Dog is a DJ – Part 3

Life moved on. My life was filled with music, even when I wasn’t behind the console. I had gone crazy grooving to imaginary music all the time. The tracks would continue reverberating in my head even after I went to bed. I would put my head below the pillow, but I could still hear Ricky Martin scream through it ‘Here we go Ole Ole…Cup of life…’.

I was on my way to the pub one evening. I stopped at the signal. A man wearing a yellow helmet and a parrot green shirt perched on a pink Lambretta stopped right beside me. Two eyes blinked at me from inside the peculiar helmet to get my attention. I looked hard but it resembled nobody I knew. The man took off his head gear to unveil the hidden emotion. It was the senior waiter at the pub, smiling end to end. I had never seen him in this fashion. His dark grey blazer had gone to the laundry for its annual wash, and he was looking liberated in this make-shift costume. His wife sitting behind him replicated his smile.

“Not coming to the pub today” I yelled.

“No. I’m taking off today….Ha ha….I know that the manager is not coming in tonight, so I’m gonna celebrate.” He yelled back speeding away in his Lambretta that rattled a celebratory tune to his freedom.

“The manager is not coming in tonight….the manager is not coming in tonight…..THE MANAGER IS NOT COMING IN TONIGHT”

This echoed in my ears till the meaning fully sunk in. It meant that the night was entirely mine. I mentally lined up all the heroes who had remained unsung in this venue. Tonight, the walls will bounce back tunes that they’ve never heard previously. Tonight, the woofers will freely kick bass till the windows rattle. Tonight, the tweeters will hiss away all their caged potential. Tonight, the bouncers will get an increment. Tonight the bartenders will ache with pain. Tonight the bar will run dry. Tonight the loo will stink. Tonight belonged to me.

It was a Wednesday. I knew that the crowd will gather in no time. I started getting ready with all the arsenal to knock them down.

‘Mother Russia’
dj

The electric guitar penetrated across the speakers in the room. At an inconsiderate volume. A guy at the snooker table missed his shot. He flung his cue in fury and walked up to me.

“Do you mind. We’re playing here.”

“Do you mind. Even I’m playing here. And that too, after a long time.”

The Nirvana chick shrieked like was struck by a bolt of lightning. She downed her tequila in less than a second and spun round and round, adding surround sound to her shriek.

I kept her spinning with Burn and Carcass and Megadeth and every other rejected request of hers, till she ran out of winding.

Soon the pub was full with people jumping around like the floor was electrified.

I was waiting to unleash the incorrigible Indians on them, and get them dizzy with orgasm. The thing with Indian music is that it can accommodate any lack of dancing talent. You suffer from no embarrassment because anything you choose to shake, is already certified as a worthy move by some Bollywood character. It never demands committent to one dance movement. Fly a kite. Spin a top. Put your hands on your hips and gyrate. Flip a dosa on the tava. Tap your bum. Lift your hand and look at the ceiling. Everything is a certified Bollywood move.

It never expects rhythm. It never expects grace. It needs no technique. And above all, everyone knows the lyrics. Knowing the lyrics and singing along is a dance step by itself. Atleast the lips move in a choreographed fashion.

I was waiting till the alcohol drowned everyone’s self consciousness. And when I knew for sure that the crowd had warmed up to stupidity, Tom’s diner “ta ta da da tata da da” suddenly blended to…………”ku kuku ku kuku kuku…….hai chori………”

The waiters turned around to check if they actually heard what they heard.

“Choli ke peeche kya hai…choli ke peeche”

In one single stroke I had knocked the ‘town’ off Downtown, and replaced it with ‘market’.

This happened at a time when the song you heard at a pub or a club was not the same you heard in the car on your way back home. Bollywood was frisked right at the entrance, leaving you with a choice of music as limited as the space in that paper napkin.

This track opened up a dyke which flooded me with requests. Requests that could put a dance bar to shame.

Two young surds walked in and gleamed with joy when they were greeted by familiar sounds. They looked at this new glamorous platform to exhibit their dancing prowess, that they so far had wasted on old chachas, kakas and buas at some baraat.

