Introducing ‘RepresentAsian’ – a collective that celebrates the South Asian diaspora’s influence on Bristol’s music scene

Written by Diverse Artists Network

Diverse Artists Network met Safiya Bashir, co-founder of RepresentAsian, at the home of Noods Radio in Bristol.

We spoke with Safiya about RepresentAsian’s recent emergence in Bristol, as well as iconic day-timers raves of the 1980s and 1990s and the recent resurgence in the UK.

RepresentAsian previously had a tenure on 1020 –, a Bristol-based independent radio station. Their podcast is available on SoundCloud, Spotify, and iTunes and offers perspectives from the South Asian diaspora, supports the presence of South Asian DJs, and celebrates South Asian culture.

It started back in 2020. When my brother and I were trapped in a house together during the first lockdown, I began DJing as a side activity. He’s been a DJ for 10 years, and I asked him to teach me.

I was bored and didn’t know how to channel my musical interest into. I was also sick to death of seeing unrepresentation in festival and venue lineups. I never saw anyone that looked like me – female and of Asian heritage. 

Because of this, my brother and I established RepresentAsian. We started off as a podcast, inviting guests to discuss the impact of South Asian musicians on the underground music scene. Eventually, we got our own radio programme on 1020, and ran it for about a year. We also live-streamed a charity event and raised over £1000 for Medical Aid Palestine. In my other time, I work as a cultural journalist and writer. I’ve written about “Where Are Bristol’s South Asian DJs?” and other aspects of my South Asian identity and heritage for Bristol 24/7, and Galdem.

RepresentAsian is an exploration of South Asian identity and representation in the UK music industry, with the purpose of broadening its definition. We want to break free from media stereotypes that categorise South Asians as either “nerds “or “terrorists”. It’s boring! Safiya sighed. 

We want to break free from the assumption that if you’re a South Asian and wanted to pursue a career in music, you would have to do this through the BBC Asian Network. South Asians may also be recognised for performing bhangra or Bollywood, and yeah… that’s cool-that’s a homage to our heritage. But we also want to establish a space where we can incorporate other genres into our sets, such as reggaeton and dancehall. We want to celebrate the South Asian contribution to dance music over the last 30 years.  

The Daytimers’ Collective is aware of its London-centricity. They are, however, throwing parties up north in Leeds and Bradford. In Bristol, there are many brilliant people doing wonderful things, such as DJ Adeevah, Brown Excellence, and parties with no_one. But there isn’t a group that primarily brings this community together. Crucially, that’s what Bristol is missing.

The issue isn’t a lack of South Asians or a lack of South Asians in the music industry; we’ve always been here. Doing the podcast and asking the question “Where Are Bristol’s South Asian DJs?” has highlighted this. These DJs are everywhere in Bristol, and you just need to look for them.

Picture Credit: no_one – Brown Excellence

We just needed a foundation, a group, a night to bring us together, and this is why RepresentAsian has been important. We can now connect these communities, influence lineups, and support more people in Bristol who want to be involved in this movement.

However, the most important thing is that the South Asian community is finally being recognised; people are picking up on the Daytimers’ movement and it is exploding. I just hope that this remains and that we don’t revert back to the same lineups, parties, and producers, putting on the same shows. This is why having a lot of collectives around the UK is important, as it helps to keep the movement sustained.

This is without a doubt, my favourite subject… The early Daytimers were really cool. These day-time raves gathered young Desi British Asians across Bradford, Manchester, Birmingham, and London in the 1980s and 1990s to listen to Bhangra music; this is essentially where it all started. 

Young South Asians would slip out of school and change in the toilets. For around 3 – 4 hours, around 3000 – 4000 people would gather at these daytime raves for around 3–4 hours.

By the evening, they’d be home in time for dinner to adhere to the religious and cultural practices. According to what I’ve been told, the secret was to return to the household, pristine, as if nothing had happened. 

The daytime raves also created a new space for first-generation immigrant women. They were able to explore the British and Desi identities on the dancefloor in a safe community environment.

Picture Credit: Tim Smith

This movement seems to have died off in the mid-1990s. Why? A lot of South Asians re-entered the mainstream club scene, probably because they were feeling less alienated (even though Islamophobia was still rife). This was the significant cultural shift for the South Asian community.

Good question. In the 1980s and 1990s, it was about young Asians moving to the UK and feeling extremely isolated, oppressed, and servile. They needed a space to express themselves and unify. Then there is the matter of having really strict parents.

These daytime parties are an opportunity to break free from these pressures. Today, it’s not about hiding the movement; we don’t want to bury it. I don’t have to sneak out from under my parents’ noses.

Daytimer gatherings in the 80s and 90s were mostly attended by South Asians. There would be personnel on the door to make sure Aunties couldn’t get in, as well as older generations and non-South Asians. Now everyone is invited. We simply want to showcase this movement and for it to be inclusive to everyone.

The parties that ran in the 1980s and 1990s, as well as the parties that run now, are still about breaking free from misconceptions. Being South Asian or having South Asian heritage can refer to a variety of things. Don’t get me wrong: I love my identity and it inspires me. But I want to be able to play whatever I want. This is what we are truly challenging by playing more than just Bollywood and Bhangra.

Picture Credit: Early ’90s – collected by Mira Makadia for the Museum of Youth Culture

In essence, this is just the beginning of our passion project. We want to continue inviting people to our online show since it has allowed us to become a part of the community that we have always desired to be a part of.

We want to do more live streaming, guest mixes, and keep on interviewing people from our podcasts. We want to broaden our network, meet new people, and continue to promote the Bristol’s South Asian community and music scene.

Season 2 of our podcast has just begun. We’ve just completed two events at Crofters’ Rights (one in February and one in May)

and will continue to do so, so come out and support us! We also had a takeover at Basket of Light, just outside of Abergavenny, and we have a few unannounced events planned for the summer, so keep locked, people!

Picture Credit: @representasian

I would begin with the Nabihah Iqbal MixMag series for general knowledge and a historical insight on how the Daytimers movement began.

I would recommend Hungama – a group that hosts queer Bollywood parties in London. These gatherings are open to everyone. But it’s really important to recognise you’re a guest in this specially curated space. 

My favourite DJ at the moment is DJ Manuka Honey, who is half Pakistani and half Mexican. It’s great to have someone like this to look up to. She prefers to play reggaeton music rather than Asian music. Similarly, I am Pakistani, but who cares? I can also play whatever I want. Yes, being Pakistani is, of course, an essential aspect of my identity, but it doesn’t have to be an essential part of my sound.

For more info on the Daytimers’ movement:

Azzema Magazine, “Remembering Daytimers – the secret South Asian day raves of the ‘80s and ‘90s” by Safiya Bashir, edited by Shayma Bakht

Crack Magazine, “Daytimers, the New Kids on the Block” by Dhruva Balram

Mixcloud, “RepresentAsian Mix 01 – Yusuf Suave”

Pop Sugar, “Meet the Woman of Daytimers, the South Asian DJ Collective Reclaiming Their Musical Identity “by Navi Ahluwalia

The Guardian, “Dance Music Collective, Daytimers: ‘Brownness isn’t a hype – it’s who we are’ by Ciaran Thaper

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