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Queens DJ Mixes South Asian and Hip-Hop Cultures

January 11, 2012
Plain English Version

Rekha Malhotra

Music and Bollywood movie musicals from South Asia are a part of the culture of New York City.

DJ Rekha (born Rekha Malhotra) introduced bhangra, a form of Punjabi folk music to America. She started a record label called Beat Bazaar. She hosts a radio show called “Bhangra and Beyond.”

The most popular event she hosts is the Basement Bhangra party. The monthly event is being held at the Brooklyn Bowl on January 27, 2012. While there are several regular Desi (a self-identifying Sanskrit term for South Asians) nights around town, Ms. Malhotra’s reputation for great music stands out.

The South Asian cultural landscape in the city has changed in the last 15 years thanks in large part to Ms. Malhotra, singer Bikram Singh and others.

Ms. Malhotra is a proud New Yorker of Indian descent. In the city, “On any one night there could be an art opening, there could be an Indian classical-music concert, a concert of other Indian styles of music, or a movie screening,” she said. “There are more interesting and diverse offerings of South Asian culture in New York City than anywhere in the world.”

Ms. Malhotra mixes bhangra, hip-hop and Jamaican dancehall music in her sets. Raised in a largely African-American section of Queens, she says, “We experienced one culture in our home and another other outside.”

She said, “Some people don’t understand the music’s lyrics, but they really enjoy dancing to it anyway. Bhangra is fundamentally a danceable music, and I’ve never met someone who doesn’t like it.”

The Wall Street Journal


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