London | Radio DJ
From playground rap battles to the BBC, DJ Nihal is taking Asian music to brand new heights. “Fundamentally, I love the emotion and energy that music gives you,” says Nihal, his soft Essex accent flowing with rhythm. “I love the interest that artists take in their creativity and I love feeding off their energy.”
the past 20 years, as a DJ, performer, journalist, publicist, broadcaster, curator and club promoter. It’s through these numerous incarnations that Nihal has risen as a leading exponent of, and authority on, modern Asian music.
It’s a rainy spring afternoon and Nihal has arrived at a club in Notting Hill having just finished his phonein talk show on the BBC Asian Network, one of three shows he currently hosts for the BBC. The dark crescents hanging under his large, radiant white eyes speak of a man who’s been working very hard. But despite the 38-year-old’s obvious fatigue, he still evokes a warm aura, enthusiastically making plans for the evening with acquaintances, but admitting that he may need to catch an hour’s sleep beforehand. Around his neck sit a pair of bright green – notably expensive – headphones; a symbol of just how much he has invested in his love of music – a love that has been articulated in many different forms over
Nihal Arthanayake was born in Harlow, Essex, in 1971 to Sri Lankan parents. First influenced by his mother’s love of poetry, he began rapping at the age of 12 and soon became engulfed in hip hop culture, battle-rapping in the school playground. “It gave me a real grounding in music and a sense of belonging as a little Asian kid who grew up in a predominantly white area,” he remembers fondly. “Hip hop just crushed all that colour difference. You were either down or you weren’t. It was simple. My plan was to be down.” It was this desire to ‘be down’ that led Nihal to launch his own club night, Revival of Rap, in his hometown when he was just 15, very much going against the trend of rave culture at the time.
Published on Jun 25, 2010