We just got back from DJing Shringara in Seattle, a new night dedicated to “Seattle’s new Asian sound.” An Asian underground night that Anjali is infinitely qualified to DJ and I thought,”I’ll come up with something.” I’ve been following the Asian underground sound since the ’90s but I’ve never found more than a few tracks that I thought were dance floor smashes and I figured Anjali was going to play those so what was I going to do. I knew I had a couple new Bhangra D’n’B tracks up my sleeve but was that going to fill an hour plus? When I am booked to play an “Asian Underground” night that means nothing but D’n’B and breaks to me, but I never know if the promoter and crowd are on the same page as I am or not. There is so much conflationism and confusion when people try to use different terms to describe South Asian music. I know what I am talking about but I often question how much other people do. I assumed originally that the night was all about the breaks but when I was assured that Bhangra and Bollywood were OK I thought, “I guess I can make it work.”
Whenever we play another city I have no idea what to expect in terms of who the crowd will be or how many people will make up that crowd. We do such a good job of promoting ourselves in Portland that I often want to play a role in promoting ourselves in other cities when we have gigs there. I know that promoters can have very specific ideas about how they want to promote a night and who they want to promote it to so I usually don’t do anything, despite my desires, because I don’t want to step on anybody’s toes. I was really hoping that word had gotten out to Seattle’s massive (compared to Portland) South Asian community but I wasn’t sure if that had happened or not. I was concerned when we arrived in town and checked the papers and saw not a mention or a listing or anything. I know there had been a fair amount of online promotion so I could only hope that that would do the trick. When I realized that there were no competing South Asian parties in Seattle the same night that made me hopeful that we might be able to draw a crowd. Unfortunately when we arrived around 11pm there was hardly anyone there. We walked through a dance floor of maybe two or three people to leave our things on the stage where DJ Osiris was playing. Fortunately our friend DJ Collage was there (even though he had to leave for work shortly) and his good energy and good spirits really helped to make us feel a million times better about the night. We met the very friendly percussionist who was going to be playing with us. His name is Pak Hanafi and he is Copy’s Dad!! What a trip. Very friendly man. He informed us that their was a HUGE Burning Man event going on and apparently that is a large part of their crowd. Everyone he had invited to our event was surprised he wasn’t going to be at the Burning Man event. Oh well.
Anjali went on with a few tribal dancers on the floor. She feeds off a crowd and tends to perform better the more people there are in an audience. I knew she was going to have trouble in such an empty room. Sure enough I could tell she was feeling awkward and having a difficult time reading the room as I watched her onstage. She really wanted to play experimental and I couldn’t help but notice that the strongest crowd response was for her one song that was a fairly straight Bhangra track. I knew this wasn’t going to make her happy because of how leftfield she wanted to play but it reassured me because I was feeling like playing a straight Bhangra set. Sometimes I want to play everything in the world in the space of an hour and sometimes I just want to hammer home some Bhangra. Before I discovered the Panjabi sound I thought I would never be able to play a set of a single genre because nothing would hold my interest to that extent. After absorbing a bunch of Bhangra back in early 2001 I thought, “Wow, I could play a whole set of this music.” And lo and behold I sometimes do. Give or take the aforementioned Bhangra D’n’B tunes that is exactly what I did. Maybe I betrayed the spirit of the night. Maybe I was repetitive and unorginal. Maybe the Panjabi sound is totally played-out as far as Seattleites are concerned. Whatever. I blasted hardcore Panjabi for my whole set. The dance floor came and went and probably at its height there were only 10-15 people on the floor. They definitely spazzed to the D’n’B at the end of my set and they were applauding and asking for “one more” at the end, so it could have been worse. Thank you to Infinite Connections for bringing us up. Thanks to the people who came out and danced. I still have to wait for my chance to play to a large South Asian crowd in Seattle but I hope I will get my chance eventually.
PS I have to give it up to my sister who I only thought was going to last for a couple songs but who actually hung in there til the bitter end, even helping load up the car after the gig. What a trooper. She definitely appreciated Anjali’s more diverse set but she lasted through my Panjabi marathon. Major brownie points. Next time she’s in the audience I’ll have to throw her a bone and vary my set a bit. Thanks, Sis.