Posts Tagged ‘DJ Kemit’
Pullman Soul Presents Humble Legends Kai Alce, DJ Kemit & Ron Pullaman
The Holy Trinity of The Atlanta House Scene! The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit!-Everybody’s Favorite Photographer
“I drove into the parking lot.
I saw a neon church sign above the door.
I think. Oh, they changed the name of the club to the church just for tonight.
After all, people posted, “amen“ and “hallelujahs” online.
So I walked up to the church door.
I read Jesus saves.
Oops. Wrong place.
C’mon. What church has a neon sign?”
“We raise our hands in the sanctuary.” Not. Where’s the music? A chill greets the early visitors. Enter the foyer and be ushered down a dark hallway. The sanctuary sits still in complete silence. Only the voices of three fit and young bartenders, barely old enough to not be alter boys, decorate the sound sphere. Far away, shadows move about. They test the sound system. The time reads fifteen after six.
There stands a lengthy black painted rectangle bar. Above the impressive stacks of spirits hang two dazzling crystal chandeliers aglow in red. On the floor sits two massive stacks of speakers. Each is positioned at the corner of a theatrical veil that hides a stage. The room’s focal point, the dance floor awaits action in majestic splendor underneath a state of the art LED that performs an acrobatic light show. Adding to the ambience a machine spews vapor. In the fog, behind the dance floor sits another black bar underneath another crystal chandelier set a fire in orange next to the DJ area. The DJ booth that hovers six feet off the ground is spacious enough to accommodate any DJ and his/her disciples.
Adjacent the DJ booth a narrow corridor leads to the holy of holies. What is a church without a kitchen? And what is a church kitchen for without cooking? Anyone for a church dinner? Instead of fried chicken, mac n’ cheese wantons is on the menu. Just as fine. Both are fried in grease. Look up. There on the monitor. Whitney Houston delivers church through song and dance on a remixed house megamix.
The Holy Trinity
From the pulpit, Minister Of Sound Ron Pullman welcomes the growing congregation to his brainchild, Humbled Legends. The city’s debut celebration of its kind. Underneath a giant disco ball the sanctuary’s wooden dance floor embraces love ones. Brother Pride arrives. Sister Pickens is nearby. So are many others. The people partake in fellowship of perfect harmony. Minister of Sound Ron Pullman pays tribute. “Thank You,” sings BeBe Winans over a Masters At Work 12’ mix.
Minister Of Sound Kai Alce invites the growing congregation to worship. The massive speakers bestow “Pienso En Ti” into the atmosphere. Translation: Masters At Work’s “I Think Of You” declares the atmosphere righteous for divine purpose. The NDATL.com founder delivers “People Hold On” (New Jersey Jazz Remix) and “Walking’ (Remix). If Coldcut featuring Lisa Stansfield makes feet dance, then Mary Mary makes feet praise. Grab the tambourine, it’s church time!
While all three Ministers Of Sound are one in the spirit of house music, all three are so unique in their ministry of sound. Each brings a diverse element of energy that is united underneath the umbrella of soul. Where ministers Ron and Kai’s classic sets felt a tad tired, Minister Kemit appears spirit-filled, energized and ready to deliver a contemporary word.
“When Kemit plays the tempo of the room changes,” observes one sister. Indeed the room glows. Honestly Minister Of Sound Kemit glows. With his head tilted upwards and his arms stretched towards the heavens the music maestro is ready to preach. Once again, BeBe Winans shows up, this time with brother Pastor Marvin L. Winans and Stevie Wonder on Stevie’s cover “Jesus Children of America” (Big Moses Remix). Kenny Bobien testifies “I Shall Not Be Moved.” The Underground Ministries’ anthem moves hearts. Johnny Corporate’s, equipped with singing gospel vocals, “Sunday Shoutin’” makes hands clap and feet stomp. Born-again Terrance Parker takes the congregation on high with “Love’s Got Me High.” Elements of Life featuring Lisa Fischer and Cindy Mizelle let their little lights shine on “Into My Life (You Brought the Sunshine).” The night’s anointed shocker. “You’re The Lover Of My Heart/The Captain Of My Sea” sings Yolanda Adams on “Open My Heart” (Silk’s Spiritual Workout), her love letter to the Most High, over a bed of sliced disco. Folks these ain’t your granddad’s hymnals or your grandma’s church service.
