Posts Tagged ‘Carlos Mena’
An Open Letter To Carlos Mena
Several BEMBE enthusiasts surveyed the decorated room of cloth banners hanging with “THAT GYRL Inc.” posters and judged, “The crowd was light.” In fact so light, more pockets of empty spaces danced than people. For sure that would all change once the night’s headliner dressed in an ochre Ocha tee would take to the musical controls. Disappointedly that would not occur. “So, where were the people?”
Being BEMBE’s second installment in the minimal establishment the attendance had dismally plummeted like second week music sales determined by SoundScan. Yes, other events were held at the same time in various fractions of the city. Yes, there was a massive party taking place in the restaurant next door. However, none of these conditions justified the ebb. Please be mindful, this disturbing trend plagues many monthly parties across the city. Throw the debut party and everyone including their momma’s show up. Throw the sophomore installment and the audience falls flat. Many DJ’s swear they’d rather service five esoteric than five-hundred obtuse but as we know in this current club environment successful parties must meet the demands for dollars via front door cover or bar tabs. Proof exists a DJ’s A game heightens with superfluous support compared to bare necessities. And that scenario seemed to play the night. Not to say, Omar’s, “As Long As You Believe” (Layabouts Future Retro Mix), Bob Marley’s vs. Dennis Ferrer’s vs. Sunburst Band’s, “Exodus” (Adam Auburn Mix) and MJ’s, “Thriller” didn’t bring the heat. Surely they did. Even your jocular phrases, “Should we skip the foreplay and get to straight fuckin’?” and “I’ve got two Rum and Cokes!” brought out several laughs. Nonetheless, there seemed to be distractions; a music set challenged. A mask of disappointment hung on the party promoter’s visage as she rescued a flameless candle that had once burnt bright. Even the dancers played support; armed with combustible energy thrown at the DJ stage that at times felt muddied. In the world of party promotions such grief speaks without words. Sorry for the night. Sorry for the lack souls. Don’t give up on us. Truly we appreciate you and your efforts for bringing BEMBE the monthly installment to this hungry city. So, cheers to a much larger more jovial crowd next month. Seriously, “WE HOUSE HEADZ HAVE NOT TIRED OF CARLOS MENA.”
A Deep House Head
Photography by AJ Dance
“In order for this to be a real BEMBE party, I need at least FIVE drinks,” announced Carlos Mena over the microphone on the platform DJ stage behind the DJ equipment.
Much can be said of an intoxicated DJ behind the music decks. While some DJs under the influence BOMB their sets-train wrecks, pressing the incorrect control knobs and spewing explicitness at the audience-others are functional and can hold their ground. For example, alcohol doesn’t prohibit CASAMENA Recordings label owner and founder, Carlos Mena from dropping BOMBs on the lovers of black music. As a matter-of-fact, alcohol naturally seems to enhance the dynamic musical makings of the Yoruba priest blessed with regale, handsome looks and Puerto Rican flair. Dressed in a sharp white stripped collared shirt that enhanced some serious black locks of hair, the amiable personality wasted no time announcing over the microphone to those gathered, “I’m drunk. If I mess up……Then I mess up.”
Sure Carlos that’ll be the day.
Underneath the hat and behind the bandanna the night’s opening music selector DJ Ausar’s two auspicious eyes watched over the capacious room. From the front door with the bar to the right-a folding table stacked with various liquors-to the exposed brick and mortar and stained walls that hid mahogany African masks in its many nooks and crannies that led to the room’s inner workings; a platform DJ stage. On the platform stage in the room’s rear DJ Ausar watched and played music for the handful of gatherers. The wooden platform panel was positioned diagonally and was half the size of that from the previous night. A set of black speakers and black subwoofers were firmly positioned between Asuar and his audio hardware. Behind the makeshift stage an Ocha Recordings and a “THAT GYRL” banner hung side by side above crimson drapery. Ausar fired off several consecutive rounds of deep house shots at the scattered crowd, clipping the dancers into bolts of shock. Their writhed bodies-possessed by the groove-two-stepped and tumbled in trance as their stunned visages announced these were the beginnings of an arrested development.
