DJ Rekha, NonStop Bhangra, and Dholrhythms

DJ Rekha
We had a special guest at NonStop on Saturday night, DJ Rekha.  Of legendary Basement Bhangra fame, DJ Rekha has been the center of the bhangra party in New York City for over 15 years.  In terms of longevity that's a stunning achievement, but DJ Rekha is also one of the first, and few, women to successfully DJ in a heavily male-dominated field.  She discovered bhangra as a teenager and decided she wanted to become a DJ to the horror of her parents.  They had envisioned a doctor or a lawyer, but her persistence finally won them over.  DJ Rekha rejects pop and Bollywood (except for one tribute song to Whitney Houston Saturday night), instead focusing on the roots of the music she spins.  In a New York Times article DJ Rekha says,  "'Because I'm working with my culture, and it's being accessed or consumed by other cultures, then I have a strong responsibility to how that message is made.'"  And she seems to take that task seriously- she's as taciturn in person as she is on stage.  But she's all bhangra all the time.   

The Dance Floor at NonStop
Photo by Odell Hussey
Meanwhile, NonStop has officially made the transition to its new home at Public Works at 14th and Mission the 2nd Saturday of each month.  This past weekend had the place packed to the gills in a Rickshaw Stop flashback.  The photo at left was taken by Odell during the lesson early in the night.  You can imagine what it was like later... wall to wall people, AC working overtime, a crazy mass all enjoying themselves and doing some serious bhangra.  I know I could hardly keep up with most of them- I was toast at 1 am and the party was just getting started.  Everyone left sweaty, mostly drunk, and very happy.  I'd say it was a success.

Photo by Odell Hussey
It's transitions all around as NonStop has found itself a new home and I have found myself a new dancing home in Dholrhythms.  How is it, being part of the crazy bunch of bhangraistas who bring it to the stage once a month at NonStop?  A super lot of fun.  Yes, there's tons of rehearsals (sometimes I think all I do is dance).  And the learning curve is steep when you're joining a group of women who've been performing together for years.  But the thrill of being on that stage in front of that crowd doing bhangra?  Couldn't be beat.

Red Pants and Piles of Bangles from Baroda,
courtesy of Manisha
As much as it is about the dance however, it's also about the status symbols.  Jared watched the first Dholrhythms performance at Public Works in January and commented, "I get it.  I see why everyone wants to do it.  You all get to be your own princesses."  Which is a strange and apt response.  Seeing as how we're a group of women in their 30's and 40's dancing, "princesses" sounds a little juvenile.  Maybe we could pick up rajkumari, which means exactly the same thing but sounds a little less associated with my niece and her long-standing obsession with Disney princesses.  As Emily noted, "It's all about the pants."  It is about the pants... and the piles of bangles... and parandis... and shiny costume jewelry.  All that glitters and shimmers, coupled with some tiered pants?  Color me happy.  And with that first paycheck for dancing?  "You'll spend it all on costuming," Lana advised me.  Already have.