Another packed house at Andaz last night. We were thrilled to have Joti Singh up from SF to lead everyone in an early bhangra dance lesson. She had everyone doing a bhangra-soul-train line dance that was awesome. Thank you to everyone who showed up early to get your moves down. Things got going right away, and the dance floor packed up shortly after the dance lesson. I took the opportunity to play a lot of recent bhangra releases from the Punjab, many of which feature a strong female co-singer, a sound I am very happy to include in my sets. However, throughout the night, I didn’t get any requests for the recent bhangra from India, only classics by Gurdas Maan and Surjit Bindrakhia. At one point a guy gave me ten dollars and asked for Gurdas Maan. He then went and found Anjali in the crowd, explaning to her that he didn’t think I understood him. “He understands,” she assured him. I only played one track featuring Gurdas Maan, because my set ended shortly after the request, but I would have played more given the opportunity.
I faced my typical challenge of how to balance the varying desires of the crowd. At one point after a riotous mini-bhangra set I played a few new hindi-house releases. I knew the filmi-lovers in the crowd were hungry for some Bollywood action. An older white woman in tribal mode comes up to the DJ booth all hyped-up and attitudinal. She asks accusatorily if I am going to be playing any more Indian music in the night, or if it is just techno from here on out. -Ha! No doubt she thought of the bhangra sound as being “Indian” music, and didn’t recognize Bollywood dance songs as being the most popular Indian music in the world today. Little does she know that I usually have many Indians in my face asking when I will be playing “Indian” music when I am in the middle of a bhangra set, since Panjabi music does not count in their minds. So this non-Indian woman was complaining that I had stopped playing “Indian” music at precisely the same time that many Indians in the room were finally happy that I had begun playing “Indian” music. What a riot. I explained to the woman that we play a range of Indian music that covers the folk and pop spectrum. She didn’t seem particularly trusting, or satisfied with my explanation.
It is a tricky spectrum to attempt to cover satisfactorily in an evening. I could easily play all Indian bhangra all night. I could easily play all UK bhangra all night. I could easily play Bollywood all night. When I play a smattering of all three I marvel at how many artists, albums, and tracks DON’T get any airtime over an entire evening at the Fez. Anjali suggested we have three different nights for the three different sounds. I think we’re lucky to have one successful night in Portland where we cover the three sounds, and I don’t think we should divide up our audience in a community the size of Portland.
It is very tricky trying to please every group that attends our night for more than short periods at a time, without alienating another group for an equal amount of time. At points I would see the stage full of people going off to a particular sound and know that in order to include everyone, I was going to be changing direction, and no doubt losing the energy and enthusiasm of the current stage dancers.
“Why not just keep pleasing one group of people? You’ve got a stage full of people going nuts, why dampen that energy?” –Well, there were more than 400 people at Andaz. I want there to be at least that many next month, and the month after that. If I focused on pleasing one group to the exclusion of all others, the party would not be as successful, or as diverse. As it is, I feel bad that we don’t play South Indian music at the night. Maybe that will happen at some point, but right now its hard enough to cover the bases we already promote as it is.
Despite all the Panjabis in attendance the night still morphed into a filmi-fest by the end of the night. Since I had forced people to listen to a “Rang Barse”/”It Takes Two” mashup earlier in the night, I made sure to play the Amitabh original for the late-night crowd. When I dropped “Barso Re” Anjali kept telling me I was “perverse” and “this is not a club song!” but as the sounds of women screaming from the dance floor and the stage kept going and going, she grudgingly admitted that it was working. –Thank you to Crystal for the floor show. Anjali says it wouldn’t have worked without you.– Things actually wound down early (by 2:30ish) after the much-requested “Beedi” was played. I haven’t seen Omkara yet, so I can only imagine the visuals add immensely to the song. Despite all the requests I get for it, it never sounds that good to me, or works that well on the dance floor. So I took a break from filmi classics and requests and played a newer cheezy filmi song that I actually like, “Parvar Digara (Remix)” with K.K.& Tulsi Kumar. Tulsi Kumar is my current favorite playback singer after the incomparable Sunidhi Chauhan. Of course with this choice I utterly and completely cleared the floor. (Well, OK, maybe a few couples stayed to dance.) Then I played an old Amitabh disco-funk track and called it a night. Thank you to everyone who came out and danced. Let’s do it again next month.