Although, dotting the room, the many grey hairs and dun flops signal grandparent’s status. Perhaps the new face of geriatrics is the soulful house market. At one point more cellulite occupied black leather padded pews, uh-hmm couches, than bodies burning calories on the wooden floor. Maybe the people’s bunions hurt. Maybe their bodies tire. Hallelujah anyway, as Minister Of Sound Kai returns to the pulpit and plays “Church” (Sting International Remix) by Peven Everett. This time the sanctuary is jumping with bodies caught in the spirit of dance. One dancer cheerfully notes, “What an amazing turnout for a Sunday night!”
Perhaps Minister of Sound Kemit wholly sums up the celebratory atmosphere with one song. “Spread Love.” Track number thirteen on his heavy-accolade long player “,Everlasting,” speaks of congregating in peace, unity and most of all love. Listen closely as Kemit encourages people to live by example and lead out of the act and ability to spread love through music and dance. After all, “We Are Gathered Here In This Place” sings the song’s vocalist, Atlanta’s Sepensenahki.
ADULT SKATE: THE TRADITION EDITION
The debauchery eludes no evidence of a slain civil right’s leader holiday celebration on the eve of an historic Fifty-Seventh Presidential Inauguration. Yet it is. Olympic occasions such as these might call to mind dutiful citizens bound in prayer, reflection and sobriety. Not so-in the city too busy to hate. For the past few years, once a year, one party does it right. Adult Skate- the spot where you find bodies fully clothed in dance of the finest soul and not where nudes frolic on eights. The Tradition Edition provides Soulantans with clarity. A rhyme for the reason. The right to party. After all, this is the city too busy partying during a three day holiday weekend to even care.
Follow the wall of painted marching feet and a pair of roller skates down into the belly of the beast. There you might discover unexpected impressions. The once shady hole-in-the-wall has undergone a sub-level gloss. Artistic interpretations-seemingly too innocent for the underground-align murals painted in primary bold and subdued hues. Painted lines of symmetry play escort. The walls speak. Their message instructs each person’s activity. Look no further than the wall adjacent the stage painted of dancing silhouettes for explanation. Eye the painted dancers to the painted symmetric boxes to find the DJ headquarters. The king-size DJ booth can handle a god-complex DJ and his twenty plus entourage’s exclusive roped-off experience. Remember the former DJ booth propped high above the flying saucer dance floor, against a wall, by a step ladder with no roaming space and very little to if any breathing space? The sober challenged provided many of laughs trying to enter the minuscule infirmity. If only the black poll in the center of the dance space were removed then the space would enter into the echelons of upscale. Even the bathrooms are polished a luster shine of their former shade. Hopefully gone are the apocalyptic size cockroaches that crawled atop the old sofas exchanged for pest-free plush. Although the Modern Jazz Quartet Concourse may look remixed it has not lost its license to dance.
The belly of the beast bops and bumps. Bellows of boisterous bass lines signal all nations to groove. They get down-the house nation, the soul nation, the disco nation, the b-boy nation, the rock nation, the funk nation, the hip-hop nation, the indie music nation, the rhythm nation-a vast network interweaving and intermingling as one.
DJ Kemit, in mid groove, spins vinyl on the one’s and two’s. Yes, that is two turntables and a Bozak mixer. Actually this is a 90% acetate party. Records will skip. Grooves will be scratched. The crisp sound of vinyl will chirp. This is organic and not archaic sound reproduction.
Producer Ralf Gum shakes maracas. Vocalist Monique Bingham sings “Take Me To My Love.” The dancers go on and on and on and on and on and on as they try to catch up to 125 BPMs. Enter Osunlade’s “Envision” (Yoruba Soul Mix) who guests on the DJ of the hour’s “Transform” for conscious clarity. Cue Kenny Bobien to take the hand clappers to church with a classic Frankie Feliciano Ricanstruction rendition. Feet dance. Fingers snap. Hips sway. Smiles overtake faces. Voices sing “Father.”
Cullen Cole the chef of music culinary delights. Nineteen-ninety’s house music is the menu. Cullen serves that signature house sound with a kick and a spicy side of bang. This concoction is not for the faint, those that play down the beat in their house sets, but for those that take the BPMs up a notch. Cullen’s house music tastes better served hard than soft. Adult Skate’s guests gather and feast on such delicate soul. Oh my do they ever gobble up the tasty treats as wine glasses over flowing with golden bubbles are thrown in the air for a toast. Cheers to underground house music! It’s a bombastic feast of oral audio. Cullen mixes; a Rhode organ for salt, saxophones for sweetness, and electric synthesizers for acidity, house music’s flavor combination. Not everyone can digest such delicacies. Something erupts. A foul odor chokes the air. Is it bad gas? Or someone serving hash for desert? Whatever the culprit. Mouths hack. Neck scarves become oxygen masks.
