Today is officially the first day of summer, and we think it’s going to be one for the books. There are lots of new and exciting events popping up, including a South Asian music festival in Brooklyn on July 8. Masala Mixtape is the first of its kind in New York City, dedicated to elevating and highlighting thriving South Asian talent. The event will celebrate South Asia’s diverse culture and creativity with a night of vibrant music, contemporary South Asian cuisine and brands built by South Asian creatives. This kind of festival has been a long time coming for Pankti Doshi, host of the festival, as well as her two friends and co-hosts Raghav Mehrish and Ramya Baratam.
“South Asian talent has been up and on the rise in the past decade. As music fans and event experts, we felt like we were in a position to create a space and support South Asian creatives,” Doshi says. “We didn’t want to just be observers, but actually participate in moving the needle in South Asian representation.”
The three friends have been going to festivals for the past decade, but none were exclusively centered on South Asian talent. Together, they combined their event planning, design and entrepreneurial experience to create a festival that highlighted South Asia’s culture.
Earlier this year in March, they began with the Rang Rave, a huge party celebrating the Hindu holiday Holi. They had a daytime and nighttime party, both held at the famous 230 5th Rooftop bar in Manhattan. Its success inspired them to create Masala Mixtape.
“Our community has so much to offer in terms of creativity and talent so it’s important we create a space and a platform to highlight these South Asian artists and brands,” Doshi says.
The festival is a full circle moment for the three friends, as music is what has allowed them to connect back to their South Asian roots.
“Music was a huge part of our upbringing, with all of us growing up in creative South Asian households,” Doshi says. “Whether it was playing cassettes of the movie Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (DDLJ) or singing along to songs in movies like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, both Bollywood and South Asian music at large has had a huge influence in all our lives.”
The festival is intended to be a space for South Asian Americans to embrace all parts of their identity. Pardeep Deol, who goes by the stage name PDNY, is a Punjabi-American artist from the Bronx who will be performing his unique Punjabi and urban music mix at Masala Mixtape.
“I want [my music] to keep the Punjabi influence. I was born and raised in the Bronx, so I was raised around Spanish culture and Black culture,” he says. “When I got into music, I wanted to create something that puts everything together. Almost like a culture crash. It’s about staying true to my roots, who I am as an individual and where I was raised.”
Deol began making music two years ago during the pandemic and quickly became known across the five boroughs. He’s excited to be one of the artists performing and is hopeful to see his fan base grow after the festival. Deol had hoped to someday curate a festival that exclusively highlights South Asian talent so when he heard about Masala Mixtape, he immediately accepted, since he believes South Asian music, especially Punjabi music deserves more recognition.
“I think this festival is what was needed for the longest. A group of artists in the same building, same spot, same stage just to show that our music is still and will continue to be super great,” he says. “Arjun and Zach Knight [two of the artists performing] have been pretty big for a while and I’ve seen them come up and listened to their music when I was younger. I never thought I’d share the stage with them, but now I have the opportunity.”
Not only will South Asian fans be able to connect with the culture while non-South Asian fans will learn about the variety of genres South Asian music has, but the artists will have a chance to draw inspiration from each other as well.
“It was delightful to see up and coming artists reach out for a shot at participating in the festival,” says Doshi. “We are excited to create a space for multiple artist journeys to intersect and grow from one another.”
Masala Mixtape is also an opportunity to combat the misconceptions people may have about South Asian music.
“A common misconception people have about South Asian music is that it is only Bollywood music,” Doshi says. “Our artists are bringing in lots of different flavors of music to the festival. We are intentionally gathering a versatile portfolio to show the breadth of talent in this genre.”
Other performers include SANJ, an up-and-coming artist who performs what she calls “silky R&B with a desi twist,” THEMXXNLIGHT, an identical twin duo, will be performing R&B and Vardaan Arora will be serving up pop music.
The popularity of South Asian music has grown exponentially and Doshi hopes Masala Mixtape can continue to advance its popularity.
“Music is a direct representation of our culture, traditions and talents. It’s been a vehicle for generations to connect with communities, learn from previous generations, and pass down traditions,” says Doshi. “We feel like we are in a great position and time in history to move the needle through this festival and our experiences.”
Tickets, which start at $119 and include free food from vendors including Madam Ji and Confusion Snacks and premium beverages, can be purchased here. Follow Masala Mixtape on Instagram for more updates.