Rekha Malhotra, commonly referred to as DJ Rekha, is a musical force in her own right! For 17 years, she has spearheaded a bhangra dance movement in NYC and beyond. In 1997, she solidified a place for bhangra music—a dance and music that originally comes from India’s Punjab region—in New York City’s club scene with the launch of her popular Basement Bhangra parties. These once-a-month culturally immersive dance parties are still in full force today. The experience begins as a happy hour, moves into a bhangra dance lesson and explodes into a hip-hop and house infused bhangra dance party.
Here are 10 bits of trivia you should know about this dedicated DJ, curator, record label owner, educator, entrepreneur and activist:
- Although Rekha spent three years in India’s Punjab region as a young child, her introduction to bhangra music came through a cassette tape her mother brought home after a trip to London.
- In 2007, she was referred to as the “Ambassador of Bhangra” by The New York Times.
- In 2004, Rekha was named one of the most influential South Asians by Newsweek.
- She is a committed human rights advocate, serving on the boards of Breakthrough, a human rights organization, and Pop and Politics.
- Rekha has collaborated with an array of artists, including Wyclef Jean, Panjabi MC and Bikram Singh.
- She arranged the music for Bridge and Tunnel, the [Tony Award] winning Off Broadway show.
- Outside of her popular basement parties, Rekha has spun her unique bhangra blend at P.S. 1’s Warm Up Series, Central Park’s Summerstage, Prospect Park’s Celebrate Brooklyn, Brooklyn Museum’s First Saturdays, and the annual flagship Loving Day celebration held in New York City.
- Just last month, Rekha collaborated with Ragamala Dance Company to bring bhangra music and dance to Twin Cities, Minn.
- In May of 2010, Rekha spun for President Obama, and other officials at the White House in celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
- Rekha’s secret to success: As she explained in a recent interview, “There wasn’t one. I just did what I liked and I was in the right place at the right time and I was naïve about what I was doing because I didn’t know I couldn’t do it. So I did it. I didn’t choose it. It chose me.”
Come experience Rekha’s unique blend of hip-hop, house and bhangra at Levitt Westport this Friday! And for folks in Bellingham, Frederick, Los Angeles, Middlesboro, Pasadena, Sheboygan or Trenton, check out the other free concerts happening this week at the Levitt!