Something was abuzz in the air, a blithe force leftover from DJ Ausar. The hilarity caused zaftig rumps to shake, a wig to fall off a head and Carlos to yell, “Security get her.” When Carlos Mena took the stage to address the crowd with a humorous dissertation the attendance of souls had already grown beyond belief. The amount of bodies trapped in the space dancing in heat produced sweat that progressed to malodorous scents provoking one visiting DJ to joke he stood in one spot and smelled, “Onions! The kind [onions] that come from Vidalia in south Georgia.”
The spirit of Carlos’ acumen manifested in the musical achievements he unleashed upon the crowded room of dancers, spectators, by-standers and the curious of minds; all sojourners in the movement called house music. Musical highlights of BEMBE included; Mena’s Ocha label partner Yoruba soul priest Osunlade’s, “Envision” (Ame Acoustic Mix) accompanied with an additional undertone afro tinged beat followed by another Yoruba classic from the British dames Floetry with their commercial release, “I Want You” (Yoruba Soul Mix) successfully reworked for the underground clubs.
The night’s ambitious undertaking arrived courtesy of a series of trumpets pronouncing a chilling fright. The intro to the late great Michael Jackson’s blockbuster epic, “Thriller” had entered the room like zombies raised from the dead. A reluctant aura assumed the mass that hung balanced in the air. The people hesitated. Should they embrace or neglect the commercial appeal? The boogieman tune may have crept out from the shadows of the dark unannounced but leave it to Mr. Mena to drop some commercialism to throw everyone off their game. Anyhow underneath the surging of trumpets played a choppy afro-beat interacting with the slabs of the original song’s rhythmic guitar that made for happy feet. From the recesses of the crowd came scores of cheers, shouts and screams as voice by voice joined the outpouring of love. Vocals from the late actor Vincent Price rapped and were looped over the afro groove adding extra clairvoyance signaling this was “Thriller” (The Vincent’s Dub). Several bars later in mid-song Carlos gradually raised the mixer’s volume as Vincent’s famous cackle burgeoned into a hypnotic terror as the sounds of spiraling synths roared like diesel engines that finally climaxed to a cacophony so catastrophic the crowd could not contain themselves. People’s heads spun around in circles. Mouths spewed green goo. Eyes popped out of sockets. Naw, just kidding. However, the people jumped up and down and waved their hands in the air in frenzy formations with contortionist facial gestures. This was the real power of soul music penetrating the depths of hearts. At the heart of the scene the beat slammed to a halt and returned with the choppy percussions slicing the jabs of the rhythmic guitar. Once again the people fell back into fits of dance. From there the afro-beat rode off into the jungles of the “Bright Forest” the South African anthem from up and comer Culoe De Song. The song reaped additional havoc in the room. One skilled dancer dropped to the floor while others screamed, “Stop! I can’t take no more.”
Please, give the people a breath of fresh air. And some water please. Really? Like that was going to happen. More barrage ensued from Honeycomb Recording’s Josh Milan titled, “Your Body” (Louie Vega EOL Mix) and of course Carlos’ own remix of Nina Simone’s, “See Line Woman” (CASAMENA Basement Mix).
The night had its share of hiccups. Hiccup number one: sometime earlier during the energized set a speaker on the left side of the stage blew out. Not that anyone really noticed except the unequivocal Mr. Mena that admitted the acoustics weren’t all that great. Hiccup number two: right in the middle of a smooth jazz house number the music abruptly came to a halt. The intoxicated priest had accidently hit the wrong button and apologized, “Oops. I fudged up. My bad.”
Another choppy break beat bounced underneath razor sharp synths that sliced the room in two. From the mouths of babes shrilling squeals besieged the bedlam environment. The punchy sounds of west coast houser Fred Everything featuring Canadian vocalist Wayne Tennant’s, “Mercyless” the Atjazz Mix wreaked additional decadence to the bellies of the already overstuffed househeads.
