I have to give credit where credit is due. I complain that the Bollywood-requesters at Andaz are always behind the times, but last month there was one gentleman actually requesting a new Bollywood song: “Heyy Babyy.” Unfortunately, I haven’t warmed to the cheeziness of that song yet, and was not inclined to play it at August’s Andaz. In the meantime I have been listening to a dozen new soundtracks that have come out in the last month, and not the Heyy Babyy soundtrack. Instead I am appreciating Johnny Gaddar‘s nods towards 70’s Bollywood funk, and the sure-to-be-huge-no-matter-how-cheezy (and Shahrukh, please put your shirt back on) Om Shanti Om. This month at Andaz there were several more requests for “Heyy Babyy,” but not for any other new songs that I have been listening to this month. Unfortunately, I’m still not sold on it. I was in the midst of an uptempo filmi house mini-set, and I was feeling charitable, so I played the ravey remix (featuring Girl Band) of “Heyy Babyy” since (after a quick listen) it seemed like it would fit better with what I was playing than the original mix of the song. (Listening to it now I find that it is not only unbearably awful in its cheeziness, but a shameless rip-off of Amr Diab’s “Ala Wala Baloh.” I sincerely apologize for letting that one slip through.) It was not the version people wanted to hear, because there continued to be requests for the original throughout the night. I didn’t get around to it, so sorry for the disappointment. We’ll see if the song’s cheeziness melts my brain enough to cause me to acquiesce to playing the original next month. Bollywood Horror? Sure, why not. There are many definitions of horror, and “Heyy Babyy” might just fit mine.
I really focused on Bollywood for this month’s Andaz, but other than “Heyy Babyy” all my requests were for Panjabi songs. Specifically songs by Jazzy B. and Lehmber. Over and over and over. Ironically, whenever I complain about the demands of filmi-requesters, I really dedicate myself to the genre in preparation for the next Andaz, and then the next Andaz comes around, and there won’t even be any filmi requests; just Panjabi, Panjabi, Panjabi. As much as I complain about arrogant filmi-requesters, I listen to tons of filmi, love tons of filmi, and really enjoy playing it for an appreciative audience. Its just that the songs I want to play, and the songs that Desi filmi-lovers want to hear, only sometimes overlap. I think that a bunch of filmi-lovers will show up to an Andaz night, complain about all the bhangra that is played, and then not bother to come the next month when I have dedicated a lot of time to prepping the latest filmi dance songs.
At yesterday’s Andaz, I felt guilty for playing a string of bhangra songs after Anjali had just played a mostly-bhangra set, but I wasn’t getting Bollywood requests, and the stage was FILLED with Panjabi dancers lording over the crowd. I felt guilty because I imagined there were Desis throughout the crowd hoping to hear some filmi, but when the whole place is going nuts for bhangra, it is hard as a DJ to risk clearing the stage, in order to hopefully please a quiet minority, by taking a severe musical left turn. Not that that stops me from taking any number of severe musical left turns during my sets, I just often don’t know who, if anybody, I am REALLY pleasing, when I attempt to mollify different factions in the crowd. I have an idea of who I am pleasing when I play the “Dus Bahane” remix or the “Thaare Vaaste” remix, but am I really pleasing anyone?
When I switched off with Anjali around midnight, a friend of my brother’s was in the crowd, who had attended the wedding I wrote about previously, the one where I had to play “Celebrate” and “We Are Family” (shudder), and he was congratulating me, and telling me that it was cool to see me playing what I want to play, instead of taking wedding requests. I had to explain to him that I am only partly doing what I want to do, and often just attempting to please different factions in the crowd. He seemed surprised by that. It is very rare that I am doing what I want to do on stage. Even if I’m clearing everybody in the room, sometimes that is because I’m doing what I want to do, and sometimes I was erroneously thinking that I was doing something that someone was going to enjoy. I remember I read a description of our party in an Asian Reporter article once and they said that my “sound” was more electronic and house-y than Anjali’s. That is only my “sound” at Andaz to the extent that I am reacting to what Anjali does in her sets. I am very reactive in my programming at that party. Since Anjali usually plays very little filmi, I feel responsible for all the Desis that want to hear some Hindi songs, and I try to oblige, sometimes playing popular Hindi songs, and sometimes filmi songs that probably only I want to hear that aren’t pleasing anyone else. After all, I never did play the original “Heyy Babyy,” and instead I played brand new songs like “Dard -E-Disco” and “Bhool Bhulaiyya” that few people seemed to know yet.
I wonder sometimes what it would sound like if I played a set at Andaz that at no point was geared towards pleasing one dance faction or another. Certain individuals in the crowd are so aggressive about getting in the DJ’s face the second they are hearing something they don’t like, that it is hard to imagine ignoring them for an entire set. Often orders are being barked, and attempts are made to intimidate and control the DJ. Lame. Even lamer is when Anjali or I honor an aggressive request, only to find that no one, not even the requester and their friends, is that interested in dancing to it. I am so conscious of whether a song is in Hindi or Panjabi, and whether it is a hit or not, and whether it will be more popular with goras or Desis on the dance floor. I spend so much time trying to keep one faction or another happy, it would be a very difficult exercise to play for no one but myself. And who would be happy then? I wouldn’t be, if the dance floor wasn’t packed and raging. That is the whole point: keep the dance floor packed and raging, right? But what it the DJ doesn’t want to play lame popular songs? What if the DJ is beseiged by aggressive factions in the crowd that only know what they want, and not what is best for the whole floor? What if they don’t take no for an answer? You can’t please everyone all the time, and I sometimes feel like even in trying to please some people some of the time, I please very few, least of all myself.
PS I really apologize for playing that “Heyy Babyy” remix, cuz that shit was lame. But I don’t apologize for playing “Thaare Vaaste” Remix, because I was happily singing it the whole next day, and I don’t apologize for playing “Mind Blowing Mahiya,” cuz that is some cheezy shit I actually really enjoy.
PSS I really wanted to play a lot of the new Indian bhangra I’ve been listening to, but it didn’t happen amidst the sea of Lehmber and Jazzy B requests. We shall see if I can fit some in next month.