Suddenly, the needle on the record skips. Someone forgot to clean off the vinyl? The dancers miss a beat. The music jumps counts. The dancers are thrown off. Jaws drop. The question-What would a DJ do?-hangs in the balance. Hard-pressed visages confront unbelief. A wreck will occur if something does not yield. DJ Cullen stays the course like a blond-hair blue-eye Messiah. He does not allow any casualties. He eyes his flock. He counts his sheep. He rides out the storm and speaks, peace be still. Dark clouds roll back. The sun shines again. The music continues its mission without distraction. The dancers continue their dance. All is well. Listen closely. The room breathes a sigh of relief.
Kai Alce goes in deep. The local legend’s musical statement sounds off focus and more sporadic at intervals. Orchestrated strings climax to a dizzying high. Questions swirl around the room, “Is it time for disco? One answers in grief, “If so, it’s time to leave.”
Actually, the NDATL label head keeps it Strictly Rhythm with Hardrive’s “Deep Inside.” The intro sounds of warm pads, minus drums. Sixty seconds later, the kick drum kicks at 124 BPMs. Pearly whites flash. All are happy. The mismatch of songs and beats continues. Such happenings keep the crowd frantic but on their feet and guessing. What’s next? Donnie’s “Olmec Save Us.” (Yoruba Soul Mix) Yes! Black Rascals featuring Cassio Ware, “So In Love” (Shelter Remix)? Yes! As time approaches 3 am, Kai Alce pulls out the freedom season’s anthems, Kemitic Just’s, “I Got Life” with Terrance Downs on vocals and the ladies anthem “Earth Is The Place” (Restless Soul Peaktime Mix) by Nathan Haines featuring Verna Francis. Too bad the room is nearly empty of souls that have evaporated into January’s cold night’s air.
This tradition edition felt far removed from a MLK celebration. Had it not been for DJ Kemit sprinkling into Cullen’s cuisine-let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia-those gathered might have forgotten what this occasion marked. Other ingredients amiss were classic soul, disco and afro-beat. House music out shined them all. If you were not a fan then you were chopped. True fans, actually, left the party high.
Perhaps, Dr. King might not have endorsed this debacle of behavior. As one darling eloquently commented, “That didn’t stop her from lighting a BIG one.” SHM. It’s just another night in the city too busy partying to even care.
Words and photography by AJ Dance
Gone are the days when House In the Park was intimate, sitting at quaint public city parks where 500 people gathered. Today, House In the Park has become a behemoth must-attend event for house heads, non house heads and soon to be house heads from around the world. It groups with the likes of large music festivals, think Music Midtown, DEMF or Bonnaroo. The event has grown so large it could easily sit on a 700 acre farm somewhere in Georgia or on a meadow in the city’s largest park overlooking a pavilion with a giant stage where the Fab 4 can DJ. Get ready! In the near future, if HITP continues its exponential expansion these ideas might consider further exploration but for now we’ll settle for two pavilions at its latest incarnate, Grant Park.
HITP’s footprints have danced the city far and wide for the best green space with amenities. Eight years earlier, Candler Park with no electrical outlets played host. Thereafter, home for six years was Perkerson Park in the heart of the city’s Southwest Capital View community. Amazingly, during that time span something happened that every event planner prays to experience. The phenomenon called growth plagued HITP at such an unprecedented rate that PP had to be abandoned for greater green space. So, off to the city’s east side where the oldest and fourth largest park named after engineer Lemuel P. Grant seemed a more suitable fit.
Home to the city’s only zoo, civil war-esque Cyclorama, swimming, and recreation facilities the 131.5 acres is somewhat a tourist trap. Grant Park sits between Cherokee Avenue and Boulevard SE where Confederate Avenue begins or ends depending on one’s view. Yes, this is the park where the guy jogs wearing a Confederate flag. However, on this day HITP’s house music freedom flag waves for all to behold.
