Dishoom in Durham, North Carolina

Monica Byrne reports from a Dishoom dance party in Durham, North Carolina (actually, the morning after the party):

It’s a dance party of primarily Indian music, run and created by people of color, the children of immigrants. For those reasons alone, white gaze would dismiss it as fringe. But the party’s overwhelming popularity with all kinds of people signals just the opposite. When I was there, still dancing even though the dance floor was packed so tight I could barely move, all I could think was, This is not the fringe of US pop culture. This is anything but the fringe. This is the center.


Dishoom is the creation of a Ranganathan Rajaram. The party features Bhangra music, itself a mix of Indian and Western pop styles. "Dishoom" is a Bollywood slang term for the sound a bullet makes. 

Rajaram's Bollywood imagery is aisn't so fringe in America, although for various reasons Bollywood films still don't get much screen space in American theaters. The event Byrne describes sounds interesting, but her fringe/center dichotomy is too crude. Dishoom seems more like an example of hybridity, a term from post-colonial studies that refers to the hybrid cultural forms that emerge when two cultural traditions come into contact with each other. Dishoom's high-energy mix of Desi and American pop appears in Durham because college towns are spaces that encourage cultural practices outside their original contexts–novelists twerking in nightclubs, for example. Durham isn't representative of American popular culture, but then again, neither is the small North Carolina town where Byrne grew up. The more you look for the center of American culture, the more fringes you find.