DJ Rang, or Rang Rajaram, has been rocking the decks long before the DISHOOM dance party series started in Durham four years ago. But after twelve years of deejaying and hosting parties, Rajaram's bhangra-Bollywood mash-up is giving the local dance-party scene a different kind of boost.
In Bollywood movies from the seventies, "dishoom" is the sound effect of landing a punch. It's the marker of a playful and dramatic plot twist, what entire scenes before it have built up to. It's an apt name for a dance party that's landed quite a punch during its tenure. Unlike other dance parties that focus on one specific genre or style, DISHOOM gives its audiences a delightfully confusing mish-mash.
Parties happen about four times per year, and the dance floor is a place without inhibitions. Bhangra lessons by choreographers (and comedic tag team) Aditi Sundaresan and Ameer Ghodke begin at nine p.m. before each party officially kicks off. By last call, Motorco fills to its 450-person capacity with dancers.
Rajaram sees his job behind the decks as akin to "filling in the blanks." Aside from nuggets of inspiration—like his recent obsessions: nineties Tamil pop jams and "Despacito" without Justin Bieber—Rajaram works on the fly to read the crowd at each installment. Combined with remixed visuals by KidEthnic (Saleem Reshamwala) and live dhol drumming by G2 (Jatinderjit "Jeetu" Singh), the entire party is a creative circus. Singh may be banging the dhol to a few seconds of trap music mixed into the massively popular "Chaiyya Chaiyya"; meanwhile, Reshamwala splices archival Bollywood footage and syncs it into staccato clips on the television screens, giving Rajaram's rhythm and Singh's beats a psychedelic visual choreography.
"It feels like a ridiculous jam session up there," Reshamwala says.
"That's a perfect way to describe it," Rajaram concurs. "We don't practice at all together."
"But you can put us in a room together at any given time and be like, 'OK guys, go dishoom!' and we'd jam," says Reshamwala.
Rajaram says DISHOOM is meant to "show off Indian culture, but at the same time, mix a little Durham in there."
Rajaram and Reshamwala still joke about Reshamwala's first night with DISHOOM, when he was surprised that the audience was a diverse mix of partygoers. Rajaram, who frequently deejays Indian weddings all over the South, was just as excited that the crowd was split evenly among ethnicities.
"I came home and said to my wife, 'The crowd was half Indian!'," Reshamwala recalls. "Rang's been rocking Indian crowds forever, so it's dope for him to get a half non-Indian crowd. But for me, I'm a half-Indian barely, if that, and I'm rocking on stage with an Indian crowd. There's this thing happening at DISHOOM where we can do some weird stuff because everybody assumes that the weird stuff maybe belongs to some group that's there that they don't quite get," he adds.
DISHOOM's musical melting pot makes for an unforced, natural representation of what Durham looks and feels like on the dance floor—onomatopoeic dance moves and all.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Bull City Bhangra"