GOLACKSON 1: Manjit Sahansra’s family moved from Punjab in northern India to New York , when he was six.
Regal park, forest hills, Long Island. Right here in New York.
He’s in his 40s now, and growing up it was hard to celebrate Holi the way his family would have in India. They couldn’t to import the powdered colors that people throw, and even if they did find it to celebrate…
People would just kind of look at you like, “What are you doing?”
GOLACKSON 2: But now, it’s easy to buy the colors and Holi has become a busy season for him. He’s a DJ.
And on Saturday he was DJing a party at National Sawdust – a new music venue in Brooklyn. It was for an event called “In Honor of Holi”
GOLACKSON 3: This event was just a warm up for a roughly month long celebration of Holi here in New York City. The holiday is March 24th.
Last year Sahansra says there were over a thousand people at the main event, drenched in colors. He says he never goes in knowing what he’ll play. He feeds off the energy of his crowd.
Just seeing everyone respond? It was just phenomenal.
(SOUND: 2015 Holi crowd cheering to DJ Vic)
GOLACKSON 5: And he says the crowd at Holi was diverse. Not just Indians, Hindus or people who might have celebrated Holi growing up. Everyone threw organic powdered colors in the air in unison. They danced and drank.
GOLACKSON 6: Deepak Sarma, who teaches religion and Hinduism at Case Western University.
He’s been to big Holi concerts like the one in Brooklyn and was surprised. But the festival seemed to have no religious connection at all.
Most of the people didn’t really know much about hinduism or india at all… It was wild, and people would be all dancing, and there would be this enormous amount of colored dust in the air.
GOLACKSON 7: He says the closest it got to religious, is that people had a mystical experience. And that seems harmless, but…
It allows them to partake but not commit. You hav people can temporarily inhabit what they believe to be an exotic lifestyle or experience so they dress up like hindus or like what they imagine hindus to be. And holi is purportedly one of those things.
GOLACKSON 8: But he recognizes, it’s complicated.
What follows is… who owns this? do you have to ask permission?
GOLACKSON 11: That question came up in January when Coldplay and Beyonce released their video for the song Hymn for the Weekend.
It features Chris Martin, of Coldplay, surrounded by children covered in Holi powder in an Indian village. And Beyonce dressed up like a Bollywood star.
(SOUND: Hymn for the Weekend)
GOLACKSON 11: Hindus online criticized the video as cultural appropriation. After all neither Beyonce nor Chris Martin is Indian. Are they treating it like something exotic? Profiting from the colors of Holi? Sarma says there’s a danger when culture becomes just a prop .
There are people pretending to be indians for the day, and their exoticisation is really a domination in a way.
GOLACKSON 13: But for DJ Vic Sahansrah, Holi is for everyone. It’s about togetherness.
Throwing colors at your friends and enjoying it. That’s it.
GOLACKSON 11: In New York, Holi celebrations will be on weekends throughout the spring. And in most cases, admission will be charged.
Erin Golackson, Columbia Radio News.