They pushed their way to the centre stage and broke into a bhangra. Mid-way, one of them rushed towards me and said
“oye….yeh sab chhod yaar…kuch bhangda shangda bajaaa oye..”

I slipped in ‘Gur nalo ishq’.

And they picked a random waiter leading him to tables like he was the dulha on the horse. They shook their shoulders and bent backwards till the crowd felt tipsy.

The Mauritian entered ignorantly doing his regular step. And suddenly stopped when he found his rhythm missing. He looked up to cross check if it was the same pub. Hopes of his favorite daddy track went up in a puff. He waited till the vibrant bhangra beats submerged his cynicism.

He sent me a paper napkin.

“Screw Puff Daddy tonight. Keep this going Bro.”

Bally had prolonged this track adequately. The energy spread to every member in the hall. Soon everybody circled around the two bhangra boys clapping and urging them to go on. The Mauritian was feeling left out as his subtle grooves went unnoticed against the Bhangra boys’ thunderous moves. He realised that tonight demanded more of him. He stepped up his steps, by making suitable modifications to his hip-hop routine. And dived right in the middle to join the party.

I was enjoying myself. And was busy cuing Daler to take over from here.
Something seemed to be hindering my progression. It was a shiny metal object blurring at the corner of my eye.

I turned to shoo away the disturbance, and froze mid-way.

It was the manager pointing a gun at my head. I could see rage in his eyes, with flashes of myself as pulp. And spared one flash to the Lambretta waiter in a similar condition.

The Manager’s appearance was scary enough, and this suspect toy in his gigantic hands triggered off my involuntary functions.

Robotically, my hands reached towards the corner where Nat King Cole sat. My fingers automatically reached the cd tray button. Nat King took position and slid inside on his mission to bring this madness to a grinding halt.

“O rabba lagna kise dooja ve…..unforgettable, that’s what you are’

The manager left the scene in a huff, letting my limited imagination to predict the circumstances.

I regained consciousness with a paper napkin ball knocking me down. It was the Mauritian’s cannon ball. I looked up and saw him between two heavily panting surds. They were staring at me with their hands on their hips with Nat King moaning in the background.

In a few moments I learnt all the abuses in Punjabi. The left over ones were tutored by the second surd.

That minute, I decided to end my career before my life. I started packing up.

And just before I left, I noticed the paper ball.

I picked it up to keep this one as a memorabilia of the hundred balls hurled at me, which I had ignored all these days.

Just out of curiosity, I unfurled it to investigate further.

Inside it was a crumpled 500 Rupee note with a writing on the napkin…

“You rock, Bro”.

Dog is a DJ – Part 2

It was about 4 months. The shine on the DJ badge had begun to dull, and this cool pastime started seeming like a job. I could spot the cracks in the mahogany around. I knew which waiter was putting on an accent. I knew half the cocktail recipes. I could see a face and guess the tracks that he or she would trip on. I knew who spends, who doesn’t. I knew which person would be footing the bill at any table. I knew the cats at snooker. I knew the bartenders. I knew the chefs. I knew the marksmen. I knew the cleaners in the loo. I also which CD belonged to which cover. I knew which CD had a scratch. I knew at which second the track in that CD would jump.

I started hating the songs that I used to love, and starting loving the ones I always hated. By the end of that, I could appreciate just about any genre of music under the sun. I had mastered the art of changing moods. I knew which song I could use to shift from hip-hop to rock or from a romantic song to a dance track.

I also knew that I played a big part in determining the waiter’s tip. I had often seen waiters fighting for the requests that came from their table. Great service would earn them a handsome tip. But a request that was played could just triple that amount.

I also realised that it’s important to keep the women happy. If the women returned, the men will simply follow.

I pulled along learning something new everyday.

But the hunger pangs was something that I just couldn’t bear. After many experiments, I narrowed down on one long track that could give me the needed escape to go grab half a plate of egg noodles at ‘Bob’s Chinees Cart’ right outside the pub.

