Anjali and I are in NYC this weekend. We were lucky to have a weekend free to visit Anjali’s family that just happened to coincide with the tenth anniversary celebration of DJ Rekha’s “Basement Bhangra” party. Tonight we will see Bikhram Singh, the Dhol Foundation, and Panjabi MC at the Hammerstein Ballroom. Hopefully we’ll have a chance to hang out with some of them today as well. We arrived in NYC to hear from Rekha that the interview carried out by India Abroad with Anjali in honor of the 10th anniversary had been published with a photo. We bought a stack of the newspaper in Jackson Heights. Anjali was kind enough to send press photos that included both of us but they chopped my half of the photo off when they printed it. Which is odd because they started the profile off talking about me and quoting extensively from my online bio. Oh well, I’m just glad Anjali got some much-deserved national press. We ate a lunch buffet at Delhi palace and bought loads of bhangra and Bollywood at the Jackson Heights music stores. With Anjali’s family we ate at a really good Indo-Chinese restaurant in Queens called Tangra.
In NYC there is usually so much going on each night that I often wimp out and don’t do any of the amazing things that are possible in an evening. Last night was a Balkan Beat Box record release party, DJ Hutz of Gogol Bordello performing at Mehanata, and DJ Kazzanova (whose reggaeton mix I’ve been listening to in the car a lot recently) at the Copacabana. As it was DJ Rekha invited us to hang out with her guests at the Kush lounge, which became our first stop of the evening. Rekha and crew were late, and while the Kush lounge was a nice space, the DJ was horrendous. Lots of way-too-obvious songs from the last twenty years train-wrecked or brutally-scratched-over in the most unpleasant sounding way. Anjali and I had given up on waiting and were on our way out the door to see Eugene Hutz when they arrived. So we turned around and went back in the club. Unfortunately the reserved table for the crew was in the middle of the dance floor with all the mid and treble heavy speakers blasting right at us. It was impossible to listen in to conversations and you had to be directly screaming back and forth in each other’s ear to have a conversation. At first only members of the Dhol Foundation were there and Anjali met a very nice member who is also the keyboardist for Alaap! Unfortunately because of the noise I could barely make out the conversation.
The DJ and his music were so unrelentingly abysmal that we took a break to see the new location of the Mehanta bar and check out DJ Hutz for the first time. The bar was empty when we first got there which was shocking given how much we have read about this party over the years. However it has been all too apparent to us over the years that you can throw a tiny party in NYC and have the attention of the national print media and throw enormous (and distinctive) parties in Portland, OR for years and never get any sort of shine. After midnight it started to fill up and was much more raging by the time we left. Eugene played mostly up-tempo Eastern European tracks which I didn’t recognize, plus a song in Spanish whose genre I couldn’t even guess, plus a dancehall and a bhangra song while we were there. We’ve been trying to get him as a guest to Atlas for a long time now. We’re hoping to bring him to next September’s Music Fest NW edition of Atlas. Anjali introduced herself and gave him a note and some info. Working through other channels hasn’t proven very effective so we’ll see how the direct approach works. We went down the street to check on the Balkan Beat Box show but by 1am it was already over. Maybe the Balkan Beat Box show explains why Mehanata was empty earlier on, and why it filled up later, seeing as how the shows were right down the street from each other.
Back at the Kush Lounge the DJ had gotten even worse. He was no longer train-wrecking Prince, MJ and Bobby Brown, but instead Bon Jovi, AC/DC and ’80s Bowie. Rekha introduced us to Panjabi MC who had arrived. He actually remembered Anjali from when they had briefly met in Seattle years ago. He was very engaging and wanted to hang out with us but having caught a red-eye to NYC the night before and not having gotten any proper sleep, combined with the ear-shredding volume and difficulty in holding a conversation, we said our goodbyes. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to hang out more today before the show.
PS Not only is tonight the tenth anniversary Basement Bhangra celebration, but Ivy Queen is playing NYC as well. Damn!