DJ Rekha invited me to perform at her final Basement Bhangra party at Central Park SummerStage this year. She has been doing the party all over NYC and the world for 20 years, and this was her final celebration, bringing together artists from the diaspora together to celebrate. It was so beautiful to see the juxtaposition of different artists of South Asian backgrounds and their incorporation of their culture and heritage through their art. I loved watching Anik Khan and Horsepowar. I loved witnessing Panjabi MC and Apache Indian take the stage, and then of course DJ Rekha with my friend Malinder on Dhol!!!!! Yes, queer brown women are so fierce!!!! And so rare to see on stage in the performing arts!!
On a personal note, I grew up four blocks away from Summerstage, and used to always sneak backstage – I’ll never forget when I told them that I sell merch for Damian Marley and that it was urgent I go and see him backstage immediately. They let me in and I watched the entire show from side of stage. Or when my little sister Kanika and I told them we were Ben Harper’s nieces and had to be let backstage immediately or he would be pissed. It always worked. We got to see some of our idols perform. To come back as Madame Gandhi 10 years later felt so enormously special.
DJ Rekha has always checked for me and members of the South Asian community. During the fall of 2013, I remember freaking out because I really wanted to accept the offer to tour with M.I.A as her drummer but I had just been accepted to Harvard Business School. I didn’t know which one to pick. I remember she took me for a beer at a dive bar somewhere in alphabet city in Manhattan and sat me down and said, “I know what you have to do. You have to do both!” And that’s exactly what I ended up doing.
It is a sad closing of a historic chapter in NYC that I was so happy to be part of with my homies Noor Khan and DJ Ayes Cold, and I can’t wait to watch the next generation of South Asian artists continue to thrive because of Rekha’s leadership.