Already, the park is abuzz with various makings. Picture perfect blue skies while birds chirp songs of joy. The morning temperatures announce another noon day scorcher. Fresh air travels to and fro delivering lively scents of burning charcoal. Famous chicken sausages and green veggies sizzle on grills. In the not so far away distance, a soundtrack of classic house music and old-school hip hop emanate from a portable device in the smaller of the three pavilions transplanted between pavilion 1 and pavilion 2. To the left, several vendors assemble a massive tent, and to the right muscle men carry folding chairs and folding tables. Jovial moms push little ones in high-tech strollers as little girls run by giggling. Boisterous voices thunder across the pathway to greet love ones with cherish bear hugs. The scene embodies one giant family reunion. This is love in the park.
The noonday’s festivities kick off sharply with the internationally acclaimed DJ Kemit of Spread Love assuming musical duties. As the band Rufus plays backup, singer Chaka Kahn wastes no time taking lead on “I Know You, I Live You” that draws singing voices and dancing sneakers racing to pavilion 1. Next, DJ Kemit throws in a classic for all the old-school house heads with Ten City’s “Devotion.” After another round of oldies but goodies and Afefe Iku’s “Body Drummin”, DJ Kemit logs off as music ambassador as the next musicologist logs on.
It’s the DJ with the dreads that proves new songs can be just as addictive as old songs. “So Addictive” (The Layabouts Addicted to House Vocal Mix) by Benedetto & Farina featuring vocals by Sandy Spady, laid back vibe ushers in a refreshing cool breeze that the dancers warmly welcome. DJ Salah Ananse’s ever eclectic persona takes the vibes deep back to 1997 with gospel legend BeBe Winans “Thank You” (Masters At Work 12” Mix) that brings Sunday morning church service and the crowd to the park’s pavilion. Keeping things classic, Chic’s “Dance, Dance, Dance” storms P 1 which is packed with sweaty bodies. Once again, the tone cools down a bit with the disco-esque bouncy grooves from the UK’s Layabouts featuring Seattle vocalist Portia Monique on the sing-along “Do Better.” DJ Kemit AKA MC Kemit hops on the microphone and announces a Salah Ananse exclusive that pounds from the speakers. An afro beat comes to a thrilling climax as 1990’s “hip hop on an R&B tip with a pop appeal/feel to it” pioneers, Bell Biv Devoe sing “She’s Driving Me Outta My Mind” on their platinum hit, “Poision.” What a surprise as Generation X sings along and jumps off into dance hysteria. The song that receives the “MOST CRUNK” award goes to one of the most recognized song’s in the world, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.” This ambitious undertaking remixed by South African sensation Black Motion (Mortarfied Bootleg) equipped with an afro house beat, brass horns and Vincent Price’s famous cackle is without a trace of MJ’s theatric chops. The remix builds to a climatic peek with Vincent’s howl that raises the roof off the hinges as the afro beat slams on the heads of the crowd that sends bodies into frantic fits of rage. Fists pump the air as mouths drop agape and feet stomp the concrete. The Afrique Electrique founder known for his production/remix skills sets the bar high with another handcrafted standard this time with Goyte’s featuring Kimbra “Somebody That I Used To Know” (Salah Ananse Mix) one of the countless interpretations of the Top 40 smash that now thumps with an afro house kick accompanying its lullaby inflection. “Do You Have It?” The questioned begged by DJ Spen presents LeRoyal, Baltimore’s up and coming urban/pop sensation, remixed by Maurice Joshua, told the people to say “Yeah” if you have the key to life, love. On the grunge front, Salah drops another goodie, his rework to Nirvana’s, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (Salah Ananse Mix) that was last years HITP 7 anthem. A tribute to the late great Fela’s afro beat rounds out one of the most diverse, eclectic and impressive sets of the day. Salah rocked that fresh face house music mixed with an alternative vibe of unpredictability that shows the crowd love and the crowd responds with more of the same.
