Brown Bikers’ Big Beatz

Nobody would ever accuse desis of being quiet folk. You get a few desis together and pretty soon the volume of the chit chat rises; you get them excited and all the white people in the room start giving them dirty looks. We are voluble people.

So it’s not surprising that young desi bikers in Queens are making their presence known. Out where I live, white men on motocycles remove their mufflers and rev their engines, the aural equivalent of pissing on a tree. In Richmond Hill, young Indo-Carribeans mark their territory more euphoniously using huge speakers … on their bicycles, a tradition brought over from Guyana and Trinidad.

That’s right, this desi biker “gang” is real old school, eschewing newfangled innovations like the internal combustion engine for the purity of gears and sweat.

A new biker gang is roaming the streets of Richmond Hill, Queens. This crew of mostly teenagers can be seen riding along 103rd Avenue just west of the Van Wyck Expressway. The bikes roar… these contraptions look and sound more like rolling D.J. booths.

“This one puts out 5,000 watts and cost about $4,000,” said Nick Ragbir, 18, tinkering with his two-wheeled sound system, with its powerful amplifier, two 15-inch bass woofers and four midrange speakers. It plays music from his iPod and is powered by car batteries mounted on a sturdy motocross bike. [Link]

When I started reading the article and noticed all the names were desi, I was hoping for families of four on scooters or mopeds, women riding side saddle, but bicycles are almost as good.

Let other teenagers cruise around in low riding automobiles with the trunk and backseat full of woofers, burning dinosaur juice, bringing us Indian summer year ’round. We’re rolling rickshaw style, moving our bodies to propel the music up and down the streets, dancing in the saddle as we pedal and peddle.

Who needs an iPod when you live in a desi neighborhood?

Slideshow with pictures here. The other photos are even better.

30 thoughts on “Brown Bikers’ Big Beatz

  1. This will not go down well at the club–I hope the old eggs won’t tease me too hard, what, what? ;-)

  2. Checked out the slideshow in the article, pretty cool…

    But the best was finding out there actually is a brown Elvis, AWESOME!

    Mr. Ragbir and his brother, Elvis Ragbir, 22
  3. What WHAT Richmond Hill! Moved there over the summer (ASK NOT WHY) & thought it was so funny seeing 11 year old kids riding these oversized tricycles with big speakers hanging off them. I didn’t realize it was a trend…

    Thanks for sharing this!!

  4. Boom Boxes were big when I was a kid. I bought one. A JVC, not Sony…much to my parents confusion. I was a rebel.

  5. “This one puts out 5,000 watts and cost about $4,000,”

    Portable wealth on display…..what’s the perspective from the Indo-Caribbean women whom I assume are the intended audience ?

  6. But the best was finding out there actually is a brown Elvis, AWESOME!

    Awesome doesn’t even begin to describe this.

    What WHAT Richmond Hill! Moved there over the summer (ASK NOT WHY)

    Don’t front, Riffo: Elvis Ragbir and me seen da way our tricked out bykes make you drop legs. Rude Bwoy!

  7. “This one puts out 5,000 watts and cost about $4,000,” said Nick Ragbir, 18, tinkering with his two-wheeled sound system, with its powerful amplifier, two 15-inch bass woofers and four midrange speakers.

    Where’s the milk? And this one (Translation: Annamalai’s bike soars as if on wings)? Puts out like 5,000 tons. Beat that!

  8. wow, loved this article! the slide show is great! maybe they will get their own reality show, like west coast choppers, hehe

  9. I’m feeling the bikes, no doubt. But I gotta bring the hate on that spiky hair fella on the fifth slide. And what does your shirt say dude? “Scandolus”? Macaca please!

  10. Gentle people,

    Discovered this blog via my google reader’s recommendations, and I must say, it works!! Greatly enjoying all your posts. (So much to read! wee!!) Keep it coming.

  11. Am I the only one who doesn’t think this is particularly cool. It’s just an aural nuisance. I’ve had the misfortune of once living in an area populated by what were essentially 2 ton low riding speakers. And it’s just not fun! It’s not the music I don’t like (seriously) but rather the volume and the odd hours.

    I realize that I don’t know the particulars about the neighbourhood, and if the street tenants don’t mind, more power to the kids. But I’d just slap ‘em with a noise complaint and run ‘em out of my street if they ever showed up. My $0.02.

  12. Here’s what the article says about noise complaints, I can’t tell if it is true:

    The bikers said they have heard no complaints about the noise they make from residents or people they pass. And although there is a city law which says a summons may be issued if a person operates a personal audio device, like a radio, heard from up to 25 feet away, the bikers’ mobile stereos are less likely to attract attention because the noise does not persist in one place very long.
  13. My cousin wants to build a bike of this sort, but his parents won’t let him. Maybe this article will convince them ;)

    Typically in a Caribbean neighborhood, you can hear someone blasting dancehall, lover’s rock or soca during the weekends. The kids are just bringing a likkle bit of home to Richmond Hill.

    Loved slide number two: subtitled “Trini to di Bone”

  14. I think this is pretty damn cool. I’m curious to see what it evolves into, though. Given that these kids seem to be making good money off their sound system engineering skills, I can imagine that the low-tech island steez will change a bit. Kind of like the way Jamaican sound systems evolved in the 1970s into DJ setups that we would find more familiar today.

  15. Speaking from personal experience, it is pretty loud, but nothing compared to the sound systems older guys have in their cars (the bass is so heavy you can feel and see your walls quiver & other car alarms are set off…a mixed medley of jaw-clenching noise!)

  16. Their wheels rock.

    I have one concern. How do they keep these ultra cool coveted bikes secure and out of the hands of thieves or vandals? That would be my only concern.

  17. 1980s hit by the Outfield � “I Don’t Want to Lose Your Love Tonight�

    I think this Youtube comment sums it up best:

    Could be the feel good song of ALL TIME!!!
  18. The Outfield Live – Your Love – Trinidad 1998 at Queen’s Park Oval with Air Supply and Survivor 40,000 plus screaming fans

    OMG. OMG. OMG.


    I would have easily traded in my leg warmers and Karate Kid headband for tickets to that show.

    Since this thread seems to have morphed into a trip down 80s nostalgia, I’d like to believe that this isn’t entirely irrelevant to our discussion at hand: shouldn’t his histrionic, rooftop declarations of eternal love, set to the backdrop of a major city, and triumphant monobrow qualify as a desi angle (TM)? Plus, my cousins back in the Poonjab still rock the jean jacket like its 1988.