DJing is an important cultural practice that emerged in the United States in the 1970s. The development of its craft, techniques, and technologies over the past five decades has made DJing into a formidable performed cultural practice and art. The metaphors for a disc jockey, or DJ, are many: beat conductor, god, mastermind, and savior, to name a few. The popular perception of what a DJ does is exaggerated by overrepresented elements of a DJ performance, most notably scratching the sound source and utilizing studio production technique. I ask, if these standard conceptions of DJing are centered on the male figure of a DJ, what are the lived experiences of women and nonbinary DJs? This project examines queer and feminist DJ practice through ethnographic research with women and nonbinary DJs of color. From this research, I produced a 5-episode short form podcast series, From The Decks. The podcast format not only provides information about the various findings, it inserts the artists and their sounds into the research. Included in this thesis is the text of the interviews in their entirety so that the archive will have the in-depth detail of the cultural practice within the contemporary arena of media and communication.
About Rekha Malhotra
Rekha Malhotra a is producer, curator, educator, and activist. She pioneered merging Bhangra and Bollywood sounds with contemporary electronic dance music. She is the founder of Basement BhangraTM, Bollywood Disco and co‐founder of Mutiny Club nights. She was named "Ambassador of Bhangra" by the New York Times.
Rekha was the sound designer for the TONY award‐winning Broadway Show, "Bridge and Tunnel,” and received a Drama Desk Award nomination for her work on the play "Rafta Rafta" and was the associate producer for the NPR Radio Documentary, "A Feet in Two Worlds." She has done remixes for artists that range from Meredith Monk to Priyanka Chopra.
Her debut album, DJ Rekha presents Basement Bhangra, was released on E1 Music and was nominated for the 2008 Plug Awards. She was NYU's A/P/A Artist-in-Residence for 2006-2007. She has received numerous community awards and in 2009 was inducted into the New York City's Peoples’ Hall of Fame.
Rekha has curated events for Celebrate Brooklyn and Central Park SummerStage NYC. DJ Rekha was a Grand Marshall of the 9th Annual NYC Dance Parade in 2015. In January 2017 she was one of the official DJs for the historic Women's March on Washington. She serves on the board of Chhaya CDC, an organization of New Yorkers of South Asian origin to advocate for and build economically stable, sustainable, and thriving communities.
Thesis: Last Night a DJ Queered My Life: Disrupting the Mythologies of a Popular Media Practice