DJ Rekha is a NYC institution unto herself.
Her monthly Basement Bhangra party was among the first in the city to merge the sounds of Bhangra and Bollywood with the vocabulary of contemporary dance music, hip hop, and dancehall. As part of an international movement that spans the South Asian diaspora from Birmingham to San Francisco and beyond, Rekha’s name is synonymous with the rise of Bhangra music and dance in this country’s urban hot spots.
Not to sound like a press release, but, uh, a little magazine called Newsweek named her “one of the most influential South Asians in the United States.” Rekha also lectures at The Clive Davis Institute of Recorded Music at NYU, and at last year’s EMP conference we got to see her take on the tough questions of globalization, power, and cultural appropriation during a roundtable conversation with our friends Wayne Marshall and Venus X.
We asked Rekha to take a swing at our Under 300 series and, as prescribed, she came back with five underplayed Soundcloud cuts. She gave us a sentence or two in her own words about what we’re listening to.
“Currently New York based, DJ Petra from the Bay Area, looking out for her peeps, tipped me off to this Bay Area vocalist. The lo-fi vibe is part of the charm, reminds me of mid-1990s ambient drum and bass at moments. Unapologetically she says, ‘songs were recorded in my mothers laundry room in East Oakland California, somewhere in Chicago’s cold ass basements, in San Francisco projects, and in hot ass Atlanta!! Yes, you probably do hear some distortion! But hey, we all have to start somewhere’ I think she is starting in the right place. Her album drops summer 2013.”
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“One of the most overlooked producers of the ill-dubbed Asian Underground Scene that is over credited to Talvin Singh. In his past life he played guitar in several Bhangra bands. Rehmi’s delicate balance of traditional and electronic makes his beats sublime.”
“Sikh Knowlegde. Montreal bred, currently Toronto-based MC and producer. He has numerous tracks with several underground Punjabi rappers, most notably Humble the Poet. This is his homage to Don Raja Apache Indian as the only know cover version of a classic ragamuffin tune.”
“Ricky Jatt, with an impressive Youtube following for a Sikh RnB singer from DC. This is a cover of a classic RnB Asian(meaning from South Asia in the UK) track by Bhangra superstar producer Dr. Zeus.”
“I guess I am hitting a RnB zone. Here is a shameless plug for one the many talented students at the Clive Davis Institute of Recorded music where I teach. It’s musically complex and simple all at the same time. For more good stuff from the next generation check out Kiah in the Clive Davis Students Diamonds video.”
Featured photo credit Nisha Sondhe.
You can catch DJ Rekha at Basement Bhangra, now at Le Poisson Rouge in lower Manhattan.