February 9, 2012

ria: aka, d.j. mowgli

Ria has over ten thousand record albums.  That's more than one for each and every man, woman, and child in the town where I spent my childhood.  He has been gathering and assembling them, like threads of an elaborate and vibrant tapestry, since he was a kid.    

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                                                          ria

Both of Ria's parents are Bengali.   Bangladesh is a South Asian nation, bordered almost entirely by India, except for a small portion which is bordered by the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, also known as Burma.  Ria's parents moved from Bangladesh, to Scotland.  From Scotland to Newfoundland.  From Newfoundland to Ottowa.  From Ottowa to Baltimore.  From Baltimore to Dallas.  From Dallas to Cincinnati.

Ria was born in Texas.

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                                           mr. bubble

Bengali is still spoken in Ria's nuclear family.  Ria has visited Bangladesh many times in his life.  His entire extended family still lives there, where they practice Islam.  Ria is an atheist, but has joined his family on a pilgrimage to Mecca.  He also joins them in prayer, out of respect for their religion and traditions.

I would like to know how to say "the twisty moustache man," in Bengali.

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                  the twisty moustache man

His father is an avid Rudyard Kipling reader and began calling Ria Mowgli when he was just a boy.  His father also introduced him to an eclectic array of musical styles, including traditional Bengali music, jazz, and artists like Stevie Wonder.    

Ria learned to play the violin.  Then, the drums.

photo by steve metz                                                                                              goldfinger

Ria devoured music, floating from genre to genre.  Like a pollenating bee, he carried a little bit of each style forward and impregnated the next with that which he had learned from the previous, much as his parents had traveled from culture to culture, country to country, town to town, assimilating, morphing, but still, somehow faithful to some unarticulated force at the center.

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                                happy death man

Ria worked in record stores.  He made money, then he bought records.  He made a little more, he bought a few more: on and on, a cycle of hunger and feeding, as perfect as the circle of a spinning platter.

photo by steve metz                                                                                                                                             the red-plate special

Now, with those ten thousand platters at his disposal, and with the heritage of traditional Bengali  culture infused with an American childhood, Ria dj's.  You can hear those varied threads in his method.  First, a jazz riff.  Next, an obscure, eighties synth band, of whom you've never heard (this will have you spending hours on your own trying to track down the origin of that sound).  Lastly, there goes Mowgli, running through the concrete jungle.  I imagine that his father would be smiling.

d.j. mowgli: facebook


  1. Great art man. I really love watching your work Steve.

    1. thanks so much justin! i really appreciate the support. more than you know...

  2. The red plate special photo is awesome - looks great against the solid white background

  3. I have one word for the photos here. Wow.

  4. Great photos and a telling, succinct bio. Very well done!

  5. This makes me want to listen to his music, if for no other reason, just so I can torture myself with his obscure eighties synth bands. Nice!

    1. click the facebook link

  6. I love the photos, Steve. Once again, you have intrigued me...