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.
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?’
“Symphony of destruction”
“Skin of my teeth”
“Corporeal Jigsore Quandary”
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……