An extended remix of George Michael’s ‘Fast Love’, that went on for 16 minutes and 42 seconds.

So everyday, at about 8 PM, I’d quietly slip in this CD and dash out. Bob had programmed himself to break an egg into the wok, the minute he saw my shadow elongate from a distance. By the end of the meal, I’d rush back just in time, with about 30 seconds of the track left and pass by dozens of dizzy drunks, who’d be in a motionless state of trance with George Michael running out of breath and words…..

..’looking for some fast love….looking for some fast love….looking for some fast love…….looking for some fast love….looking for some fast love……………..’

and dive to reach the cross faders…’all aboard…..the night train’…

..and settle down sucking the last string of noodle dangling from my mouth.
djmonkey

I had managed to keep the manager in the dark about my vanishing act. I also knew exactly when he was around. I had developed a code language with the waiters to find out the auspicious occasions of when he was missing. I knew which request evoked what kind of a response. So I’d hold on to the risky ones and play them only when I was sure that the tiger was not on prowl.

By now, I had started identifying customers by their favorite songs and their eccentricities.

There was the ‘Cocojumbo’ man, an old weary loner who’d walk in at the same time everyday, wearing the same hat, and sit on the same bar stool and order the same drink and lift his glass in my direction gesturing me to play the same song again. Cocojumbo. The minute the track began, he’d shut his eyes and listen to it till his Bloody Mary bled with pathos. And balance his head on the counter, by holding the bridge of his nose. I’d never seen so much melancholy in reggae before in my life.

Then there was the ‘Scatman troop’, a bunch of teeny Cottonians disguised in cool sweat shirts and jackets that unconvincingly concealed their uniforms beneath. They’d chuck their school bags to an obscure corner, split that everlasting pitcher and then their fingers to make a ‘Pepsi Can’ pose and try keeping pace with Scatman. They’d scat all the possible gibberish, scattering all the beer they’re holding and end in a dramatic fashion by knocking their fists and finishing together “Ski Ba Bop Ba Dop Bop”. And do a quick scan from the corner of their eyes, to spot any prospective female fan of their do.

Then was the Nirvana chick. A short-haired, seven earring sporting wild feline. She’d wear tees that had huge hand painted logos of ‘Metallica’, ‘Megadeth’ and ‘Maiden’. She’d only request for numbers which had a minimum decibel level of a rocket launch, with lyrics penned by sadistic undertakers.

Can you play ‘Countdown to extinction?’
“No”
“Symphony of destruction”
“No”
“Skin of my teeth”
“No”
“Corporeal Jigsore Quandary”
“No”

After her initial requests of morbid head rupturing cacophonies, she’d unsettlingly tune down her ear drums to Nirvana’s ‘Smells like teen spirit’. And break into a headbang that had an unpredictable radius. She’d continue this war dance clearing the field around inaudibly questioning the machismo of the men around. They’d surrender by replacing their sissy pint beers with an extra-large of the hardest liquor in the house.

Then was the ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ dude. A young chap who wore shiny shirts with hypnotising patterns and tight denims. He’d simply lean over a pillar with a drink in his hand, watching a snooker game in progress. No song mattered to him. The only song that deserved a response from his limbs was “Kung Fu…”. Everytime the track changed, he’d get into position, hoping that the initial beats would mysteriously blend into his favorite request. And when it finally did, he’d make partners with the pillar, and slip into his role of Bruce Lee making drunken monkey, crazy horse, flying cobra and other Shaolin poses.

And of course, the strangest was this curly haired guy from Mauritius. He’d walk-in with this break-dance step that universally suited any tune that I was playing. And wink at me from his corner. A gesture that’s suppose to mean ‘bring my favorite track on’.

“Every breath you take”.

(He’d corrected the request after I goofed up the first time by playing Sting’s version of it. He scribbled specifically ‘By Puff Daddy’, the next time.)