“How many of you were at the Paradise Garage?” The master of ceremony shouts into the microphone and asks the crowd. The crowd roars like lions. To both pavilions, old-school heads rush in droves as DJ Kemit rewinds the hands of time to yesteryear. A fellow well know old-school head raises a crafty constructed Paradise Garage poster that travels the pavilion. Time rests somewhere between the years 1976-1987 as the group Chicago’s “Street Player” takes the dancers to the land of FM radio and disco roller rinks. The crowd can’t get enough as DJ AKA MC Kemit announces a future surprise. Then it happens, a song plays that causes the people to respond like wild animals in summer heat. BT Express’ “Peace Pipe” smokes and burns receding hairlines and salt and pepper follicles completely bald. After a well-rounded tribute of old school classics, DJ Kemit switches gears and brings the vibe back to the present. The Yoruba Recordings catalog Is on full-blast as Yoruba label mate Afefe Iku’s Re-edit of the mega platinum selling rock band Radiohead’s,“Everything In Its Right Place” takes the listeners on an ancestral journey of deep rhythms and tribalism. Yoruba Recordings label head Osunlade’s “Envision” (Yoruba Soul Mix) tingles the air. By design, DJ Kemit segues into two songs from his recently released long player titled, “Everlasting.” The first single “Transform” shimmers with Osunlade singing lead vocals while “Spread Love” shines with Atlanta’s Sepesenahki on vocals, the theme to DJ Kemit’s acclaimed ectopic party with the same moniker. “Go pick up the album at Moods Music or on the web at ……, “announces compere Kemit. The former Arrested Development DJ is in pleasure mode and is on the prowl to please every lady in attendance. The lovelies are serenaded with not one but THREE offerings; from DJ Zinhle featuring vocalist Busiswa Gqulu with “My Name Is,” to Teddy Douglas presents Margaret Grace with “God Created Woman,” to Verna Francis, “Earth Is The Place” (Restless Soul Peaktime Mix) that has the ladies singing, “Cause I’m a woman.”
Expectedly, every woman arrives implacably dressed and ready to impress. Actually, HITP is a tour de fashion. Every hair-do possibly imagined is sported by the ladies. Afros, braids, curls, extensions, faux hawks, locs, natural, and twisties bop and weave around the park. Every hair color is spotted on tops of heads from blonde, blue with purple roots, pink, red and brown. Hair hangs cropped, short, shoulder length and down the back that can rival any famous hair show. Vibrant outfits of every summer color electrify eyes. Every hue of bare skin provides orectic temptation. Accessories of sneakers, kneepads, belts, neckwear, ear wear, eyewear and church hats compliments bare skin against sweat- stained clothes. Actually, wearing one outfit is not sufficient. Yes, a second change of clothes is needed as several people change T-shirts, sundresses and shorts for the next DJ.
Ramon Rawsoul beams those pearly whites. A million dollar smile flashes in the sun’s embrace. The HITP founder stands aplomb to lead the congregants to the Mother Land. The sojourners cross the Atlantic Ocean and arrive at Jo’burg’s townships on the continent called Africa where African rhythms are explored. From the likes of Manoo’s,“Kodjo” the tribal banger to Zakes Batwini’s “Wasting My Time” the sounds of South Africa’s house music plays loud and proud. From there Ramon gives his parishioners a glimpse at his stomping grounds back in Chicago, Illinois with a classic Chi-town acid house music track. Then it’s time to get serious with Jill Scott’s vocal prayer “Hear My Call” (Pablo Martinez Mix). Someone somewhere must have danced to the rain gods because in the midst of the tribal excursion raindrops descend upon the park. To tease the crowd, Ramon plays Kerri Chandler’s “Rain” (Atjazz Mix) the soundtrack to the precipitation. The refreshing shower that lasts a mere ten minutes does nothing to divert the people’s attention in the park. As the rain clouds roll away, sunny skies reappear and dance to Ceramic featuring Aisling Stephenson’s “Broken Dreams” (Ian Friday ‘Tea Party’ Vocal). Unsung, Atlantic Starr shows up with “Send For Me” (Master Kev & Tony Loreto) that makes the hearts of old-school die. One observer notes, she has died and gone to heaven while one house head proclaims, this is paradise. How important it is to play new songs that young people can relate too. A team of young girls, holding hands, walks through P 1 and mouths Goyte’s anthem “Somebody That I Used To Know” (Master Kev & Tony Loreto Mix). The song that plays for the second time at the event marks one of the many music standouts of the day. The anthem also wraps up Ramon’s time on deck. Thanks for taking the pilgrimage to the lands of South Africa to explore the deep tribal sounds of house music. Musical exposure is a key concept at HITP.
Kai Alce is his name and music is his game. When the mixologist plays people show up in droves to experience the master at work. Always the final installment of the Fab 4, Kai wraps up the party with old-school meets on the horizon anthems. From classic disco, Brainstorm’s “Lovin Is Really My Game” to classic house, Kenny Bobien’s “Father” (Ricanstruction Mix) there was something played for all peoples.
