For the last 12 years, Basement Bhangra, the monthly dance-party at S.O.B’s, has enjoyed a reputation as one of the most exciting, beloved, ethnically and musically diverse events in New York City nightlife. At the center of it all is the renowned DJ Rekha, who fuels the enthusiastic Basement crowd with a mixture of bhangra (Punjabi folk music originating from India and Pakistan), hip-hop, dance hall rhythms from Jamaica and the U.K., live MC’s and dhol players, plus video mixing. Long before mainstream rap started sampling Indian tunes, or reality show contestants bopped onstage to “Jai Ho”, DJ Rekha spearheaded South Asian music’s introduction to the NY club scene, establishing herself as a dance music innovator.
I first met Rekha around 7 years ago, after I went to Basement for the first time and wanted to profile the event for Studio 360. I remember being nervous about waking up a DJ before noon to do a radio interview, but she was gracious and laid-back about it all. She described how Basement Bhangra started, and talked about her desire to change the pre-conceptions about her community and its culture through the power of music. You can listen to that piece from the 360 archive RIGHT HERE. There’s also a great package about Rekha that CNN did a little while back:
After a whirlwind summer of festival touring (Tulsa, Lake Tahoe, Madison, Chicago, Cleveland, etc), Rekha was back in New York last week. Since her whole career started “the hard way”, with learning to DJ on turntables, we chatted with her about how lap-top technology has changed the art of rocking the decks. You can hear what she told us right here:
Over the years, DJ Rekha’s star has continued to rise and she stays busy. She launched a second monthly party called Bollywood Disco through her production company, Sangament; she produced a satellite radio show to broadcast her sets to a global audience; and she arranged the music for Bridge and Tunnel, the Obie-Award winning Off-Broadway show. She was an NYU Asian/Pacific/American Artist in Residence and she lectures at the Clive Davis School of Recorded Music. I’m also proud to mention that Rekha and I were co-associate producers for the radio documentary, Feet In Two Worlds: Immigrants in a Global City, back in 2005. Last year, she released her first record, DJ Rekha Presents Basement Bhangra, which featured collaborations with Wyclef Jean, Panjabi MC, and Bikram Singh among others. That’s available on iTunes and you should go download it now, if you don’t have it.
We’re honored that DJ Rekha will be joining us to close out the MMiX Festival on October 11th. So go ahead and bust out those Slumdog moves – we know you’ve been itching to try them out. 🙂