The minute the track was played, he’d enact a Mauritian national dance to this tune. A step where he’d first vibrate his feet which then electrifyingly travelled to his head reaching every body part during the journey. This was followed by a random spin. He’d then freeze for a few moments and smile at whoever he was facing. He’d continue with this step, in a loop. By the time the song ended, he’d have staggered all over the place, displacing the maximum audience possible. And at the end of it, he’d crumple a paper napkin into a ball and chuck it at me. The first time, I was annoyed with his style of thanksgiving. But when this practice continued religiously, I dismissed it as an Mauritian way of showing appreciation.

To be contd……

Dog is a DJ – Part 1

Un Dos Tres, Macarena, CocoJumbo, Barbie Girl, Samba De Janeiro, Don’t Stop Move It Baby, No Limit, Mata Oh Ah Eh, I’m Too Sexy For My Love, Tic Tic Tac…..

There was a time when these numbers ruled the charts. Coincidentally, there was a time when I was a part-time DJ, partly responsible for making all that trash popular. Ok, not all of it was trash. Agreed that it’s not Dylan or Floyd, but you can’t make funny faces at each other and do some weirdo moves listening to them.

Downtown Pub needed a Dj. I wanted money. This simple equation started a relationship between us, and I stepped behind the console, with no consolation after that. It sounds cool, DJ and all, but the truth is far from it. Lemme just explain the fate of a DJ specially if he’s spinning at a pub, and not a club.

Firstly, the timings. 7pm to 12 midnight, seven days a week. One day off a month, and it cannot be a Wednesday, Friday, Saturday or a Sunday.
The pay is not even worth mentioning. But I stuck on for one year, because I loved it as much as I hated it.

“No Fusion. No Trance. No Heavy Metal. No Lounge. And most importantly No Indian, that includes everything Bollywood, Regional, Indi-Pop, Indi Rock, Indi-whatever even if it is UK Bhangra….ok…Apache is OK. (He is the only Indian who managed a license at Downtown). No personal favorites. Try and play as many requests as you can. Your job is to keep as many people happy as possible. But hello, as long as it doesn’t include any of the above.” said the manager who resembled a badly maintained mafia don. He even had the necessary make up for the effect – a black blazer, a hat and a long scar across his chin.

I had done a small research on the man, and had found out that he was the owner’s blue eyed boy, a privilege he had earned by giving a few black eyes to many scoundrels who had messed around with the decorum of this den.

He started off as a bouncer. And after a few bashings, he had bounced back in the role of a manager. And was given a free hand to deal with his staff, just like the way he had dealt with the hundred odd drunkards who had earned him this promotion.

“OK. That sounds cool.” I said taking my offer letter.

“And listen. Dont’ fuck around. I’m mostly good. But when I’m bad, I just don’t care. Break the rules, and I won’t mind breaking your bones.” He said adjusting the buttons of his formal shirt that were bursting at the seams. He gave me a wicked grin, like he was impatient to show me the side of his, I never wanted to see.

“No don’t worry” I said mentally picturing myself screaming for help like a stuck record.

“No drinking. No taking breaks during your time. Not even for dinner. Dinner is only after the pub closes. And listen buddy, if the music stops even for a few seconds in between, don’t bother coming back.”

“No don’t worry” I repeated, not risking any new lines.

“We have all the titles with us. And any new music you want….just give me a list every month, and we’ll arrange them for you. About 5-6 Cds a month is all you’ll get….” he added.

“What if I need more?” I said, trying to make it sound like I wouldn’t need more than two new cds a year.

“We are running a business. Not starting a music library, so stay within that limit. If you want more, bloody well buy them yourself.” He said losing his patience. And thought to himself, that a sample demonstration of his personality would help in cutting this conversation short, and spare him from any other silly doubts that I may have.

He suddenly bellowed at a security guard of the pub who was passing by…….’thevidiyaa…….vaada inge’….

He stormed out of his cabin, caught him by his arm and shook him to pieces. The previous night, he had noticed the guard leniently allow a customer of the opposite pub to park over here. He warned him in the choicest tamil slang as loudly as he could.

“Anything else” he asked, returning victoriously from the ring.

“No. I’ve understood it all.” I said studying his giant profile from close quarters.

