Once again I had a D&D game to prepare and a major gig, namely Andaz, in the same weekend competing for my attention. The D&D game was particularly intimidating, as I was introducing a new player (both to our group, and the game entirely) into the fold, and I felt like the last game session I led had been less than satisfying for several of the players, and I really wanted to knock this one out of the park. While I take my performances very seriously, and I listened to a lot of the new bhangra and filmi that Anjali and I picked up in Little India in Artesia, California last week, my creative energies were largely focused on my game and not my gig, because my D&D players are very hard to please, and your average dancer is very easy to please, if you know what they want.
What do I always say about what the dancers want to hear at Andaz? Well, at least going by the requests: the Panjabis want Jazzy B and Lehmber, the filmi-lovers want Dhoom 2 and the like, and the goras want “Mundian To Bach Ke.” Lets look at the complete and unedited request sheet for the night, to see if my expectations were met.
Jazzy B? Yep, there’s “Jazzy B.”
” Lumber Hasnpur” (I’d say they were trying to request Lehmber Hussainpuri.)
“Please Pundjabi Aunti” Very amusing, since this request was directed at Anjali, and she plays 80-100 percent Panjabi songs in her sets. And don’t call her “Aunty.” Not appreciated.
“Miss Poosia (Poojia?)” I’d guess that was a Miss Pooja request. I love Miss Pooja. A big fuck you to all her haters. Wow, a Panjabi request that isn’t for Lehmber or Jazzy B. Quite impressive. It would have been even cooler a year ago when Miss Pooja fever had gripped India.
“Jazzy B” Hmmm, maybe they thought we missed the first request a few lines above it. “Lumber?”"Lamber?” (I’d say that was another attempt at a Lehmber Hussainpuri request.) Maybe they thought we missed the first request a few lines above it.
“Miss Poosi/Pooji?” I’d guess that was another Miss Pooja request. Maybe they thought we missed the request a few lines above it.
“Dil Laga” or more correctly “Dil Laga Na” from Dhoom 2 (The only filmi request of the night, and guess what, a request for a song from Dhoom 2. What a surprise.) As much as I play cheezy-azz Bollywood all night long, I still steadfastly refuse to play anything from that putrid soundtrack. There was a gori at the end of the night wishing we would play that and I have to admit to being surprised that even the goris want to hear the soundtrack at this point. I’m all for goris and goras listening to more contemporary Bollywood, I just wish they wouldn’t develop a taste for that soundtrack. Yuck.
“Punjabi MC” Jogi/Mundian to Bach ke”" What do you know, a Panjabi MC request, made slightly novel by the inclusion of “Jogi,” the second single released from the Beware album. Anjali got another request at some point from someone asking her if she was going to play any Panjabi MC, after she and I had both played several of his songs throughout the evening. American listeners who only have access to his Beware album might not realize that his career goes back before 1993 and that Panjabi MC has released 15 albums and EPs since then. The Beware album was cobbled together from material owned by Nachural records, all dating to 1998 and before. Anjali and I often play Panjabi MC tracks from the ten years since then, including his new “Snake Charmer” single that Anjali has been rinsing, and yet apparently if we don’t play “Mundian To Bach Ke,” people think we haven’t been playing Panjabi MC. That song was released in 1998, and while it may never die, I haven’t played it in years, nor do I have any inclination to do so. Anjali will play “Good Morning,” Panjabi MC’s re-version of that track, without the Knight Rider theme sample, and sometimes she will cut back and forth between the two tracks creating a megamix, but really, there are so many other songs I would rather share with the people that come to Andaz, whatever their own wishes might be.
So that’s the sum total of the requests for the evening. Did I call it or what? In fact there probably would have been many more written requests for Lehmber Hussainpuri and Jazzy B, except that when the same two Panjabis came back to repeat their requests ad nauseum, I wasn’t having any of it. Anjali had complained to me during her set that a few Panjabis were making her life miserable, complaining about the tracks she was playing, and making requests for, you guessed it, Jazzy B and Lehmber Hussainpuri. When I saw what I suspected to be the same two guys approach the DJ booth when I started my next set, I was fed up, and for the first time ever, I just kept yelling that they were to go away from the DJ booth, or security would kick them out. They were quite insistent. I had to yell: “You will be kicked out. Security is going to kick you out. Go away!” over and over. They didn’t get it at all. One walked away, and the other remained to mime that he wanted to write a request.
Dude. How many times do you need to misspell Jazzy B and Lehmber on our request sheet? I get it. I got it. You didn’t even need to approach me once and I knew you were out there, wanting to hear Jazzy B and Lehmber. You never need to approach me again, I know you will be lurking somewhere, wanting to hear Jazzy B and Lehmber. Enough!
When Tigerstyle played with us last year they talked proudly of having been able to play a recent gig without once playing a Lehmber song, despite all the requests. Well, Anjali and I don’t avoid Lehmber, in fact, we both play his songs to death. In fact, Anjali had played many Lehmber songs during the set where she was besieged by aggravating requesters requesting Lehmber. Here’s the problem: Lehmber has sung dozens and dozens of songs, and some have been better distributed in North America than others, so no matter how many Lehmber songs we play, if they aren’t ones made available in North America, people don’t know them, aren’t happy, and unfortunately, return to the DJ booth to request Lehmber. Oh boy.
Jazzy B is another matter entirely. “Crown Prince of Bhangra.” Widely loved and adored by Panjabis throughout the diaspora, not many of his songs appeal to gora dancers, of which our dance party has many. There are a few Jazzy B songs that the Panjabis want to hear. Usually slow, slow, slow, slow, dance floor-killers to a mixed crowd, and ones I am sick of playing. Then there are the few crossover tracks that I can play to a mixed crowd, which I am also sick of playing. Meanwhile he has dozens of other songs, that aren’t requested by the Panjabis, and aren’t good for a mixed dance floor, and it was one of these songs that accounted for one of the low points in my performances during the night. I was playing Lehmber’s “Dil” to great effect, and no doubt stupidly, mixed out of it early to a bhangra track by Jazzy B from his Romeo album that no one ever requests, just to try something different. Little did I know that during “Dil” Anjali and Purnima decided to lead a dance circle of goris to share some bhangra moves with them. When I switched up songs they were so unenthused by the Jazzy B track that they actually left the dance circle and I caused both of them to sit down. Way to go Mr. DJ.
My other low point occured after managing to get the stage packed with Panjabi dancers only to do a dedication to the Panjabis, and play Dark MC’s “Dushmani,” and watch the energy level drop significantly from all the songs I had played leading up to that number. Note to self: Don’t dedicate a song to the Panjabis unless you are sure they will go absolutely crazy when it comes on. It just makes the white boy DJ look like a clueless tool.
I had the task of playing the last hour of the night until 3am. The crowd had gotten small enough by this point that everyone took to the stage and it was a Bollywood floor show for the rest of the night. I played Nazia Hassan’s “Disco Deewane” early on in my set and I had a horrified Sardar in my face telling me to take it off. I explained that it was a classic and I gestured to the stage full of Desis (including Anjali) choreographing the song. I understand that early ’80s Bollywood disco is not everyone’s cup of tea, and Anjali has recently pointed out the similar sound that “Disco Deewane” shares with the theme from the Love Boat, but sometimes the DJ is playing for the Sardars, and sometimes he is playing for the girls. And the guys that don’t mind girly songs. Such as myself.
Thank you to everyone who came out to dance. Thank you to the dance crew that kept dancing up until 3am. Thanks to the people who didn’t make annoying requests, and thanks to all the hard-working staff at the Fez. See you next month.