Rekha is a one-woman movement pushing hip-hop forward while successfully re-introducing Punjabi folk music to an American music culture, one show at a time.
The atmospheric beauty of DJ Rekha’s set began with sensual Bhangra beats that cultivated in her mind, flowed to her turntables and laptop, and eventually manifested on the dance floor in a hybrid of traditional Indian dancehall and contemporary club grooving. In Chicago’s Smart Bar, located in the basement of the historic Metro rock venue, Basement Bhangra could not have had a better subterranean setting. The Punjabi-hip-hop fusion swirled and percolated, bouncing off the circumference of dimly-lit multi-colored walls and filling bodies with motion. One of the first phrases on DJ Rekha’s debut album, Basement Bhangra, released last fall, is “Do your research!” You can do all the research you want: listen to the album again and again, let it shatter, rebuild, and enhance any previous misconceptions you may have of the “Bollywood sound” as it’s commonly referred to. You can watch all the Internet videos showcasing her sets and learn about the seminars Rekha holds to educate fans’ minds as much as their bodies. But all this research can do is prepare you. It can’t compare with, much less replace, the live set, where the Bhangra beats are born -- beats designed to slip backbones and cause limbs to move in blissful ways not commonly experienced at an American club show.