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Desi Music » Music Features » 2003
Bohemia - Pesa, Nasha, Pyar
Peta gives us a little glimpse of what kind of lifestyle and mindset this new age rapper has. Its a known reality but we bring it to you raw.

Bohemia - Pesa, Nasha, Pyar

He keeps it blunt and real, he's Bohemia, living the Bohemian lifestyle. "PESA NASHA PYAR" means Money, Drugs and Love. He's experienced them all, yet for Bohemia the challenge is to represent his lifestyle without being ensnared by its possible downfall. Is this new genre of music he calls Desi Hip Hop a positive form of self expression, or will it become a detrimental influence to Desi youth?


I'm sitting in the back of a black SUV parked beside the abandoned Amtrak station in West Oakland, CA. The driver, a hulking six-foot-six man who goes by the name Eight. The front-seat passenger: Laid-back Rokwala, head shaved to a shine. The man next to me: Bohemia, The Punjabi Rapper.

"Where the f*** you at dog...?" he shouts through his cell phone.

"...We've been waiting for a half-hour to start the interview!"

Bohemia insists on having his right-hand man K-Ji present. He informs me upon hanging up "It'll be five minutes."

My hands start to shake and I can barely keep my pen in place. There were so many questions I had for this guy, and I didn't know where to begin. Sure enough, five minutes later K-Ji pulls up alongside us handing Bohemia a zip-lock bag stuffed with sticky. They shake hands, and with a nod and a smile K-Ji coasts away. From the smell of things I now know why Bohemia insisted on waiting.


We pull away from the curb and I begin by asking Bohemia to talk about this genre of music he calls Desi Hip Hop. He takes a long drag from a cigar-sized blunt and speaks.

"In our (Desi youth) situation in America, rap is the best medium of musical expression. So many young Desis out here dress rap, talk rap, live rap. I rap, but in Punjabi. My Desi culture is not something that can be washed out by American culture. Our roots are very strong. Our culture is not gonna die because we're hip-hopped out. It transforms. I am a product of both American and Desi influence." Says Bohemia, as we begin our interview...

"Friends I used to ride around on bikes with are committing murders now."

Peta Cooper: So you represent both cultures?
Bohemia: I represent a new culture. I can't speak for the Desis back home. I rep for young Desis out here who're so street smart and game tight you'd think they don't know anything Desi, yet they're down to the roots you feel me? They just naturally know how to balance it. One minute they might be out mashin' with their Rocawear on, smoking weed and bumpin' Jay Z screaming 'can I get a f*** you!' and an hour later they're home sitting with elders eating daal roti, not even talking in English.

I begin to picture a subculture of Urban Desi youth who are overshadowed by the stereotypical image of the nine to five white-collar Desi. A subculture so low-key and kept-to-self that some may have a hard time believing it exists.

PC: Representing this young culture, what's the subject matter of your rhymes?
B: Pesa, nasha, pyar. Shit we deal with day in and day out. Real talk. Money, which is the reason why people left the Motherland behind, came here, struggled, even died for. Drugs, a source that makes you escape from reality, for some a source of income. Love found, love lost, love for my Desi people, for my family, it's what drives me to do this, you feel me?

I get deep with my lyrics. Most of my first album 'Vich Pardesan De' deals with serious issues. Tracks like 'Sada Ki kasoor', 'Mele Chi Majal Ki', and the last track 'Akhiri Manzel', where I talk about the Indo-Pak separation. My next album 'Pesa Nasha Pyar' features a lot of club bangers. People will have fun with this album.

PC: Who produces your music?
B: Sha one. He's a cat I met a few years back who was making beats for a lotta known rappers, but he wanted to start a label of his own. We hooked up and s*** clicked. The Outfit Entertainment was born, and the rest is history in the making.

12:43 pm

We're sitting at Shalimar restaurant in San Francisco grubbing on Lamb Baryani and Mango lassis.

