First published on 8 May 2012. Updated on 8 May 2012.
Every Thursday this month sees a new night dedicated to mining the history of house music in all its era-specific mutations. Organised by American Booze DJs, aka Nikhil Patel, the nights begin at 9pm with screenings of three different dance docs before a series of local DJs take over (see below for full listings). We spoke to Patel for the full lowdown.
What’s the inspiration behind this series?
For a while, I’d been wanting to start a night and just play house music all night but was always worried about how it’d be received and who to play with. Earlier this year I was thinking of starting a deep-house Tuesday night at LUNE but I never got around to organising the actual night. But I still had this urge. Mainly because I really, really love certain strands of house music – slower, bumpin’ or tracky records – and I wasn’t hearing them in Shanghai.
I was actually planning doing all sorts of different genres but when I started speaking to DJs about doing something in May, many of them just wanted to play house, so with that these May dates became The House Sound of DADA.
Tell us about the films.
I’d seen Pump Up The Volume: The History Of House Music when it first aired on British Channel 4 (around 2001).It covers the history from when honky suburban America killed disco, to the global spread, super-clubs, stadium house and modern bedroom producers spawning off-shoots like UK garage. But where it really shines is getting on camera reminiscences from the people – Joe Smooth, Farley ‘Jackmaster’ Funk, Steve Silk Hurley, Chip E, Marshall Jefferson, DJ Pierre, Derrick May – who made or heard all of these incredible records back in 1983 or 1984 in Chicago.
The disco edition of the series will, of course, have a disco history documentary. There are a few worthwhile choices. BBC4 recently aired (in 2012) The Joy of Disco, a documentary that ‘took a serious look at disco’ which has a similar depth to Pump Up The Volume, but it’s hard to get a decent copy for screening.
One other really worthwhile film is Maestro: The History Of House Music but that focuses mostly on Larry Levan/Paradise Garage and David Mancuso/The Loft and how that scene – I think the late disco era, pre-house – really influenced the underground dance scene in New York.
But in the end I think Disco: Spinning The Story gives a broader version of events and has lots of great footage and key records playing throughout. Where it fails is that Gloria Gaynor presents it; just because she’s recognisable for a cheesy disco record doesn’t make her some kind of authority. Why not have Linda Clifford, who made better records and still works with house producers today? I’m just upset ‘cos I really like Linda Clifford.
The last film being shown is From Jack To Juke: 25 Years of Ghetto House. Released this year, it's a completely independent feature; self-financed and spread by word of mouth, released under a Creative Commons license. And it’s timely, too, if you’re into all this 'connect the dots' stuff, especially as a lot of the bass music producers from the UK have been toying around with house templates or making straight-up house tracks. See the recent Resident Advisor piece Oh No Not Another Dubstep DJ Playing House Music. Which just goes to prove the genre’s continuing relevance and attraction.
What do you mean by 'real' house music?
I like to think it’s made, played and danced to by people who are unpretentious and ego free. Just there to get down.
I’m going to play some DJ Deon-style booty house, some really trippy acid-house records, big, big sounding Basement Jaxx/Atlantic Jaxx stuff, and slow and sparse drum machine tracks with just a soulful dude lamenting about some girl that broke his heart. Anything from 1982 to 2012. For me, it has nothing to do with sub-genres or classic records or sounds or what city it comes from or what year it was made in.
I stuck 'Strictly For My Real Raw Underground House & Disco /T/Hugz' at the top of the flyer for these nights but it’s all tongue-in-cheek. I’m not into making pronouncements about how ‘this is better’ or ‘more real than that'. It’s there more as a homage to flyers I used to see when I was younger, declaring that their night was 'strictly underground d’n’b' or 'strictly hardcore rave' or 'strictly this and that'. It’s there, I guess, to remind us that at one time house music was counter-culture. And the design is a total rip of those 'House Sound of Chicago' compilation albums.
The roster of DJs is fairly familiar. Are they under any kind of instruction to change their sets?
Not specifically. I think they all know it’s a house music orientated series. The disco dudes can go wherever they want. Santo Chino is one of Shanghai's finest and I’m not about to 'instruct' him. Or anyone else playing for that matter.
To answer the question, though, they’re fairly familiar partly because they’re the ones putting on regular, well-loved, interesting, fun nights in town. I’ve certainly had some of best nights in town watching these guys play.
I’m really looking forward to seeing Shanghai Ultra’s house set, because I’ve only heard him play pretty intense techno. I really wish I had managed to find more non-laowai DJs, but that’s my fault for maybe not looking hard enough and being too picky about what they played fitted with my idea of these nights.
But I really hope people come to hear Mingyu Sheh, or DJ Doggy (Thursday 3 May), behind the decks. He’s from Anhui Province but lives in Shanghai now, and he’s got a great EP out on Shanghai-based Huashan Records.
How do you rate the Shanghai club scene's general appreciation of dance music?
For me, last month's Daniel Wang show was incredible – it was definitely one of my best times in Shanghai. People came out and danced all night. Same with Azari & III [at The Shelter last October]. These aren’t big names, so there’s an audience here that follows and cares about this kind of music.
I think - I hope - some more variation in dancing options starts happening. [Tzu Sing's techno monthly at DADA] Stockholm Syndrome was such a refreshing addition and some really unexpected leftfield stuff gets played there. It’d be great if YY’s just played jazz standards, dub reggae and Rhythm & Sound records all night.
Maybe this will be the start of something, maybe not. I’m not an evangelist or anything, not out to change or impose or force anything. I think there’s room for a dedicated underground house music night here, but we’ll have to wait and see if there’s an audience that wants it. But at the very least, I can finally play lots of Moodymann and Soul Clap.
Thursday 3 May: 9pm, Pump Up the Volume: A History of House (part one). 10pm, American Booze DJs + DJ Doggy. See full event listing.
Thursday 10 May: 9pm, Pump Up the Volume: A History of House (part two). 10pm, Tzu Sing + Acid Pony Club. See full event listing.
Thursday 17 May: 9pm, From Jack to Juke: 25 Years of Ghetto House. 10pm, Shanghai Ultra + Jane Siesta. See full event listing.
Thursday 24 May: 9pm, Disco: Spinning the Story. 10pm, Santo Chino + Lindberg. See full event listing.
Thursday 31 May: 9pm, Pump Up the Volume: A History of House (part three). 10pm, Mood CTRL + Nat Alexander. See full event listing.