FINDING HER INNER FOODIE MC HOSTS ONLINE SHOW EXPLORING NEW YORK EATERIES
Fusion artist hosts show exploring New York curry eateries
Richmond hip-hop MC Jasleen “Horsepowar” Powar is riding to success as a global tastemaker.
One moment she is blowing audiences away with sharp rhymes and strident beats at the TD Vancouver International Jazz Festival.
The next, she’s in New York rapping with local chefs about one of the world’s most popular dishes as host of a new program on the online food channel First We Feast.
The Curry Shop is a show that should have hit the airwaves ages ago. But perhaps it’s best that this quick-paced program touring New York’s hidden-gem neighbourhood spots serving up cultural spins on the classic curry dish didn’t happen until Horsepowar took the reins.
From her irreverent delivery and dance moves to her clear love of the subject matter, she’s in her element.
“It’s really exciting to have landed the hosting show because First We Feast is doing some really innovative and interesting things with food TV,” said Powar.
“It was the most chill audition ever. I was in New York, met with the producers who were already aware of who I was and what my persona — being a loud, proud, brown woman who is here and not leaving — and it happened.”
Known for parlaying that stance into feminist raps floating on Bollywood samples, EPs of trashy comedy rhymes or insightful spoken word, Powar discovered that there was an inner foodie waiting to be freed when she took on the Curry Shop role.
It was also liberating to take on a show that addressed a cuisine that Powar had felt quite self-conscious of growing up, being worried about eating it, leaving the house smelling of it and myriad other unfair social pressures heaped upon a humble dish.
But cooking turned out to be liberating for her.
“In the past, when songwriting wasn’t working, the place that it lead me to was the kitchen where I could express myself making some really intricate and challenging recipe,” she said.
“Now I get to add that to my arsenal of what I do artistically, which is so cool.
“I’m not a badass cook at all, although I do have a few, totally random recipes that are pretty awesome.”
Her specialties read like someone who grew up in the cultural melting pot of the Lower Mainland, particularly Richmond.
“I make a really great xiao long bao, pork soup dumplings,” she said. “All from scratch, but I need to work on my dough since it’s still a bit too thick and chewy. Doing this is now part of what my identity is as an artist.”
A typical episode of The Curry Shop sees the host and one of her many insider guests heading out into the Big Apple in search of some delicious dish that represents curry.
That this requires her to break into spontaneous Bollywood dance moves at any moment of the broadcast is just who she is.
“That’s just something I do, always,” she said. “Usually, in the show when that happens, there isn’t any music even playing. I’m mostly hearing ‘When You’re A Jet’ from West Side Story in my head because, New York and all.”
Besides the dynamic delivery that makes the show shine, there is the serious side of searching out hole-in-thewall eateries in all five boroughs and beyond to feast.
Among the episodes already posted is an explanation of the Malaysian Chinese curry hot pot with Crazy Rich Asians star Ronny Chieng. Celebrities and gourmet goodies is a pretty righteous employ.
“I’m eating delectable meals at really great restaurants with cool guests and getting paid,” she said. “I can’t complain. And who knew that this was the next obvious step, or new chapter, in my life.”
Her latest music video Bold Woman outlines “who she is” at this stage. Over a cool, jazzy beat, she outlines what she needs in love and manages to take it right back to the classic rock that was all around her growing up by riffing on a lyrical hook from Tom Petty’s Breakdown. Horsepowar is, if nothing else, a true fusion artist. Directed by Toronto Muslim photographer-videographer Masooma Ali, the video presents the Curry Shop host in a very different light.
“I really love how she sees me, and it was a journey to find this identity of the bold woman,” she said.
“As far as the Tom Petty, you caught me, but I think (for) a lot of my audience that is an element of my taste that they may not know. Young, brown women may, likely, not be growing up on the classic Petty tracks, so I can share that.”
This is an artist with global ambition and impressive drive who loves where she is from and where she is going. New York City is lighting her up in a way no Canadian city could.
“Every day is so fast and you learn so much in a place where people are running the show,” she said.
“Vancouver is so beautiful, clean, small and in a bubble where it’s all so fake-nice. New York is so much of everything, with something for everyone and I’m overwhelmed in the best possible way.”