This week, Brooklyn-based deejay DJ Tikka Masala snagged a gig at the most exclusive venue in the country: The White House. Yes, that White House. A force in the queer dance scene in New York City, DJ Tikka self identifies as a queer woman and has launched many queer events in Brooklyn, including her flagship monthly party That’s My Jam. She has also deejayed in the queer scenes in Europe and Asia.
Born in Calcutta, DJ Tikka is of Indian descent, and she will be deejaying the annual Diwali Celebration at the White House next Tuesday. AfterEllen.com chatted with her about the upcoming gig, her career and being a queer woman of color growing up in a socially conservative family.
AfterEllen.com: When I first read that you were deejaying at The White House next Tuesday, I’ll admit I thought it might have been the name of a new megaclub in NYC I didn’t know about and Googled it. Nothing came up, but I did a little happy dance for you anyway. Then I realized that you were talking about Barack Obama’s house, and my head exploded. Then I did a really really ridiculously big happy dance for you. So just how did you get hooked up with this gig?
When I was a kid, there was only Bollywood on the tape deck and record player, so I know my parents’ era of Bollywood music really well. I have great friends, got lucky, and was prepared with a strong deejay resume when the opportunity arrived.
AE: You’re playing the White House Diwali Celebration. Can you give a brief overview of the Diwali festival for those not familiar with South Asian culture?
When I was a kid growing up in Jersey my family used to go to Puja (Worship) for religious reasons, but they’d stay for the party and the cultural events surrounding the celebration: dance, music, and theater. With the ritual of Diwali intact in America, people from these faiths know they have a consistent time and place where they can celebrate together and catch up every year, while keeping their culture alive thousands of miles from where they are from. It’s great because Diwali spans multiple religions and language groups, so in America it’s a holiday that can bring people of really diverse backgrounds together.
AE: So this will be a totally different vibe than your parties in Brooklyn.
AE: Do you know any special guests that will be present at the festivities?
AE: How did you get your start as a deejay?
AE: So you grew up in Jersey, had a stint in California, where you caught the deejaying bug. What brought you back to the east coast, specifically New York City?
Eventually I got tired of working for promoters though and set up That’s My Jam in Brooklyn, blocks from my house, and then that led to some international recognition from the queer scene in Tokyo — Tokyo Wrestling shoutout! Also, the queer scene in Amsterdam — PinqRadio and LoveDance shoutout! Best idea ever.
I definitely feel like support from the queer community in NYC, and the global queer community is completely responsible for so many amazing opportunities I’ve had as a deejay, and this White House gig is a prime example of that.
AE: What thoughts and emotions have been running through your head since you found out you got the gig?
— by Grace Chu