Ten years ago, Rekha Malhotra was a curiosity -- a female Disc Jockey with a heavy passion for bhangra. Some people told her she wouldn't get any respect, others said she couldn't make a career out of it. Today, DJ Rekha is everywhere -- on campuses, at special events, even at protests, with the mainstream media paying her as much attention as the ethnic media does.
Nominated Best DJ by New York magazine, selected by The New York Times Magazine
as one of the ten women of downtown music, and named one of the most influential South Asians in the United States by Newsweek three years ago, Rekha is often called a cultural instigator who has put bhangra on the map in North America.
Her work has taken her to some elite institutions including New York University, where she is an Artist in Residence and has taught popular culture.
||in her words
'People in nightlife can be responsible and socially conscious. We are not just vapid. We're not just about partying and drinking and whatever else people engage in. We are very important to the economy of this city [New York] and we are completely dogged by it.'
|Photo: Paresh Gandhi|
Twenty undergraduates, not all Asians, took the course for credit.
She says she is more than an authority and scene creator for South Asian dance music. "My interest in music and reading is eclectic," says Rekha, who grew up on Long Island in a neighborhood with a significant number of African Americans. She was tapped over three years ago for her eclectic musical palate by Sarah Jones for her Obie Award-winning one woman show Bridge and Tunnel that was produced by Meryl Streep. The show went on to run for over six months on Broadway.
When not playing alongside Outkast, The Roots, LeTigre, Devo or Rah Digga, or hosting her legendary Basement Bhangra and Bollywood Disco nights, Rekha raises funds and awareness for diverse causes. She also serves on the boards of Breakthrough, a human rights organization, and Pop and Politics. Her company, Sangament, produces live concerts and provides music consulting services to record labels, cultural institutions, media companies and corporations.
She was also one of the backers of SAYA!, a 10-year-old after school program for South Asian children in Queens, that touches the lives of over 500 children each year.