PC: Who are your biggest musical influences?
B: I didn't get into rap music until I was a teen. My first love is Ghazal music. I grew up listening to Jagjit Singh. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. I love to listen to the old Indian film era R.D. Berman and A.R. Rehman. Then came Hip-Hop. Bone Thugs, Nas, Pac, as far back as Rakim and Slick Rick. I'm feelin Eminem these days, he's one of those artists who's consistently working to improve his craft. I really respect that.

PC: Do you compare yourself to any known MCs?
B: No.

PC: Is there anyone in the industry with whom you'd like to work side-by-side?
B: Nas. That cat is so open-minded. If you listen to his s*** you know he studies. He has knowledge of other cultures. I feel like he would appreciate what I'm bringing to rap music. Missy and Timbaland, I think Timbaland is the most innovative producer in the game. And he's all into that Indian/Desi sound. That's tight.

2:19 pm

Back in Oakland, we head towards our final destination, The Outfit Entertainment Studio. As we stop at a red light, I notice a large group of Desi youngsters hanging out in front of a liquor store. One of them is sprawled across the front of a yellow Mustang bumping rap music and drinking malt liquor. The others casually pass a blunt around. I feel a bit intimidated as the young man on the hood of the car stares directly at me. It's quite obvious that I'm not from around here. It's only when he shouts Bohemia's name that I feel at ease. The men approach us. Bohemia and Wala get out to exchange hugs and small talk. One of them asks enthusiastically when the next album is coming out, and at that moment I get a clear picture of who makes up Bohemia's target audience. This is the "new culture." These are the young Desis who pull off a balancing act between home and the streets. As if by routine, another blunt is lit and passed around full circle until the ceremony is complete. We move on.

PC: How do you strike a balance between the discipline and focus of the music industry, and your associations on the streets?
B: (Laughs) I'm not a gangsta with 'associates' in the streets first of all. I'm a musician, an artist that articulates life through rap. But there are people I've known since we were kids who have grown up to live a crazy life. Friends I used to ride around on bikes with are committing murders now. That kid who was staring at you back there, his brother is in jail for life, and it ain't for jaywalking, you feel me? That's just part of street nature, so the balance between streets and music comes naturally.

PC: Do you feel that your music provides a positive message for Desi youth?
B: For the most part (takes a long pause), no. What you hear in my music is not all positive because what I see is not all positive. It's a representation of a certain reality. Just like any other rapper rappin' in any other language. It represents what we're feeling, what kind of shit we're into. In my lyrics, you hear what some of us Desi youngsters do every day out here. It ain't any different from a non-Desi youngster. Desi parents hate my music. They hate it because the topics I address are too much for their ears you feel me? But this is a voice inspired from a reality that many of their kids live. I'm not telling a kid to go smoke some bomb, then get himself a heater and start shootin' fools up, but I am flowin' about cats that have done that shit, and do do that shit.

2:31 pm

As we ease into the parking lot outside of their downtown studio I am left with a sense of restlessness. My mind keeps reaching back to the young man outside of the liquor store living in a world so far from mine. I try to imagine where he and his friends will be five years from now and I can't. However, I arrive at one conclusion: Although Bohemia feels as though he doesn't provide a positive message to his listeners, I feel quite the opposite. He tells them that they are not alone. That they are one of many who endure feelings of struggle and isolation, and that he will voice those feelings through his music - Desi Hip Hop.

PC: Any words for your audience and the readers?
B: Stay united. It don't matter what religion you are, which pind (city) you come from, its where you at. Us Desis are outnumbered to begin with. And for us to break the system we gotta be up in the system you feel me? Set that goal, keep your eyes on the bigger picture and stay up. Much love to They're helping to bring the new generation of Desis to the forefront. We're about to take a piece of the pie. It's our turn now.

Bohemia's official website:

Do you have any thoughts on this? Feel free to send Peta an e-mail @ Peta Cooper.

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Bullett Raja

Bullett Raja

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