I have pretty eclectic tastes these days. When riding the bus or walking around the city, you’ll find me favoring wordy Midwestern hip hop like Atmosphere and Denizen Cane’s crew Typical Cats. If you catch me getting ready to go out for a night on the town, I’ll be singing in my underwear to the likes of Patsy Cline and The Supremes. When I’m cleaning the bathroom or cooking a big meal, it’ll be either alt-country heroine Neko Case or India’s reigning diva Asha Bhosle.
But ever since I was 15 years old, just an angsty teenager in the flatlands of Ohio with a backpack full of party toys, I’ve been a proud speaker-geeking electronic music lover. I spent many a night dancing in dingy warehouses, roller skating rinks, basements and cavernous clubs in embarrassingly large pants and I loved every minute of it. I preferred the dark underground sounds of drum&bass – or jungle music, as we called it back then – but I wouldn’t hate on the house DJs coming through to my little town out of Chicago. There I was, one of the few Indian girls dancing all by my lonesome in a sea of white faces. Sigh. It was a bit lonely.
And then, all of a sudden, Talvin Singh released Anokha and I felt like I came home with the Asian Massive movement. Actually, I think it was British DJ State of Bengal’s 2000 release Visual Audio that was my ultimate musical moment. A gritty yet ambient drum & bass take on being bi-cultural, this album became my anthem. I wore out several CDs and kept burning new ones. One of my friends refused to ride in my car because there was a six-month period where I played the album on repeat. This was around the same time I moved to San Francisco. I continued my habit of dancing in dirty warehouses and speaker-geeking into the wee hours of the morning, usually to hard techno or drum&bass BUT I also found a new home at the relatively new monthly Dhamaal, at San Francisco’s Club 6. If you’ve never been to Club 6, the basement gets terribly sweaty and crowded, making it a great place to dance to the likes of dub DJ Maneesh the Twister and the gothic Janaka Selecta – Dhamaal’s founding members. And then when you’re all sweaty and beat down from the basement, you can come upstairs and cool off while listening to Riffat Sultana’s amazing Pakistani folk singing, which will make you jump around and then you’ll get all sweaty again.
The exciting thing is, this party is still going. In fact, this Saturday is Dhamaal’s 7-year anniversary – making them the longest-running Asian Massive/World Music electronica party in the world. That’s pretty serious. If you’re reading this and you’re in the Bay Area and you’ve never been to a Dhamaal party, I would really recommend heading out to this one. The party will feature world-famous Cheb-i-sabbah – but I wouldn’t miss Dhol-playing superstar Mitch Hyare or a live laptop/DJ set between up-and-comer Kush Arora and the always fresh Maneesh the Twister. And if you’re not in the Bay, I would highly recommend picking up Dhamaal’s debut album.
As you can tell, I sure am proud of these hometown boys. What local Asian American music acts are you all proud of out there?