“Back then, kids laughed at me for wearing Indian clothes and eating smelly foods. Now I have everyone from 50 Cent to Lady Gaga embracing it.” — Anjula Acharia-Bath
ISSUE: Summer 2011
STORY: Anna M. Park
Anjula Acharia-Bath is bringing the hip fusion music scene to an iPod near you.
Growing up in the UK in the late ’70s, Anjula Acharia-Bath didn’t want to stand out. The neo-Nazi movement was on the rise and her family was one of the few of color in their suburban neighborhood.
“We would have swastikas painted on our garage,” she remembers, and the derogatory depictions of South Asians on television made “me shun my culture and heritage. … This portrayal of ‘my people’ was always something I wanted to change.”
Today, Acharia-Bath, 39, is doing just that. She’s the founder and CEO of Desi Hits!, an online entertainment hub and fusion media company, hybridizing Bollywood-Hollywood pop culture. She started the company with her husband Ranj Bath, also a second generation British South Asian, after moving to the U.S. six years ago. She realized that Americans didn’t know about the fusion music scene in the UK, a mélange of musical genres ranging from hip-hop to reggae, bhangra to house “that really reflects the bicultural and eclectic lifestyles that most cool, young Desis (the South Asian diaspora) are living across the globe.”
Touted as “the BET for brown people globally,” Desi Hits! recently collaborated with Lady Gaga and top Bollywood producers to release a Bollywood-inspired remix of her hit single “Born This Way.” They also worked with Britney Spears on the remix of “Till the World Ends,” incorporating manipulated dholki, dhol and subtle tumbi beats, as well as a Punjabi breakdown. “I think the collaboration [between A.R. Rahman and the Pussycat Dolls on the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire song “Jai Ho” remix] helped drive fusion Bollywood music to the middle of America,” says Acharia-Bath, who was instrumental in promoting the hit single.
Their next major project is a collaboration with Universal Music Group to launch Desi Hits! Universal, a music label promoting artists “that can resonate throughout the world, much like MIA and Jay Sean.” With some high profile backing (Interscope Geffen A&M Records chief Jimmy Iovine among them), and given that Desis are a fifth of the world’s population, it’s a smart move. And Acharia-Bath, for one, is glad she’s on board. “Back then, kids laughed at me for wearing Indian clothes and eating smelly foods,” she says. “Now I have everyone from 50 Cent to Lady Gaga embracing it.”
Find out more about Desi Hits! at desihits.com.
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