Pulse in Conversation with DJ Ritu
The name of DJ Ritu is very familiar, even if we were not lucky enough to have experienced the heady Club nights of Kali and Kuch-Kuch that made her a household name in the noughties. She is now the presenter of the weekly radio show of global music A World in London. Last month, Pulse decided to hold a Digital Dance party to dispel the January gloom. DJ Ritu accepted the request with grace and gusto. The sparkling evening, with great tunes, featured musicians and surprise ‘dance numbers’, was an event that needed a follow-up.
Sanjeevini Dutta speaks to Ritu Khurana about how DJ-ing became a profession and what continues to fire her passion.
Did you always want to be a DJ?
I actually wanted to be a visual artist and went to Chelsea School of Art. Whilst I was studying for my BA in Fine Art, like many students, I went to lots of London clubs! I loved music so much and the record-player in my Kings Road bedsit was permanently spinning! It took a short leap of imagination – inspired by seeing a few women DJs – to want to share my favourite tunes with a dancing crowd. Of course I didn’t get there instantly, D J-ing was simply a hobby on top of my real job as a Youth and Community Centre Manager for 14 years.
We know you are the most famous Asian DJ in the UK, how did the break come?
In the 90s, my BBC broadcasting career took off, plus I created record labels, Rough Guides compilations, bands, and three clubs – Kali, Hoppa (Mediterranean & Middle Eastern music), and Kuch Kuch (the UK’s first Bollywood night). By 2000 I was working in the music industry full time and that’s when I began to call myself a DJ rather than a social worker! In retrospect, I think some of my motivation came from a commitment to diversity and inclusion, and decolonisation of dance floors.
Who have been your greatest musical influences?
Possibly too many to list, but my early record collection contained a curious mix of Bollywood, soul, Motown, and pop. Albums by Stevie Wonder, Elvis, and Earth Wind & Fire, rubbed shoulders with RD Burman and other Indian film composers, so, Aradhana, Sholay, and Pakeezah.
How do you keep yourself updated with musicians for your World in London programme?
The world is rather a big place so there’s always a treasure trove of new material. Much of it is sent to me for the radio show, by artists/labels/PR agents. We particularly try to champion music made by UK-based artists of diverse heritage and provide a platform for the under-represented. My interest in ‘world music’ probably stems from the eclectic range of sounds I was listening to as a child of the South Asian diaspora, and was further fuelled by DJ-ing at the first global music clubs & festivals in London & worldwide, e.g. Asia, the Mambo Inn, Tribal Gathering, WOMAD, etc.
Do you foresee any emerging trends in music in 2021-22?
Major labels and music streaming services are placing a lot of emphasis on Grime, Drill, and Rap now. Personally, I’d like to see much more of ‘connecting cultures through music’ which is A World in London’s mission. One of the tracks we playlisted as soon as it came out was ‘Jerusalema’ by Master KG and Nomcebo. Now everyone’s talking about this pan-African tune and its dance challenge!
Where to listen to A World in London
A World in London is on Wednesdays at 6.30 pm at Resonance 104.4fm, DAB, and Mixcloud. The programme can be heard anytime, any place, worldwide via Mixcloud/DJRitu.
AWIL is the UK’s leading, weekly, independent global music show, 15 years old this year, and was created by DJ Ritu at BBC London in 2006.
All DJ Ritu shows at https://www.mixcloud.com/djritu/
Dancing in the Kitchen 2 with DJ Ritu is a Digital Dance Party
26 February 9-11 pm on Zoom | Tickets: £3.50 and £7.50