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The wide world of music is cluttered with all genres of rap, so itís no wonder that we have a rapper who joins the clan with the truly remarkable gift of rapping in Punjabi. Bohemia or Ra (short for his real name Raja), is a descendant of Southern Asia ~ primarily India and Pakistan ~ who arrived with his family in America, settling in San Franciscoís Mission District some ten years ago. He soon realized that the South Asian experience in America wasnít all nice cars and palm trees and found himself living amongst murderers and drug dealers. The streets became a priority to Ra, and to get away from it all he would occasionally play keyboards at local desi events, which got him recognition. Most striking was Raís skill in penning songs or poetry mostly in Urdu and Punjabi.

He soon left his family to follow his dream of becoming a musician. His musical family grew, but it also fell apart when certain members of his group started taking drugs. He packed his bags and raced to his cousin in Oakland, California ~ a city known for both its abundance of independent rap labels and its uncontrollable murder rate. But life took a bad turn for him when he took to drugs and crime. Music was now no longer on his agenda.

His cousin introduced him to a hip-hop producer called Sha One, who was setting up his own label. Sha heard Bohemia reciting something heíd written in Punjabi, and the rapper found his mentor who would make him what he is today ~ the rapper who is widely recognized as the pioneer of Desi Hip Hop.

He was recently in Mumbai to release his debut effort Pesa Nasha Pyar (Money, Drugs, Love), and The Record caught up with him for a short chat.

The Record: What does your album speak about?
Bohemia: My album is an autobiography of my life as a desi youngster adapting to the streets of America. This album is not a only a voice for the young desis who were known to constantly balance between desi culture and American culture, but it is a totally new genre of music which I call Desi Rap. The songs show you what is happening in another part of the world. Most of the lyrics are in Punjabi, while I have kept almost all the hooks in English, cradled with hip-hop beats.

TR: Why did you plan on keeping the play list to 19 tracks?
Bohemia: I have so much to speak about and so much to tell that even 19 are not enough. I make desi hipĖhop music that is predominantly for the masses and something that I like very much. The sound is like gangster, party music, dark stuff and everything that youíll probably find on any hipĖhop album. The songs also delve into my personal life and show the life I led. Itís a vent of my feelings, my life while I was growing up and stuff like that. In America you would see a kid going off to school and coming back late, but do the parents really know where the kid has been and what he has been doing? Thatís never spoken about but itís only seen. This is what my album is all about.

TR: Why the name Bohemia?
Bohemia: Itís just a name, really. In the studio Sha used to often refer to me as a true Bohemian, thus Bohemia. My real name is Raja and I am known to everybody as Ra.

You can read the rest of our feature on Bohemia in the May 2006 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.


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