Eastern Soul

“We’re in another huge process of change”

In this exclusive interview DJ Ritu reflects on the world music scene as it stands today, and picks some tracks for us to reflect her taste in eastern soul.

What makes a track or an artist stand out to you?

One of the most exciting things I find about presenting this programme (World in London on the BBC) is meeting such incredibly talented artists from all over the globe. In some cases, their stories and insights about their countries are even more valuable than the music. The Lani Singers from West Papua, Razia Said from Madagascar, DAM from Palestine are some examples. To hear people telling you how they’ve fashioned their own guitars out of trees and bicycle wire, fled from dictator regimes, lived in the grounds of a city zoo… is truly inspirational and humbling.

Staff Benda Bilili are well known for making their own instruments

What’s your take on recent trends in music?

As usual, we’re in another huge process of change. On the world music side, the recent death of my BBC London predecessor, Charlie Gillett will have significant impact, as well as the closure of so many retail outlets, and notably Sterns, which has been a mecca for fans for over 20 years. Asian music in the UK may possibly benefit from different and wider exposure if the Asian Network closure goes ahead and resources are distributed wisely across the UK. There also seems to be a return back to the big ‘live’ gig trend on the bhangra scene which was so popular in the 80’s and early 90’s. A question mark still hangs over whether labels covering any genre can survive the current digital onslaught but maybe savvy self-sufficient artists may actually benefit from the new age we’re in.

What’s your schedule for 2010?

2010 has been much busier than expected work-wise. I’ve been back and forth playing at all kinds of extra gigs in London with a chameleon DJ brief which has included ‘world music’, ‘Asian underground’ and 70’s+80’s disco as well as my usual Bollywood remit at my own clubs! Also, I’ve just finished compiling a 7th album for The Rough Guides which’ll be released this summer. The rest of the year is panning out well too as I love travelling abroad, and fortunately dates are lined up in Canada, Sweden, South Africa, Holland and Greece!

Sounds hectic…

I don’t think of it as hectic as it feels so normal to me, having been doing this for 24 years. I consider myself lucky to have such an exciting career in music. When I worked full-time as a Youth Centre Manager (14 years) that was more stressful with the music commitments piled on top.

But there’s certainly something very grounding about taking my dog out for long walks, having dinner with friends who don’t work in the music industry, swimming, and reading! Recently I’ve been taking darbuka lessons which have been a delight but confirm that that I’d have been a lousy percussionist!

DJ Ritu has picked out four tracks with ‘eastern soul’ for you to check out:

AR RAHMAN – Tere Bina (Guru)

RAHAT FATEH ALI KHAN – Aaj Din (Love Aaj Kal)

SHAFQAT AMANAT ALI – Tere Naina (My Name Is Khan)

NIRAJ CHAG – Khwaab

DJ Ritu was interviewed for Eastern Soul by RishiC. DJ Ritu presents ‘A World in London’ on BBC London and manages three London club nights – Kuch Kuch, Kali, and Hoppa – all dedicated to Turkish, Greek, Arabic, and Asian sounds.

She has compiled numerous albums for The Rough Guides and contributes to various publications – Songlines, Eastern Eye, Rough Guide To World Music books, etc…

More about DJ Ritu…

DJ Ritu on MySpace
• BBC London “A World in London”