Geography Of Dance

Local dance party saves world music from an uncool death.

At 3 years old this week, Atlas is the longest-running dance party in the history of Holocene, a club that's historically limited itself to the musical oeuvre of the Western hemisphere. But a couple of years ago, I stumbled into the Southeast Portland club to discover Atlas' DJ trio, E3, DJ Anjali and the Incredible Kid, curating a set of music that would make most hipsters furrow their brows, leaving them wondering if one of the many Indian, South Asian, Jamaican or Middle Eastern records the DJs spin is a translation of something from their dance-floor world of "Amen" breaks, Roxy Music remixes and 4/4 beats. Not likely—one of the most experimental music nights in the city has nothing to with noise breakdowns, glitch or psych. But it does have to do with turning hipsters on to "world music," the growth of international fusion, and million-dollar club nights in India, subjects I discussed with DJ Anjali and the Incredible Kid when I sat down with them last week.

WW: Tell me a bit about the crowd reactions to Atlas over the past three years.

Incredible Kid: That's what's interesting—we've lasted longer than any other party at Holocene, but it's a different crowd. In the United States, "international music" is marketed to yuppies. It's like "chill" compilations. Asian chill. Eastern chill. If you're not part of the demographic it's being marketed to, you're going to think it's the uncoolest stuff in the world. But, the stuff we're playing is very edgy, very loud, very electronic.

Do you ever mix in straight Western music?

Incredible Kid: Verrrrry rarely.

Anjali: The closest thing would be like a Sean Paul song or, you know, maybe like a top-40 song with a Jamaican emcee.

Incredible Kid: If you're playing nothing but songs that no one's ever heard before, it gets a little tough, so every once in a while we'll slip in something.

What's the future, then, of Atlas?

Incredible Kid: We love it. We want to keep going. One thing that's keeping different parts of the world from making music that sounds "good enough" to Western ears is the technology. But, because of the Internet, people are much more aware of what's going on everywhere else. So we're starting to hear things like Southeast Asian grime. What's cutting-edge in the West is now something people can listen to [online] anywhere in the world. So they started fusing the latest beats coming out of London or New York with their traditional instruments, melodies and rhythms. And that's what we're most excited about, people that are being raised in two cultures: their own and Western import culture.

If you were get on a plane to India and play a club, what would happen?

Anjali: Things are changing so fast, there might be a club that would be into it. The thing that's unfortunate about clubs in India is that they're super-rich. Super-exclusive. By our standards, it's like 20, 25 dollars to get into a club.

Incredible Kid: Which, in India, is like a million dollars.

Atlas: DJ Anjali and the Incredible Kid, Holocene, 9 pm Saturday, Nov. 11. $5. 21+.

WWeek 2015

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