“Ok. You start tomorrow. And don’t be late. Unlike other pubs, this one starts filling up the minute we open.” He said slipping out a whistle through the wide gap between his front teeth.

Downtown was one of the earliest pubs in the city. It was distinct because it had two professional snooker tables. And pretty well maintained ones, complete with dedicated marksmen. It also had one separate sound proof glass cabin dedicated to snooty groups where they could unbelong and have their own private conversations. These perks particularly attracted a lot of white skinned folks. Since, they already had a loyal crowd, the reliance on music to increase the population was comparatively lesser. So, the idea was to not change anything and let it remain as neutral as it can get. And my job was to make sure that I keep my contribution to the minimum.

But it was only about 30% of the the crowd who were the loyalists. 70% still remained a floating population of new faces, who came with assorted expectations, which provoked me to disturb this peaceful balance.

The manager had enough experience in this field. He knew that music was a necessary evil in the business. He also knew if this evil is not monitored, the crowd could go out of control. And he had little faith in his staff to handle that situation. So he had taken it upon himself to keep a strict vigil on the excitement level of the boozers. He’d constantly police up and down, and If he noticed someone shaking their head a little too much, he’d send a messenger asking me to change the track. And keep making me change it, till that head banger got his head back, steady on the shoulders.

And in case of emergency, he had identified a killjoy track, that had a special corner in the CD rack.

“Unforgettable’ by Nat King Cole.

This track was tested and proven to not have any unwanted side effects. It never failed in dropping the energy level to zero in a record four seconds. So it was used in cases when more than two tables echoed together….”Alice…Who the fuck is Alice” CUT TO “Unforgettable…….that’s what you are….” OR “It’s my life….it’s now or never…..Unforgettable…that’s what you are…”
He’d do this so discreetly and vanish from the scene, leaving me as the face of the music. So I’ve seen hundreds of pissed drunkards walking out, glaring at me with vengeance in their eyes, and leaving the music to complete the communication…….. ‘Unforgettable….that’s what you are.’

A drunk walked up to me swaggering and slurred…

‘Hey buddy….can u play….key to yorkshire.”

“I haven’t heard that.”

‘What the heck….you played it a few days back…’

“No. I did not. How does it go?”

“Key to yorkshire…key to yorkshire…key to yokshire…key to…. york…hic…shire….”

“Ok. You mean…..Free from desire.”

“Yeah man..hic..same shit. Play that ok….thanks. I’m on my last drink….so please play it fast….hic… buddy.”

‘Free from desire’ had this infectious energy that kind of got most of them to stand up and shake their heads. I was fearing that Mr. Nat King might be called upon again to save the situation. But the crowd seemed within the approved limits.

The party picked up again.

“When a man loves a woman by Michael Bolton” read the paper napkin before me. A request I was trying to avoid from a long time.

I was playing happy popular numbers, the crowd was having a good time. I didn’t want Michael Bolton to poke his piercing nose and voice into this mood. I flung the napkin to one corner and was busy cuing the next dinchak number.

“Dude. I just placed a request.” I heard a desperate squeaky voice. A young chap with pink chapstick, armed with a duplicate copy of his napkin.

“Ya. I got that. But maybe a little later….the mood doesn’t seem right.’ I said trying to look busy.

“Dude. Please…..please….please…..play this for me man. See there, that’s my girl.’ He said pointing to a chick in a red gown, who was one step away from falling in love, looking dreamily at an empty chair before her.

“I’m just gonna propose to her. I need this song man….I need it… like now.” He said fingering a red envelope in his jacket pocket.

I felt responsible for this union, and had to give in.

“Saturday Night…..Saturday night..”………..fade out….

….pierce in…..’When a man loves a woman….” blared a constipated cupid, bringing together two lovers at a far off end.

Bolton continued shattering the window panes…

“When a man loves a woman
Can’t keep his mind on nothing else
He’d trade the world
For a good thing he’s found”

The meaning then pierced through a section of the crowd.
In a choreographed fashion, they cleared the bill and trooped out.

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To be contd….

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