Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Kollektive and DJ Rekha in DC this Weekend

I think this is going to be one of those New York-comes-to DC Desi weekends, unheard of almost here in Washington. First is, what I hope will become a regular event, Kollektiv DC, which features some of my favorite dj's spinning desi influenced drum-and-bass, breaks, and electronica, at DC's Bossa Lounge (Adams Morgan) this Friday. Kollektiv DC this time around is the official release party for Dhamaal Soundsystem's latest EP Transitions and will feature JANAKA SELECTA | from the Dhamaal Soundsystem (SF), Zakhm (Mutiny), dk/bollygirl (avaaz), dimmsummer (, and DC's own Vishal Kanwar on the paint and canvas. Bossa Lounge is located on 2463 18th Street NW in Adams Morgan and there will be a 10 dollar cover charge.

And then, as if the fun could not stop, the first ladies DJ collective, are throwing a DESI party on Saturday April 30th, featuring Basement Bhangra's DJ Rekha, on the ones and twos at the Black Cat club located at 1811 14th street. I think this is an all ages show and tickets for this will be $8 in advance (at the blackcat or at ticketmaster) or 10 dollars at the show. I went last year, and quite honestly this was one of my favorite parties of the year. The crowd is atypical, which will probably include lots of hipsters, and the music is hip-hop, bhangra, and reggae.

If you are in DC, make sure you check out at least one of these shows.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Its True: Aishwarya on Oprah This Monday (4/25)

We have been reporting this for over a month now here on DESIBLOG, and it seems to be official, Aishwarya Rai (TMBWITW), who was featured prominently in DC's most recent international filmfest, will appear on the Oprah Winfrey Show this Monday (4/25), check your local listings to find out when it airs, and Aishwarya's official site for more updates.

SUPERSYSTEM--Always Never Again

Although this isn't a strictly desi post, I wanted to highlight a new release by Supersystem, formerly el guapo, entitled always never again (touch and go) that some of you may be interested in, especially those of you that enjoy electronic beats mixed with various other musical elements. Like most of the music I highlight on the blog, there is some ethnic influence, but it isn't as overt as in many of the music selections that I usually point to in this space. Anyway, I just saw the band perform last night in Washington, and like usual, I came away impressed with their performance.

Give it a try, you might like it.
To hear two of my favorite tracks from their record, "born into the world," and "defcon," click here, to see the video for "born into the world", click here (to be honest--I am friends and used to work with the singer featured in the video--Rafael Cohen), and to purchase the album from amazon, click here.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

MIDIval Punditz--MIDIval Times...and niyaz

San Francisco based Six Degrees Records, releases on Tuesday April 19th a couple of albums that many of you will be interested in. The first, and one of my favorites of the year is MIDIval Times, the second full length release by the New Delhi based duo of Gaurav Raina and Tapan Raj, collectively known as the MIDIval PunditZ. The follow-up to their very successful 2002 debut is a bit more melodic, a bit more classically Indian, and a little less beat heavy, but nevertheless has changed my perception of what Asian Massive, or Indian influenced electronica can sound like.

The 11 track album opens with the song, "Morning," a teaser of sorts that sets you up for an outrageous and mind-opening roller coaster ride of music. The album is not cookie-cutter by any means and does not fall into any one genre of music, at times it is Indian Classical and traditional, and at others it is Drum and Bass and filmi.

Among the highlights for me is the song "Rebirth," featuring Anoushka Shankar, daughter and protégé of legendary Sitar virtuoso Ravi Shankar. The Punditz's subtle beat placement alongside Shankar's sitar works amazingly well, and the track eerily conjures up memories of Discovery of India, one of the songs her father did with Zakir Husain for the Gandhi soundtrack, and one of the most evocative songs I have ever heard.

Other highlights include "Khayaal" featuring the soulful voice of longtime Karsh Kale collaborater Vishal Vaid, and the last track, Hold On (Thaarey Rahiyo), with its nostalgic filmi sound.

What is so striking about the Punditz's work is their ability to not just mix elements of tradition with modernity to create the dreaded term fusion, but internalize both the tradition of Indian music with the modernity of Western beats and create the sounds of a modern India.

To listen to samples of the album click here, and click here to purchase the album from

The second album I wanted to mention is the debut release by the new trio, Niyaz (NEE-ahz),
niyaz.jpg which is made up of Azam Ali of Vas, Loga Rami Torkian from Axiom of Choice, and Grammy nominated producer/remixer Carmen Rizzo. More than just spiritual chanting to rock and roll music, Niyaz's sound blends ancient Sufi and Urdu poetry, traditional Persian instruments, and gentle and well-placed electronic beats.

