Desi on Deck

Newsweek magazine called her "one of the most influential South Asians in the United States." The New York Times Magazine dubbed her "one of the ten women of downtown music." In her near-decade of spinning beats, DJ Rekha has somehow morphed from mild-mannered spinstress to spokesperson for bhangra music — not to mention South Asian youth culture and female turntablists everywhere.

"Yeah, it does feel like I've always been talking about bhangra," says Rekha, who today will host Turntablas on the Bayou, DJ Yogi and Alx's regular bhangra event at The Social. She's been on the scene long enough to watch the music she loves go from being thought of as "just Indian music" to a veritable subgenre. "But I still sometimes have to refer to it as cool Indian shit," she says. "When I slipped Missy Elliott my disc, I said, 'Yo — it's a cool Indian girl DJ. My shit is blowing up.' " (She's still waiting to hear back from Elliott, who used some phat bhangra beats on her "Get Your Freak On" track.)

Not that the lifelong New Yorker needs to ride anyone's coattails. Rekha has been a beats star since she organized a monthly NYC club gig, Mutiny, in 1997. Mutiny ended two years ago, but her other brainchild, Basement Bhangra, has become a fixture on the New York club scene and has been covered by just about every major media outlet. Long before M.I.A. was hot, Rekha was spinning with her. And having introduced American audiences to Punjabi MC in 1998, Rekha is pretty damn proud that NYC's Hot 97 aired one of his tracks — complete with lyrics — in 2003. "I remember hearing the track in the car," she says. "I got a lump in my throat."

Partyers can expect a bumpin' show today, as Rekha promises to keep people dancing, which she says is more typical of female DJs. "Guys love to cut and scratch — you know, to show off their skills. I think women are more into making a good mix. That's what I'm about." Her set will feature bhangra, dancehall, hip-hop, some baile funk ("I went to Brazil this year," she says excitedly) and some Middle Eastern dark-groove stuff. "You know," she says, "whatever will keep the crowd moving."
Fri., Jan. 13, 9 p.m.

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