DJ Rekha will bring a different beat to the Hoboken Arts and Music Festival

UPDATE: City Hall pulls DJ Rekha into headlines amid concerns over pro-Palestinian politics.

DJ Rekha’s Punjabi music intertwines with hip-hop, dancehall and club beats to underpin one of Manhattan’s hottest parties for two decades.

Music takes over the body, an experience Hoboken’s new cultural affairs director Cristin Cricco-Powell witnessed firsthand during those electronic nights at SOB Bar on Varick Street.

Now, DJ Rekha will headline the Hoboken Spring Arts and Music Festival on May 19, breaking with years of rock bands headlining.

“It’s an amazing feeling to have people of all ages dancing together,” said Cricho-Powell of DJ Rekha’s performance. “It feels very multicultural, so I think the vibe is a perfect fit.”

As DJ Rekha headlines the Observer Highway stage, another less typical Hoboken booking on the Seventh Street stage is closing: The Ebony Hillbillies, a New York City black string band.

“I think it’s going to give people a chance to see a form of music that they’re not only going to enjoy, but also a form of music that hasn’t become mainstream yet,” Cricho-Powell said.

Twice a year, the festival closes off much of Washington Street and welcomes tens of thousands of people to enjoy live music and artist vendors.

It’s a popular event with patrons of all ages and hosts a variety of acts, but year after year the headliners are usually rock bands. The Feelies, The Ivan Julian Band and The Smithereens all headlined between 2021 and last autumn.

Meanwhile, DJ Rekha’s set combined international sounds rooted in the artist’s South Asian background with live percussion. Their 20-year Basement Bhangra party at SOB’s, which ended in 2017, continues during the day in the New York City summer, and Hoboken will now share in the tradition.

Geri Fallo, Hoboken’s outgoing director of cultural affairs, has been involved in planning for this year’s Spring Festival and is helping Cricho-Powell as she transitions into her role. Cricho-Powell said she believes this year’s roster builds on the foundation Farlow created.

“Jerry built the arts and music festival from the ground up,” Cricko-Powell said. “To me, artists like DJ Rekha… kind of continue that tradition, delivering groundbreaking performances.”

Festival-goers can also look forward to new programming for teenagers this year, Cricko-Powell said.

She brings experience as a television producer to her new city role, which she says translates well to now managing such a large cultural event.

“Doing something for a network is a lot different than doing something for the hometown you love,” she said. “I’m excited to leverage two decades of production experience to bring highly entertaining cultural programming to my hometown.”

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