Think Enya, but ethnic, and a little less new-age Yoga center, and more loungy and organic. Or as Niyaz themselves like to call it "folk music for the 21st century." Its an interesting concept, and works well at times, especially on "Allahi Allah," and "dilruba," but one that could use a bit more fleshing out. To listen for yourself, click here, and to purchase from amazon, click here.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Panjabi MC's Steel Bangle

Many of us have been waiting a long time for some new Panjabi MC material, and while he has released a new album, entitled Steel Bangle--in reference to the Kada or bracelet that many Sikh men wear, the material used for the album is apparently music that did not make the final cut for the last album recorded for nachural records.

Word around the block is that PMC, aka Rajinder Rai, had signed on to release a certain amount of records for nachural, and to fulfill his commitment he decided to release old material, again. Even though the material is leftover, it is still PMC, and so some of it is quite hot. You can hear samples of the album's 10 tracks here so go and give it a listen. My favorite track is Nachdi Tu Gidhe Vich featuring his longtime collaborator Labh Janjua, the singer from Mundian to Bach Ke.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Vikram Chatwal's Dream, a Nightmare

highlights one of our favorites again, Vikram Chatwal. This time, not to highlight his burgeoning film career or his association with the NY/LA Glitterati, but instead his entrepreneurial venture, the boutique Dream Hotel. Well, actually Gawker said they put this item in to highlight the above picture, where they say Chatwal
sure does look serene for a ‘tard whose Dream hotel has been recognized as little more than a dump.
Apparently Dream, which hasn't been getting the best of reviews, recently got canned by Newsweek magazine. In their piece entitled "It Sure Isn't Like Motel 6," the magazine notes:
The Dream Hotel in midtown Manhattan, which opened in October, features three sumptuously decorated bars and, in the bizarre, amply-mirrored lobby, a towering fish tank, a Mongolian statue and a stuffed raven. Its rooms, with 37-inch wall-mounted plasma televisions, are studies in the art of trying to appear chic within a stingy 160 square feet. However, there's no wireless Internet access, and the desk chairs are poorly positioned for working productively on a laptop. “Eclectic design and fancy marketing don’t cut it anymore for the business traveler who’s educated enough to know when they are getting the right product for the right price,” Chatwal says. But it’s hard to reconcile that with the blue luminescent photos (mostly of naked women) that greet guests as they step outside the elevators on each floor. Here’s an even worse sin: during enterprise’s recent stay, the Dream neglected to place our morning wake-up call, requiring a mad dash to the airport. For a business traveler, there’s no greater nightmare.

Perhaps Daddy's entrepreneurial genes don't reach Vikram.

More Gawker on Chatwal here.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Films of the DES

Imagine my surprise upon opening the handy-dandy filmest DC insert in the Washington City Paper, to find a plethora of Indian films being screened. Now, I am used to seeing one or two, but amongst the many other fine films from other countries being screened, 10 Indian films have been selected for screening. A couple highlights of the selections include an opening night screening of Rituparno Ghosh's Raincoat (starring TMBWITW Aishwarya Rai) sponsored by Air India and Nutella, a screening of Chokher Bali also starring Rai, both with Ghosh in attendance, the stunningly beautiful, musically amazing, yet poorly scripted Dil Se (score by AR Rahman), Dev starring Om Puri and Amitabh Bachchan (with Amitabh in attendance), and Songs of Mahulbani which will be shown with the Oscar nominated Little Terrorist.

The newly colorized Mughal-e-Azam, Morning Raga, The Journey, The Sandstorm, and a Thousand Dreams Such as These round out the desi flicks. Also of interest is the 90 minute film by Salam Pax, entitled Salam Pax: The Baghdad Blogger.

More details at

Saturday, April 02, 2005

The New York Times Wedding Section

Even though this is no longer an infrequent occurrence, I love it that Desi weddings are making a regular appearance in the New York Times Vows section, and thus feel the need to blog them from time-to-time. This weeks entry: the wedding of Geeta Chopra, or as many may know her--Citygirl, founder of SALAAM theatre.

GEETA CHOPRA wears a heart drawn with eyeliner on her cheek and answers her cellphone saying, "Citygirl," a surname she adopted in college. "She is bubbly down to her handwriting," her sister, Mona, said. Ms. Chopra, 33, is the founder and artistic director of a five-year-old theater company called Salaam, short for South Asian League of Artists in America. Last March she was steeped in her job, and getting married, she said, was low on her list of priorities. That month, during previews of the Broadway musical "Bombay Dreams," Ms. Chopra orchestrated a splashy pre-opening party in the K Lounge, a night spot in Midtown...