The 13th anniversary of ANDAZ is Saturday night July 25th, 2015 at the Analog Theater. In case you didn’t know ANDAZ is a Bhangra and Bollywood party Anjali and I have been throwing since July of 2002. However, the roots of the party go back several years before that. Part one of the history of ANDAZ is here, part two is here, and part three is here and part four is here.
In the late ’90s I had been DJing house parties in Portland and at that time Anjali and I were coworkers at Powell’s City of Books. Many of the parties involved those of us who were struggling to unionize the workers of Powell’s Books under the ILWU. Anjali was bored stiff by the music at these parties (Hang the DJ! Hang the DJ! Hang the DJ!) and she asked me at work one day if I would be willing to teach her how to DJ. I said sure. Later on I realized that the coming Saturday I was DJing a going-away party for one of our union organizers, a strong feminist named Tricia Schultz. I figured Tricia would really appreciate a female DJ at the event so I called Anjali and asked if she wanted to play Saturday night. (While there are endless DJ techniques one can practice in one’s bedroom, I believe the crux of DJing comes down to playing music for a live crowd and getting them to dance and have a good time, which is why I think learning to DJ involves being in front of a crowd, and not alone in your bedroom.) After initially telling me she had to think about it, Anjali called back and agreed to DJ for Tricia’s party. Anjali received a rave response. The much-repeated and entirely true story is that when she arrived early at the party no one was dancing. I quickly showed her how to use the mixer and then raced off to pee. When I returned from the bathroom there was a packed floor dancing to her Britpop selections. I was so curious about a lot of her music, which even as a record collector I knew nothing about, that I started inviting her to DJ other parties with me. One was my birthday later that month where she played the first Bhangra track I ever heard in my life and it blew my mind. I had to know what it was and learn as much about this music as I could. Hearing this track literally changed my entire life and led to me largely alienating the fan base I had created as a house party DJ, who were not as thrilled by the international direction of my musical development as I was.
I had played my first club night on Halloween night 2000 at the Satyricon, but Anjali and I made our club debut together on New Year’s Eve 2000 at the Medicine Hat on Alberta which was being booked by Chantelle Hylton. It was a sold-out success which featured nudity and illicit drug use which got many of our friends kicked out. Anjali featured South Asian songs in her eclectic set, and I played my then-standard all-over-the-map set. Anjali brought in Bollywood visuals which we played alongside Stanley Kubrick’s 2001.
From the beginning at the house parties I DJed I was playing a very eclectic assortment of music from house party standards like Michael Jackson and Prince to international sounds that excited me like reggaeton, dancehall, Asian Drum’n’Bass, Merenhouse and Merenrap, and even a lone Bollywood record I had picked up in San Francisco, but this Bhangra was something else entirely to my mind. Anjali showed me around the Indian stores in Portland’s suburbs, and as a vinyl-only DJ I had to accept that this music was not pressed on vinyl, and not available in standard record stores, but only on CD and cassette, next to the lentils in Indian grocery stores. I spent 500 dollars on our first day of shopping. Shortly after this shopping trip in the Spring of 2001 Anjali went to live in NYC for a few months while I stayed in Portland devouring my new purchases and recognizing that while I always thought I would remain a highly-eclectic DJ, I had actually found a world of music that I would be content to play all night. I was still learning to differentiate Bollywood and Bhangra and it was all one crazy mixed up sound to me.
While Anjali was exploring the South Asian DJ scene in New York I was continuing to DJ in Portland and hit up the Indian grocery stores for more music and trying to mix in at least a couple Bhangra or Bollywood songs in every set I played. I remember I reached a major personal milestone when I was able to play two Bhangra songs in a row at a house party and not clear the floor. (I even DJed a prom-themed event for the Portland Mercury and despite Wm. Steven Humphrey warning me not to play any “world music” I still snuck in Tigerstyle’s “Nachna Onda Nei.”) When Anjali returned from New York later that Summer I kept inviting her to DJ; the most momentous party being a 400-person-plus Halloween house party where Anjali raged a set of all South Asian music to a mostly white Portland crowd. This wrenched open my mind to the possibility that one could actually play a whole set of this music that I loved to a packed dance floor even if the audience was totally unfamiliar with the sound.
I had been DJing the hippest bar in town at the time called the Blackbird on Tuesday nights as part of a collective during 2001, and the booking agent Chantelle Hylton asked if I wanted to take over the night entirely in the Fall. I invited Anjali onboard and expressed to Chantelle how much I wanted to feature Bhangra at this night, which I had already been mixing into my sets. Now at this point I didn’t want to give up DJing hiphop, Latin music, indie, funk, soul, girl-punk and lots of other sounds that were a part of my sets, but I imagined a night where we could mix all of it together with a healthy dose of Bhangra and Bollywood. The party was a total experiment, and while Anjali played super-eclectic sets, she would also rage all South Asian sets for groups of Desis that would show up to the night and go ballistic in what was usually a very stiff hipsterish environment. Julianne Escobedo Shepherd, then of the Portland Mercury, took an early interest and was the first to write up our parties.
Our night at the Blackbird only lasted six months before the club informed us they needed to do something that would make them more money, but by the end there were groups of white people who would show up who would clearly be coming to hear Bhangra, and I found myself playing all Bhangra sets for the first time.
We then moved to the Kalga Cafe which was a late-night international vegetarian restaurant owned by a Panjabi family and while it was much more of a lounge than a dance club we kept the fires alive for the developing community of Bhangra and Bollywood heads and we realized at our weekly lounge night that people were really hungering for a full-on Bhangra and Bollywood dance party. Chantelle Hylton was a strong booster of what we were doing, and she had been trying to get me into a regular DJ slot at Lola’s Room in the Crystal Ballroom and trying to entice the local press to write about Anjali and I. Zach Dundas, then of the Willamette Week, caught one of our last Blackbird gigs and then wrote us up in an article called “Hunting the Wild Bhangra” while we were at the Kalga. With this article in hand I finally managed to convince the booker of Lola’s Room to give Anjali and I a shot and we threw our first all-out Bhangra and Bollywood party on July of 2002, after a year-and-a-half of buildup.
When we first started conceiving of the party Anjali informed me that the party was going to be called ANDAZ, but we settled on titling it “Bhangra Dance Party” on the first flyers since we knew the word Bhangra was getting some buzz and we didn’t want to confuse people with too many new vocabulary words at once. The party was a huge success, and while it didn’t technically sell out, we were just a few people shy of that and the demand for such a party was so clear that a few months later we scheduled another party at Lola’s Room. That party did sell out, and we knew we wanted to throw more, but also realized that Lola’s Room had a number of limitations that we were not willing to accept. I had attended some events at the Fez Ballroom and knew that was exactly where I wanted us to be throwing our party. Anjali and I attended an Afro night called Deeper Roots there together and in my earliest effort to get Anjali to start doing all the work I encouraged her to go over to Blaine Peters who was then managing the club. He had heard about our success at Lola’s Room and immediately booked us to start playing at the Fez. Our success continued unabated at the Fez, and beginning in November of 2002 we were playing the last Friday of every month. This lasted until the beginning of 2004 when DJ Gregarious moved his Shut Up and Dance weekly Friday night party from Lola’s Room over to the Fez, at which point we were moved to last Saturdays which we played to packed crowds until our final show at the Fez in April of 2010.
END OF PART ONE