Friday, August 18, 2006

The DJ me.

Some older fun stuff for all of you. I wrote this a while back. I like it. I actually wrote this when I was in SL before moving to Ampara and I was a columnist for www.chowk.com. That ended real soon since I barely had time to do much, esp write. My column was called Zehra Crossing. I thought that was really cute. My editor came up with the name. If I were a super girl, I would have kept on it and submitted stuff regularly. I am not so super.

I have lots to write now especially since my lap top is now fixed and back with me. Yay.

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Somehow, there I am. In a black sari, head phones on and Sree is handing me the microphone, encouraging the 800 people in the room to accept me as their DJ for the evening. I know there were some emails involved before this handing over of the microphone but it had all seemed so far away and in theory a great idea.

The groom himself is a DJ, which in itself is nerve wracking, but he wants to give me a chance since I’m young, new and inexperienced. A chance at DJ-ing…his WEDDING!?! Our songs lists were almost identical since I’m really an aunty under this young body and know better than anyone how to groove a desi wedding. I’m already sweating profusely and wondering if a sari was the best idea. I take the mic and say:

Hi, I’m Zehra, your DJ for the evening.

DJ’s should be given chelas who do all the talking. I am by no means a shy person but when competing with food, beautiful women, beautiful clothes and a festive atmosphere, and being a connoisseur of such events, I know for a fact, the DJ is the last person they want to pay attention to. But maybe I was hasty in deciding that. I get some looks from the young men prowling the floor and decide again, the sari was indeed a bad idea.

Dinner music is Asian underground. Karsh Kale, Talvin Singh, Cheb-I-Sabbah type stuff. Easy enough. All of a sudden I have nothing to do but need to look like I’m earning my money and fiddle around with some dials with no idea of what they do. Bad idea. I flip through some CD books instead. I think back to the two female DJ’s I know, Rekha of Basement Bhangra fame and Ashu Rai of the wonderful Desilicious parties. They always look busy and professional.

I put some pep into the way I flip through my CD’s. I also think longingly of the Brooklyn lounges I’ve played in and really just how different this mass scale experience is. People come up and even though I haven’t started really playing the good stuff, ask for my card, which I lie and say I’ve forgotten to bring since I don’t have any and I really just get looked up and down by all the desi aunties who are having weddings soon.

I can see them assessing me as an accessory at their child’s wedding. If I can play nominally good music, I’ll have more gigs lined up. Fine with me. I got this gig off an email list where the bride said she wanted a DJ who didn’t answer to a Tony or Johnny. Someone basically normal, looking to make some extra cash.

Dinner is over and the party needs to get started. It is the time to disco.

Sakina is with me and thank god for her. We are used to each other’s styles and eccentricities having been sisters all our lives and more recently, two of the three co-hosts at a 2 hour weekly show on Dhoom.FM. I am the calm one and she is the one who snarls at people. Again, somehow there I am, snarling at someone. There were, I think, three little kids and two young men involved who were touching my CD’s and asking me what kind of crap I was playing.

This is why DJ’s have booths. To get away from all the requests and the general ill will of people who want to hear bhangra since they are a half Punjabi wedding. They are at a half Punjabi wedding where I was specifically told by the groom’s family that yes we are Punjabi and yes we hate bhangra so stay away from it and stick to film-y music.

‘Don’t you have any bhangra’ and when I say no, he rolls his eyes at me and huffs. Him: Straw. Me: Camel’s back. I turn to Sakina and clip the words,

Get Him Out Of My Face Before I Shove These Headphones into His Ears And His Face Into The CD Mixer And Yell: Play What You Want Motherfucker. You Think This Is Easy? Bajaow Music! BAJAOW!

God bless her, she does.

I am told this is how desi DJ’s start. A rites of passage of sorts. Just make sure it is a passage and not the end of the hall. You play at a desi wedding. You watch the drunk uncles swing around the aunties and come and ask you for the 7th time that evening to play It’s the time to disco. Uncle, I just played it, I can’t.

You deal with him in his drunken state, taking out a $20 bill and handing it to you and saying, play the song. It makes me want to be dressed in a bright pink peshwas, covered in gold, adaab-ing him smiling through my eyelashes.

He returns to the dance floor and even though I’m not going to play It’s the time to disco, the question remains: Do I take that 20 bucks or not? Is there anyway, in the spirit of how it was given to me, that I can quickly pick it up without anyone noticing and stick it in my sari blouse? Or is that really cheapening myself? What are my limits to self cheapment?

$19 is the carefully calculated figure I come up with and the $20 till they aren’t soaked in my sweat, itch a little inside my blouse. I need the money and he obviously doesn’t. The sari was a good idea after all.

The dancing crowd has thinned out to those who are enjoying my mix. It really is the other way around. My mix is accommodating those people that I like on the dance floor. Runners talk about a high and with DJ-ing there is absolutely one. Everything is in sync and you absolutely control the fervor of the dancing, the movements and moods of everyone out there.

It is a feeling of power and control that is difficult to describe since it seems so small but these people have given over control to you. Control over how they are going to feel at that particular moment. You have to anticipate where you want to take them and how. How long and how far and there is a trust that exists between the DJ and the dancer where there are times that I can play a new or eclectic piece that they may never have heard of and it is always a risk. Either I will break the rhythm and people will leave or, and this is an amazing moment, they will let me take them wherever and however I please. It is for moments like these that I love to DJ.

A DJ friend of the groom takes over as it gets closer to 11:30 (the cinderella moment at desi American weddings since the hotel halls they rent are adamant about when the wedding is over) and I’m done. It doesn’t stop uncles, aunties and bachas from coming up to me and asking for It’s the time to disco.

“Disco disco disco khisko disco” I chirp to the little kids and they run away.

I get onto the dance floor. I’ve been a dancer more than a DJ. I used to be a tough dance floor nut to crack. Once you’ve been on the other side though, it’s a different story.

I hitch up my sari just a wee bit. It’s my turn to let go.

1 comment:

grumpy old indian man said...

Hey Zehra ... glad you liked the Macaca piece ... maybe I'll do up some related t-shirts ... we can start a t-shirt movement. Enjoyed your DJ article ... I did some visuals for Basement Bhangra ... back in the day.