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Basement Bhangra end their two-decade run with a SummerStage blowout (pics)

Basement Bhangra has been a NYC institution and has served as a musical bastion for desis, LGBTQ+ folks and people from all walks of life for the last two decades. My first experience with DJ Rekha‘s dance party was the fun night aboard the sweaty Frying Pan out on the Hudson to ring in New Year’s Eve 2004. Although I didn’t frequent Rekha’s parties as much as I would have liked, I kept tabs on what rising artists she hosted at the S.O.B.’s nights. Rekha (through Basement Bhangra) has been a powerful influence on the South Asian music scene and has helped give bands like Red Baraat (who do something similar for up-and-coming artists at their annual Festival of Colors shows) and The Kominas a start.

Rekha’s decided to bring her Basement series to an end with a SummerStage blowout, an afternoon packed with performances including Rekha’s own set. Artists included Anik Khan, Madame Gandhi, Horsepowar, Sikh Knowledge, Apache Indian, DJ Petra, DJ Shilpa and bhangra legend Panjabi MC (whose “Mundian To Bach Ke” was incorporated into one of Jay-Z’s song). There were also special guest appearances from bhangra dance troops, director Gurinder Chandha (who noted she was missing the opening of her latest film, Viceroy’s House, in India to be in Central Park), comedian Aparna Nancherla who introed Rekha, and Heems who performed a verse or two.

Though Basement Bhangra may be coming to a close, Rekha noted she won’t stop spinning. WNYC sums up Rekha’s rationale for bringing Basement Bhangra to an end,

Rekha said she is leaving on her own terms, and not because of rising rents. She intends to pursue other creative projects and further studies, and issued a parting endorsement for the city that embraced her and her work.

“I think in New York City there’s an environment that breeds that kind of art. And that’s why in so many ways Basement Bhangra could only happen here,” she said. “It’s a good place to stop, to know that that’s out there.”

Pictures of the bittersweet 20th anniversary goodbye party are in the gallery above.

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