Rekha Malhotra, a.k.a DJ Rekha, had created a dance party for the Brazilian club, S.O.B’s on Manhattan’s Varick Street. But it wasn’t just a regular dance party. This party fused the infectious beats of a type of South Asian music known as Bhangra with the boom and bass of Hip-Hop. There, Basement Bhangra was born putting the genre on the music map.
Now, the London-born, Queens-bred DJ is bringing her Basement Bhangra dance party to the borough on Saturday, March 26 as part of the World in Queens Series held by the World Music Institute and the Jamaica Performing Arts Center., part of the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning.
“I love this music, I love Hip-Hop and as a DJ what’s important is that people can connect to it and dance to it,” she said.
Malhotra sees her party, which is held every first Thursday of the month, as an overall New York Dance party, not just something for South Asians or those that enjoy Bhangra music.
Malhotra was born in London but spent her childhood growing up in Queens. She attended Queens College and majored in Urban Studies. There was always and activist within her and she became involved in activities on campus like the South Asian Youth Action group. Now, Malhotra spends her time giving to other organizations such as CHHAYA Community Development Corporation, a company which advocates for various South Asian groups and Breakthrough, a human rights organization.
The DJ put forth her debut album in 2007, entitled DJ Rekha Presents Basement Bhangra. Now, she hosts a weekly radio show called Bhangra and Beyond at breakthruradio.com. It’s another way for the artist to spread her mix of music.
She plans to create her own record label but doesn’t have plans for a next album anytime soon although she continues to collaborate with artists on remixes.
“I feel like with a radio show I do an album every week,” she said.
Malhotra doesn’t stop at music and activism. She also works at New York University part time teaching a DJ master class in the Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music. the summer course is open to anyone.
While she is a bit of everything, DJing remains her true passion.
“A DJ is a curator more than anything else,” she said. “They can read a crowd and seemingly pull together that collective experience.”
Malhotra currently lives in Brooklyn and although she spends some of her time in Queens, this performance is a “homecoming” for her.
“I don’t get to do a lot of shows in Queens, I’m excited to play in Queens,” she said.
The collaboration between WMI and JCAL aims to introduce audiences to a larger variety of world music.
Other artists part of the series are Emeline Michel, the Queen of Hatian Song, the new reggae, soul band, Meta and the Cornerstones and Xiomara Laugart, the Voice of Havana, who is set to perform on April 30.
DJ Rekha’s show will begin at 8:00 p.m. at the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning located at 161-04 Jamaica Avenue. A pre-Bhangra Dance Party will take place prior to the show at 7:30 p.m. to introduce people to the Bhangra dance style.
For more information call 718-658-7400.