Indian music in US mainstream
America has had a different sort of Indian summer this year. Nightclubs have picked up tabla rhythms, “Bollywood disco” classes have boomed, rappers have started to tap into Indian music. The popularity of American hip-hop has helped bring into the mainstream music that a new generation from India has been reinventing for years.
Producer Panjabi MC has teamed up with rapper Jay-Z, Missy Elliott has sampled Indian elements in her music, the summer hit song Move your body has a bhangra flavour.
“The music is more widely heard,” says Rekha Malhotra, aka DJ Rekha, who’s been promoting Indian music in the US for years. “We have a new audience, people come because it’s very danceable.” And first-generation Americans form a strong core of the fan base.
Gyms across New York, including the popular NY Sports Clubs, are offering “bhangra masala” aerobics classes. People at the “Bollywood Axion” classes literally have to elbow their way in. Dozens, including many white women, move their hips and elbows under the instruction of Pooja Narang.
The trend gained speed first in Britain, where during the 1990s artistes like Talvin Singh and Nitin Sawhney blended traditional music with electronica. Indian performances have now reached America’s most revered cultural institutions: Lagaan won two Oscar nominations, and Vogue praised Bombay Dreams as “more than worth seeing for its introduction to a musical genius (‘Asian Mozart’ Rahman) and for its window on a faraway culture that is getting closer every day”.