications Librarian at the University of Illinois Library, took a tour of the KU Leuven campus. Our guide, whose name I don’t remember, told us about how the Germans violently burned the city of Leuven, destroying many buildings, including the KU Leuven Library.

As we stopped in front of the library, he told us the rest of the story. Following the destruction of the library, academics around the world mobilized to help the KU Leuven Library. A librarian at the University of Manchester collected more than 55,000 donated books in ten years.

Fernanda Schaefer in front of the KU Leuven LIbrary

My twin sister, Fernanda Schaefer, points to the name of the University of Illinois carved on the KU Leuven Library building.

In the United States, the National Committee of the United States for the Restoration of the University of Louvain and the Commission for Relief in Belgium, which Herbert Hoover chaired, started raising money to construct a new library building. Many American academic and cultural institutions, including the University of Illinois and the New York Public Library, contributed to the fund.

Because of the money raised, KU Leuven began the construction of the new building in 1921. The library was completed in 1928. To show appreciation for the generosity of the American institutions, KU Leuven carved the names of the donors on the front of the new library building. The University of Illinois is in a prominent spot on the wall.

Note: Unfortunately, the KU Leuven Library was destroyed once again on May 16, 1940. After World War II, the building was reconstructed to look like the 1928 version and became fully operational only in 1951.   

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