Youth EB Picks: From Elephant Gods to Elephant Toys from WHJE

August 12, 2013 in GPRX Blog by Kamna Shastri

TempleTowersFinally, after months of looking, I’ve managed to find something related to South Asian youth. The first thing that draws you into this piece is Shivani’s voice, full of an enthusiasm to tell her story. While her school life is pretty much identical to that of any other high schooler, her life away from school is what lets her tick. This piece is an expose of that life, one filled with family, the clanging bells and chants of the temple, and the scintillating sound of anklets. The strongest point of this piece is the way Shivani has created scenes, full of sound and flavor. All the sounds captured in the piece give the listener the audible textures that make up Shivani’s life. In addition, the musical contrasts in the piece highlight the separation, or maybe the differences between Shivani’s experiences at and away from school.

This piece seemed to me more of a montage piece, a sampler to something larger. Shivani brings up so much that could be further explored – I found myself curious about cultural tensions and about her interest in dance. Perhaps a series of follow ups could explore the topics she presents more in depth.

It occurred to me after hearing this piece that underneath the exposition of Shivani’s ‘out of school’ life, . Unlike many other ‘between cultures’ stories I have encountered, this piece focuses on someone who is deeply tied to the culture of the place her family left behind. For me, this was interesting, because it questions the United States reputation as a ‘melting pot’ of cultures. Can it be a melting pot when one can retain their own heritage and culture? Or is it more of a collage, a mosaic perhaps?

This piece is well suited for programming dealing with culture, religion and multicultural youth.

“From Elephant Toys to Elephant Gods and back” is a sweet and simple piece layered with unspoken, but deeper implications. Take a listen and enjoy this treat for the senses.


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