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Musicians and music from South Asia have influenced contemporary music for generations. Norwegian Wood, anyone?
But do the people from a specific culture own it? Who can and should use this music? And where is the line between appreciation and appropriation in art?
What should we make of practices when people who are not of South Asian descent put on a bindi, like pop star Selena Gomez did during a 2013 performance of her song “Come and Get It?”
Or this Beyonce and Coldplay video, which some criticized for showing a reductive view of life in India.
DJ Rekha has thought about these questions a lot. She founded a space called Basement Bhangra, and she’ll join us to talk about it.
As Shruti Parekh writes in Splinter:
The underground party was started by Rekha Malhotra, aka DJ Rekha, and was a New York-flavored ode to an infectious, drum-heavy type of Punjabi music called bhangra. DJ Rekha was born in London and spent a few years in New Delhi, but was raised primarily in Queens and Long Island. By mixing bhangra with the music DJ Rekha grew up on in those NYC boroughs—hip-hop, dancehall, and electronica—Rekha brought a traditional South Asian sound to American audiences for the first time.
DJ Rekha was set on bending the rules from the beginning. Whether it was pushing the boundaries of what kinds of music were allowed in clubs or breaking stereotypes about South Asians as buttoned-up doctors and engineers, she wasn’t afraid to step outside of the norm. And so it was that in the midst of a late ‘90s NYC nightlife scene dictated by male DJs, a South Asian woman was orchestrating the start of different kind of party that would eventually become one of the longest running dance nights in the city.
[Show produced by Gabrielle Healy, text by Gabi Healy.]
- Rekha Malhotra DJ and podcast host
- Adwait Patil Journalist
- Annette Philip Faculty member at Berklee College of Music, Philip is the artistic director of the Berklee India Exchange and the founder and director of the Berklee Indian Ensemble. She's also a vocalist.
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