“Atlanta, are you still with me?” announced the eclectic dynamo as he threw rock outfit Depache Mode’s, “The World In My Eyes” (Jask Deep Burnt Sky Instrumental) into the mix. Lastly, those that were left able to dance or stand sung U.K.’s Shaun Escoffery’s anthem, “Days Like This” (DJ Spinna/Tickla Mix) at the top of their lungs. “I hate this song!” Carlos joked with a devious smile.
“But you all sound so great singing it,” and with that the song started over.
Photography by AJ Dance
The night consisted of the three F’s: fiyah, flatulence and a fight.
Fiyah. “At the Club” by Timmy Regisford featuring Lynn Lockamy started the night off right after informal praises were offered to Yoruba deity Olodumare. From there deep tech vocals filled the restaurant/bar that “Surely” pleased the ears. Sassy Latin house brought finger snappers to the dance floor while East London’s, Brassroots cover of Inner City’s, “Good Life” kept all feet marching with joy. Perched high in the DJ booth above, the night’s headliner Carlos Mena dumped sexy siren house serenades on the party people on the dance floor below. Soon afro-beat with its percussions and talking drums followed suit to a deep-tech Halo & Atjazz Remix of “JuJu” by Black Coffee. Intertwining the present with the past, Carlos dug deep and produced vintage NYC garage for the old heads. However, the surprise of the night, Usher’s auto-tuned, “OMG” startled the crowd with perplexed visages of questionable commercialism. Not to worry because for all the lovers in the house or freaks that is, soul singer Kem’s, “Without You” (Woz Shelter Mix) returned the sounds to the deep that submerged the room in subterranean sex.
Farts. “Somebody farted,” mentioned BE in rare form not DJing but dancing with a sprained ankle.
“Man that shit stank,” he continued fanning his nose with a frown of disbelief. So, without hesitation BE ran up to another dancer in mid-squats on the floor and accused her of the flatulence. After the brief dispute the two laughed and hugged one another in love. Unfortunately, despite lofty efforts the source or culprit of “the stank” were never found.
Fight. The night was on fiyah, going well as one could expect. No interruptions were found in music or dance. All were having the times of their life. Until….until….but wait a minute! What is that small crowd of people doing? Seems the small gathering was preoccupied with something swaying back and forth. Within the darkly lit room, elbows and arms were seen pulling something or someone. The visual not easily seen could not be interpreted without further examination. So, a closer inspection revealed a male dressed in all black with black fitted ball cap and a couple females dressed in black holding back an individual dressed in black. The individual short in statue being held back could not easily be traced out due to the towering man draped in all black. A look to the right revealed another short figure in a turquoise hat pointing fingers and in mid-swing. This individual too was being held back but by the party’s promoter. How odd. This was strange. Could this be the inevitable “F” word not mentioned or seen in the house music scene?
Yep. A catfight broke-out. WTH??? Luckily the minute scuffle was stopped before further distractions or interruptions could affect the music and the dancing. Thankfully, the music kept playing and the dancers too wrapped up in asymmetrical movements paid little mind to the incident. Unfortunately, how embarrassing for this to occur with an out of town headliner playing at a restaurant/club.
This embarrassment marked the first in a seven year long history of partaking in house music parties or events. Never had a scuffle ever been mentioned or seen in the scene. The house music community considered loving bordered on boring when it came to action oriented events occurring at niteclubs. This was not stereotyped movies or music videos where fights and bar brawls broke out resulting in smashing whiskey bottles over people’s heads. That was Hollywood, not house music. How or if this incident would change the face of the underground house music scene remained to be seen. For instance, would the city require security to be present at every event held that night forth? Would every event require security to pat privates and run searches like city airports? Hopefully, house heads could continue to party in peace and hopefully nothing would change. Please people, can we all just get along?