Andaz, Andaz, Andaz . . .
Almost 5 years. July is technically our five-year anniversary, since it was July of 2002 when we threw our first bhangra dance party at Lola’s Room. We celebrate our anniversaries in November, because that is when we started at the Fez Ballroom.
Anjali’s first set was a very atypical (for Andaz) selection that included the new State of Bengal and plenty of British Asian hip-hop. I went on at 10pm and promptly cleared everyone with my first song. And they stayed cleared for quite a while. I worried that no one would dance until Anjali went on in an hour. Often I will get people to dance from 9pm-10pm when I am DJing the early slot, so playing to an empty dance floor from 10pm on was really unnerving. (Flashback to opening for Karsh Kale years ago. Other than one bhangra song, people kept off the floor for my whole set. When Anjali went on everyone mobbed the floor. Pay no attention to the white boy in the corner choking on a shotgun.) When I finally got people back on the floor I would clear them again with my next song. The whole first half of my set was like that. I don’t know if I have ever failed so badly at keeping people on the floor at Andaz. New Shinda hip-hop didn’t work, Bombay to Goa did. The night was very slow to get started. I don’t think the dance floor was really going until I dropped “Do U Wanna Partner” from the Partner soundtrack, which is ironic, because I am suspect of the song’s cheeziness, and not at all sold on it. I played it out of curiosity to see how it would go over. Very well, apparently. The only stellar mix of the night I can take credit for was going into “Bluffmaster” after that. Easy enough, since they ride the same Pon De Replay-derived riddim.
There is so much new filmi I never quite get around to playing at Andaz, and I really wanted to make sure that didn’t happen this time. The tricky part is that no one is really looking to hear my new favorite Bollywood songs. Everyone wants Dhoom 2 and the Don remake which do nothing for me, to put it mildy. People request songs from these soundtracks so much, they probably think we don’t know them, or aren’t up on them. The joke is that for months before they were released I was going to Indian stores in different cities asking if either of them had come out yet. When I finally got my hands on them I was quite disappointed, especially with Dhoom 2, which I thought didn’t have a single decent song on it. Of course when they came out, no one was requesting them, but a year later, that is Portland Hindi-song requesters’ idea of what the latest, hottest stuff is. Yuck. Against my better judgement I did play the “Khaike” remake very late in the night, but by the time I played it I doubt anyone who requested it was still around.
Normally I don’t play much filmi until later, when the Desis start arriving in force. However, I was getting such a positive response from the new filmi I was playing during my early slot that I ran with it for the rest of my set. I got in “Dekhoon Tujhe To Pyaar Aaye (Remix),” “Imaan Dol Jayege,” and “Thare Vaste (Remix)”(which got a lot of screams when the chorus came in), but didn’t make it around to the songs I love from I See You, amongst dozens of others. Unfortunately, since many of the Desis weren’t there yet, they missed out on the most concentrated filmi block of the evening. Once the Desis arrived, it was the Panjabis who ran things so aggresively from the stage, it was hard not to want to keep them happy. That means filmi lovers suffer.
In my first hour I got a Daler Mehndi request. There is usually at least one person requesting his songs at a typical Andaz. In five years only one half of a Daler Mehndi song has ever been played at an Andaz night. Anjali would never bring him or play him. I once played half of a dhol-heavy remix of “Ek Dana” and then felt so mortified, I pulled it. This time I told the Daler-requester we save Daler for weddings, and the requester actually laughed. Normally I get nothing but hostility when I explain that there are certain artists we don’t play at Andaz. I took it as a good omen that the guy took my refusal with a smile. No one else requested Daler Mehndi all night.
Anjali was all over the map, even throwing in “Reggada” from the new Outlandish, and a Panjabi 2-Step track from Panjabi MC’s Steel Bangle in honor of DJ Tarsier, who was in attendance. We used to play a lot more Panjabi 2-Step at Andaz, but because of the narrow focus and aggressiveness of both the bhangra faction and the filmi faction, little else gets played. Atlas becomes our forum for those sorts of sounds now.
Like I said, the Panjabis were running things this time. The stage was packed with bhangra dancers, and who wants to clear a stage full of dancers? Anjali and I still managed to squeeze in a fair amount of filmi, but no doubt nowhere near enough to please the Dhoom 2 and Don remake crowd. Anjali keeps saying we should throw a separate filmi party. I think filmi-lovers are so convinced that all we do is play bhangra, that they wouldn’t believe us even if we did throw a filmi-only party. They’d probably think we would still be playing bhangra.
Speaking of bhangra, “Putt Jattan Da Jawan” off Original Edit went OFF! Twice. Anjali didn’t realize I had already played it, but the second time through the Panjabis went so crazy you would hardly know it was the second time. This was very notable to us, because when Anjali last played that song at Basement Bhangra in NYC, the Panjabis there hardly moved. I decided then and there that it must not be a big hit. Well, I was wrong as far as the Oregon/Washington Panjabis are concerned, because the energy level was nuts the two times that song was played.
I squeezed in four tracks from the new Sukshinder Shinda throughout the night, so at least I did something right. Sukshinder Shinda, Preet Brar, and Surjit Bindrakhia finished off the last dancers. It used to be that filmi dominated the last hour at Andaz, but all the Singhs in attendance are shaking up the format in a big way.
I like playing both bhangra and filmi at Andaz, but the bhangra and filmi factions in attendance have very little patience. Often Panjabis will be in our face complaining the moment we play a filmi song, and filmi-lovers will complain the second there is a bhangra song. Just because the two musics are “Indian” doesn’t mean they are a natural fit for a party. It is difficult for me to accept that people might leave our party unhappy because we try to cover both bases.