PRINT December 2017

Music: Best of 2017

DJ Rekha

1 ANIK KHAN, KITES (AVX/The Foreign Affair/EMPIRE) This Queens-based rapper couples his Bengali-immigrant roots with hip-hop flow in a vivid ten-track album that speaks of love, history, and journeys. Raj Makhija, fka RajStar, mixed and recorded the project and coproduced the title track, as well as “Tides” and “Mango Nectar.”

Anik Khan performing at Rough Trade NYC, New York, July 18, 2017. Photo: HYFN.

2 MADAME GANDHI An electronic musician and activist, Madame Gandhi is traipsing around the world, spreading feminist teachings through her music and talks. Check out her Spotify playlist “The Future Is Female,” which she updates every Wednesday.

3 PRINCESS NOKIA, 1992 DELUXE (Rough Trade) When she’s not throwing hot soup at racists on the L Train, Princess Nokia, née Destiny Frasqueri, is rocking world stages and adorning billboards with her self-identified Afro-Indigenous queer swagger. Her latest album adds eight tracks to the mixtape she dropped last year. Lessons are aplenty in standouts “ABCs of New York” and “Brujas.”

Princess Nokia, New York, 2017. Photo: Milah Libin.

4 SWET SHOP BOYS Riz Ahmed and Himanshu Suri make up this hip-hop duo. Ahmed, aka Riz MC, was a rapper before he became an Emmy Award–winning actor. The lyrics from their track “T5” (referring to Terminal 5 at Heathrow) “Inshallah, mashallah / Hopefully no martial law” were chanted at numerous airport protests opposing the US Muslim ban in January.

Still from the Swet Shop Boys’ 2016 video T5, directed by Sofian Khan. Riz Ahmed.

5 THE KOMINAS, “NO FUN” (Self-released) This song is the latest effort by the US-based, first- and second-generation Indian-Pakistani American punk band at stating the obvious: It’s not fun to be hunted. In September, they performed at a stadium in Morocco, where the crowd chanted “FDT” (Fuck Donald Trump)—a mantra for our times.

6 HARD KAUR, THE RISING MIXTAPE, VOL. 1 (Future Records) India’s first lady of rap, who was instrumental in leading the charge to add verses to Bollywood pop hits, has harnessed the talent of local underground hip-hop superstars on this pivotal new mixtape.

Still from Hard Kaur’s 2016 video Sherni, directed by Team DG. Hard Kaur.

7 MONICA DOGRA, “NARAYE MASTANA” (Self-released) A musician, actress, and one half of alternative music duo Shaa’ir and Func, Dogra reinterprets Sufi-music superstar Abida Parveen’s classic song as a trap/ bass track.

Still from Monica Dogra’s 2017 video Naraye Mastana, directed by Ra Dreyfus. Center: Monica Dogra.

8 MISS POOJA, “PASAND” (Saga Music) The bhangra legend—who pioneered the genre’s duet trend in the early 2000s—has dropped another fire joint with longtime collaborator DJ Dips.

9 RENU, THEY DANCE IN THE DARK (RENU/Holykuti Records) RENU is a Berlin- and London-based artist—a self-described composer, producer, tabla player, multi-percussionist, and multi-everything. Her new album is an example of the incredible elasticity of the tabla sound.

10 JASMINE SANDLAS, “PUNJABI MUTIYARAN” (Yellow Music) I have been following Sandlas’s career since she released her debut album, The Diamond, in 2008. Since then, she has been cranking out hit after hit, topping Punjabi charts, and showcasing her range of styles from pop to classical Punjabi to R&B and hip-hop. Grounded in her characteristically pop-folk bhangra vibe, the song expresses the fierceness of Punjabi women.

Still from Jasmine Sandlas’s 2017 video Punjabi Mutiyaran, directed by Mehul Gadani. Jasmine Sandlas.

DJ Rekha is responsible for pioneering the merger of Bhangra and Bollywood sounds with contemporary electronic dance music. She is the founder of Basement Bhangra, which was one of NYC’s longest-running club nights, and was one of the official DJs for the Women’s March on Washington in January 2017. Her podcast, Bhangra & Beyond, is released weekly on BTR today.