Last, but not least of the Atlas residents to be featured in Hang the DJ is DJ Anjali. In this interview we find out how the trio initially came together (hint: Powell's isn't only good for books, but musical connections as well) among so many other things in relation to the self-proclaimed "dancefloor instigator." The spinner of South Asian sounds talks about her many DJ engagements around town (including occasional weddings) and takes the vinyl versus laptop versus CDs debate to new sociopolitcal levels, drawing class and income into the mix while using her upbringing as an example. We also delve into Portland's affair with bands over DJs and even get around to Juke music. First order of business: check out her first answer and ponder it for a second.
How did you decide on your DJ name? What's your real name?
My given name is "Gitanjali" which actually means song offering.
As the Rapture say, "People don't dance no more, they just stand there like this" - how often do you encounter this?
Hardly ever. In fact, only once at a house party about seven years ago... I don't do Prince or Madonna or MJ so they weren't feeling me. As a dancer I have a pretty good idea of what works.
You say "as a dancer" - do you mean in clubs as a patron - or do/have you taken dance classes?
For years I studied both North and South Indian Classical Dance (Kathak & BharataNatyam are actually very different disciplines!) I also studied ballet & modern dance in college [and] in high school I was on the dance team (but got kicked off for smokin'!!). These days you might catch me teaching bhangra (Panjabi folk dance.)
Open-minded freaky people that worship me.
How do you feel about requests?
Unless you're throwing twenties at me...or you paid me bank to do your wedding ... or you ask real nice ....what the fuck?
Panjabi music (i.e. Bhangra) is very masculine so I tend to get a lot of aggressive desi guys in my face. It's cultural... They paid me so now they get to tell me what to do.
Do you have a story about a particular request or requester?
At a recent Hindu Panjabi/Christian wedding some friends of the couple asked me at the end of night if I could play "Hava Nagila." Needless to say, I'd never had that requested before. (Of course I didn't have it so I played a dhol instrumental instead...up in the air they went, the bride & groom on chairs)
We did a gig for Portland Monthly years ago & some girl came up to me & said "You're doing a great job but can't you play something a white girl can dance to?" WTF?!
Why do you say that about the track "Hava Nagila?"
I've only DJed South Asian Muslim or Hindu weddings... never a Jewish wedding.
How often do you DJ weddings?
Around five a year.
Do you DJ full time? / What do you do outside of DJing?
DJing is my main thing, though I still shelve books at Powell's two days a week.
You and The Incredible Kid both work at Powell's - do you ever overdose on each other's company? How long have you both worked there? How did you originally meet?
We're not at the same store anymore. I've been at Powell's a total of ten years. The Kid's been there since 1995. We met at the downtown store. He started chatting me up...about what else? Records.
Where can we find you?
Andaz at Fez Ballroom (last Saturdays), Atlas at Holocene (2nd Saturdays), Filmistan at Someday Lounge, Happy Hour last Fridays at Holocene and KBOO 90.7FM (2nd & last Sundays 8PM -10PM)
How'd you get your current main gig?
Walked into Fez with The Kid back in 2002. Spoke to then manager Blaine Peters & said I wanna play your club. We did the same thing at Holocene, except that time we actually scheduled a meeting.
How did E3 come to join the Atlas stable?
I met Ez through his lovely wife Tracy (who used to work at Powell's). Their label (BSI) was legendary and we quickly realized we shared a lot musically and philosophically.
What's the average attendance for Atlas? Summer versus winter?
Summer's a bit slow for us [though] we still heat it up with 250 people on the dance floor. In winter we average around 400.
Do you feel like Portland is more about live bands than DJs?
This town is obsessed with indie rock.
Do you think it will change?
How long have you been spinning?
Since December 2000.
What drew you to DJing originally?
My impeccable taste, unique record collection & my love of dance.
What are your thoughts on vinyl vs CDs vs laptops?
This is really a class issue. My family never owned records, only tapes. I was raised by my single Mum who is from India. Turntables & home stereo systems are often the province of the middle class. In most of the world (save Jamaica) vinyl is a luxury. As a DJ, I'm all about the music. I could give a fuck about format. Having said that, vinyl sounds amazing for high fidelity but feedback sucks & most of the music I'm playing will never be pressed onto vinyl. I have to spend enough of my time on a laptop, I'd rather not look at a screen on stage.
Anyway, I love visuals. Album covers are what trigger my brain into remembering songs. It was hard enough for me to start using CD binders...I could never have all my songs in some stupid files/hard drive.
To me that takes the passion out of playing music for people.
So I take it you DJ exclusively via CDs?
Absolutely not. I still do all vinyl sets. It just depends on the gig. I still buy DJ 12"s. Most of my Dancehall is on vinyl. We were recently diggin' in Nebraska!
What songs will we find ourselves dancing to with you?
Des-C - "Nachna Onda"
Miss Rimpi - "Bol! Bol! Bol!" (Tigerstyle's Boliyan-Gidha mix)
Johnny Prez feat. Puppa John & Deevani - "Dancing"
Alison Hinds feat. Juggy D - "Roll It Gal" (Rishi Rich remix)
D Boy feat. Swiss & V Dubl E - "Nach Ke (Bhangra Bounce)"
How would you describe yourself in five words or less - complete sentence or not:
How do you describe the genre you play?
I don't play any one genre though I am known for bringing the brilliant sounds of the South Asian diaspora. I am equally obsessed with grime/bassline, soul & doo wop, dancehall, chutney soca, reggaeton, French rap & Rai. Back in the day I used to spin Britpop, Mod, Oi! & Glam!
Have you heard of Juke music? I interviewed Hot Chip a bit back and one had picked up some Juke records in Chicago and was comparing it to bassline garage stuff coming out of the UK.
I haven't heard a lot of juke but DJ Gant-Man's juke remix of Kid Sister's "DAMN GIRL" is the shit!!!
Who are your other favorite Portland DJs?
The fine men of Atlas; The Incredible Kid & E3.
Beyonda & crew at soul night
You can next catch DJ Anjali this coming Saturday, August 23rd for Zaytoon's third anniversary at 2236 NE Alberta from 9pm-1am.
Anjali and the Kid homepage
Anjali and the Kid KBOO page
Photo care of DJ Anjali Myspace