How the Urban Desi Conference and Concert and I Grew up Together

A little over three years ago, Monty Kataria, called me up asking for me to write him a press release.

“For what?” I asked.

The very first Urban Desi Conference and Concert! Three years later I’m still managing the press related to UDC as well as aspects of the conference, hospitality, transportation and more.

When you’ve been friends for over 10 years, there isn’t much you wouldn’t do for them. Aside from our friendship, Kataria’s vision is something I strongly believe in. Urban Desi music is the best of both worlds, it’s home to kids like me, the American-born confused desi. We ABCDs face a constant inner battle deciphering where we belong. I’m always too brown to be white and too white to be brown, but the Urban Desi world provides us with a safe haven. It was finally “cool” to be both American and Desi.

UDC concert 2017 | Photo Source: Urban Desi

Sitting on his couch years before the first UDC weekend in 2016, Kataria told me of an idea he had to create an event that brought together the scattered Urban Desi music community. He wanted to create a hub to connect the talented South Asian artists in the U.K., Canada, America, the Netherlands and more.

“Like the London Mela?” I remember asking. He shook his head, “not exactly.”

Kataria wanted this to be different than the popular British mela that featured local and international artists. While the London mela brought Bollywood and urban desi stars for a show with a backdrop of vendors selling food, clothes, and accessories, Kataria’s vision was of a more professional affair that didn’t need samosas sold on the side. (But I mean, who says no to samosas?)

Kataria had big dreams to bring together this niche community and create a Filmfare style weekend that was not only enjoyable for fans, but for the artists as well.

Kataria and I have both been working in the media industry for over 7 years. He has been building a brand for himself from hosting weddings and college events to shows on Sony TV, Star Plus, Hostar, and B4U. He even hosts Diwali in Times Square every year, the largest gathering in Times Square beside the annual New Year’s celebration.

We’ve grown with this music industry from the days of Rishi Rich, Jay Sean, Juggy D, Veronica and Raghav to the Raxstar and Mickey Singh’s of today. This niche community has become like a family for many including myself.

With his event, Kataria hoped to create something that artists would want to attend and he wanted to foster a positive environment so so every year it felt like a crazy family reunion for them all. Little did I know that my friend’s dream project would come to life so soon.

Teaming up with Abhinav Chintakunta, Kataria founded the Urban Desi Conference and Concert in 2016. They’ve built this event from the ground up with local talents and sponsors. Getting people to give you money for a show that might not work is not an easy task. These co-founders had to not only consider finances, but schedules of artists, determine which artists would bring in a crowd, find new performers with potential, connect with talented South Asians for the conference, locate venues that suited their needs, manage hotels, airfare, security, transportation, and swag bags for the artists, and that’s not even the half of it.

It takes some serious determination and I know how many times these guys have considered quitting but I’m so proud that they haven’t because in just three years we’ve managed to gain international attention! Artists now contact us to be a part of the show and the feeling of being a part of such a memorable event is unparalleled.

Mickey Singh performing at the 2017 UDC concert. | Photo Source: Urban Desi

Now let’s put aside emotions for a hot sec. Allow me to break down what UDC really is.

UDC is a 2-day event with day one as the conference and day two as a concert featuring a huge lineup of popular and rising urban desi artists. The conference is an event featuring panels on various topics that open discussions with the audience and is led by a distinguished moderator.

The first year’s conference focused a lot on the artists, managers, DJ’s and journalists involved in the event and concert itself. As a team, we used the resources we had available to develop a list of simple panels that focused on the journeys of the artists, the struggles of new artists, and the future of the industry.

UDC Conference 2016 | Photo Source: Urban Desi

The panels featured talents like urban desi legend Raghav as well as today’s hitmakers, Mickey Singh, Raxstar, Amar Sandhu, Pranna, and PropheC. Producers like DJ Rekha, Dj Upside Down and DJ Se7enPM.

We took the criticism from year one to improve year two. The main takeaway was there wasn’t enough female representation at the concert or the conference so we made sure year two had some powerful females at both. There was even an all-woman panel at the conference highlighting the struggles of being a South Asian female which audiences loved.

We moved away from just music related guests at the panel and broadened our horizons to include talents like director and writer of Netflix’s “Brown Nation,” Abhi Varghese, the Indo-American Arts Council’s executive director, Aroon Shivdasani, Food2Eat founder Deepti Sharma, fashion designer Bijal Vohra and more.

The concert also saw the return of many fan favorite guests at the conference and concert including Mickey Singh, Amar Sandhu, Pranna and Saavn’s Artist Originals (AO) hitmakers, the PropheC, and Raxstar. Zack Knight and DJ Shadow Dubai were new additions that killed the weekend, there was even a surprise performance by Fateh at the concert!

Now, it is our third year and if you ask me, our best yet! Presented by Saavn and powered by B4U, UDC 2018 features a formal conference covering topics from music to tech startups to health and fitness. Last year’s biggest criticism was bringing back too many of the same artists, and so, this year’s concert features the biggest lineup as of yet bringing in Arjun, Jaz Dhami, Fateh, Kamal Raja, Bohemia, Twin Beatz, The Bilz and Kashif, and Pavvan to the show for the first time.

A new addition to the weekend is a pop-up shop before the concert which is in collaboration with Product of Culture. Atif Ateeq, Babbu the Painter, and RootsGear are some of the unique brands you’ll find at this pop-up.

The Urban Desi Conference x Concert has something awesome coming your way! . Presenting, your Urban Desi Pop Up Shop in collaboration with the lovely peeps at Product of Culture . POP x POC UDC . Music and entertainment by DJ Sharad and Rohit Sharma . Check out fresh merch, art, and music from South Asian creatives! In-store party from 4PM-8PM. Get your merch and wear it to the Concert! . FEATURING: ATIF - BABBU THE PAINTER Babbuthepainter BADAL PATEL By Badal DJ SHARAD FATEH DOE Fateh Doe JASMINE LAKHESAR Jasmine Lakhesar JESSIE SOHPAUL Jessie Sohpaul RAXSTAR Raxstar ROOTSGEAR Rootsgear Singh TAXI FABRIC Taxi Fabric AND MORE! . POC x POC furthers diversity and cultural education across North America by providing young multicultural innovators and artists with a strong platform to tell their stories and share their art. Be a part of our movement and RISE for the culture. . . . #ProductOfCulture #PopUpShop #POC #PopUp #UrbanDesi #UrbanDesiConference #UrbanDesiConcert #desiNYC #DESIinNYC

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The purpose of this event was not only to bring together popular artists but also rising artists. Over the years we’ve seen some well-rounded fresh faces like Samica, Nida, Sahyba, Neel, Rubel, G. Sidhu, and Abhisting. This year we’ve got a killer lineup of new talents like Shiv, Vlimpse, iSick, Ah Murda, Dixi Patel, Rokit Beatz, DJ Juicy, and more.

Rokit Beatz even created a special mashup for this year’s event that is pretty amazing.

The fact that the team as a whole can take criticism and constructively apply it to effectively improve the show is a testament to the quality of work and the intense efforts behind this event. This show is continuously growing and we’re hoping to take it to new heights each year. I for one am glad I picked up that call three years ago to write a press release.

Grab your UDC tickets here! Use discount code nilaudc for 10% off!

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