person who does not follow conventional standards of behaviour, expressing
themselves in an artistic or literary way.
Desi. A descendant of Southern Asia, primarily India/Pakistan.
Bohemia The Punjabi Rapper
In his early teens, Ra (short for Raja) arrived with his family in America,
settling in San Francisco’s Mission District. Within their first month on
the block, Ra witnessed a young man get murdered over five dollars. The
killer was the man’s brother in law. This would be Ra’s first lesson on
trusting others in the streets of Pardes (the foreign land). Although he had
strong knowledge and passion for writing music, he made it a second
priority, and began hanging on the street corners to run drugs for local
The streets became a priority to Ra, but he would occasionally play
keyboards at local Desi events. Through this platform, he gained recognition
in the Desi music community. But what struck people most was his ability to
write songs or poetry, mostly in Urdu and Punjabi.
He was offered a lucrative job at a Sacramento based recording studio and he
decided to follow his passion. Ra packed his bags and left his family behind
to become a full time musician.
Along with a crew of other musicians, Ra was now spending his days on the
road, playing gigs throughout the US and Canada, sleeping in cars and on
recording studio floors. It would be through this experience that Ra would
learn about stage presence.
As the youngest member of the musical family, Ra came to consider them his
older brothers, but as certain members became entangled in hard drugs, the
crew fell apart.
It was at this point that Ra, still a teenager, decided to go his separate
way. Again, he packed his bags, this time to join his cousin in Oakland.
Oakland, CA. A city known for both it’s abundance of independent rap labels
and it’s uncontrollable murder rate. Devastated by the loss of his friend
and heavily influenced by his friends in Oakland, Ra began to loose focus on
his music and indulge in heavy drugs, crime and women. He spent his days
hanging in the streets and moving drugs across the 680 and 880 interstate.
Yet and still, Ra would be delivered an opportunity which would draw him
back to his true passion. His cousin was working on a West Oakland recording
studio, when he introduced him to a young hip hop producer called Sha One.
Sha was in the process of setting up his own label. He was looking for an
artist who had a strong presence both live and on record and he saw this in
Ra. He flipped out when he heard Ra reciting something he’d written in
Punjabi, and asked him to rap it over one of his beats. Ra has never rapped
seriously before, but when he did, it was as if he’d found the perfect
expressive medium for his writing.
Over the next few months, Ra wrote a library of lyrics. This would become
arsenal for his debut album Vich Pardesan De (In The Foreign Land) – an
autobiographical story of his life as a Desi youngster adopting to the
streets of America. This album brought forth not only a voice for young
Desis who were constantly balancing between Desi culture and American
culture, but a new genre of music: Desi Rap.
In the studio, Sha always referred to Ra as a true bohemian, thus
Bohemia, The Punjabi Rapper was born.