Of course, an event of this magnitude will have a few issues. It all started during DJ Salah Ananse’s set. At various times and in various spots within P 1 dance circles formed for the elite of dancers to battle and show off fancy footwork, hand stands and pop and lock art forms. Honestly, when the pavilion is packed with bodies in motion, there’s not much room in the pavilion for open mouthed bystanders to besiege cropped circles to watch b-boys and dancers prove crown. HITP needs all the dance space it can conjure.
During DJ Kemit’s illustrious set, there was the mishap fire incident when a fire extinguisher is needed within fifteen minutes or the park and party would have been shut down. Inside the pavilion, people took the matter into their own hands chanting “The roof/The roof/The roof is on fire/We don’t need no water/ Let the …..(well you know the rest). Yes, the people mentioned the undesirable right in front of families and small ones. “People HITP is about family. Let’s respect the kids,” announced MC Kemit. At that time, someone had the brilliant idea to throw water into the air until MC Kemit laid down the law and had a come to Jesus meeting with the obnoxious.
By the time Kai Alce assumed music duties, P 1 became so crowded that for the first time ever at HITP crowd control was needed. Outside of P 1 a HITP female volunteer stood with yellow caution rope in hand to let one to two people into P 1 at a time. In effort to find additional space P 1 was abandoned for P 2. However, both pavilions overflowed with people like cellulite trapped in spandex on a hot day. In P 2 the hysteria chants of ATL vs New York vs every other city represented at the park was nauseating. SECURITY. We need security in P 2 fast before the zoo animals get out of hand. Actually, the city’s zoo is at the other end of the park.
Once again, HITP set out to exceed expectations and that it accomplished. From its latest stomping grounds to the music played the event was not only the summer’s hot sauce on collards but the fatback to the event of the year. What a beautiful experience to behold and witness. Also, words to the wise, next year, please don’t submit the DJs a request list. The Fab 4 need not be told how to do their job. These cats are the very best of the best. They know what music to play and how to play music. All four professionals played a diverse work of art that well-represented genres of music that ranged from house, classics, to soul. Please keep in mind, this is not the NYC Weekender, nor the Chicago Weekender, nor the Detroit Weekender, nor the San Francisco Weekender or the London Weekender. It’s not even the Old-School Weekender or the New-School Weekender. This is the ATLANTA WEEKENDer and HITP is house music. So Atlanta standup. This is your time to shine. Be it the music that unites and not divides. House music conquers with LOVE!
After dancing on the concrete and sweating outdoors for several hours, you find out there’s an after party that you must attend. Off you go….
Words and Photography by AJ Dance
Photography by AJ Dance
HOUSE IN THE PARK 7
Stretched back as far as the naked eye could see, tan tents and colorful canopies tripped alongside lush green hues perched next to the pebbled brook stream gently trickling in tranquility unaware of the bustling activity taking place around its soft aquatic voice. Boisterous SUVs bullied and bellowed their way into parking spaces along the down-slope descent of the park’s main drive, ready to be unloaded of goods, equipment and foods. There was a mid-sized white and orange U-Haul truck docked and parked at the pavilion in the center of the park where muscled arms rolled out black speakers on flats accompanied by heavy hands carrying shiny musical gear. Already, a spectrum of colorful personalities were busy pulling packed coolers, pushing baby strollers and carrying purses around shoulders along narrow paths connected to the central pavilion like a busy network of neurons. Overlooking the unrestrained excitement one could only imagine the park- decorated with various colors of tents and canopies tops-resembled candy coated sprinkles decorating one giant mint cake. The weather suspiciously mild with overcast skies foretold of rain to come from a tropical storm in the near future. But for now a few drops of water fell only a few feet from heavy cumulus that seemed to sit too low to the earth. The morning’s cooler temperatures hovered around the low 70’s just perfect for a day of outdoor music and dancing and a bit of mayhem. The weather was nothing of the gloomy kind but rather a refreshing variant. So get up and dance because this is House In the Park 7.
It takes much man-power/woman-power, experience, skill and prayer to run a public event held at a city public park that will host thousands of attendees from toddlers to the elderly. And HITP is no exception. HITP is that event which looks easy to execute in front of the theatrical curtain but in reality a whole lot goes on behind the sawdust scenes unbeknownst to the naked eye. As with previous years, this year’s event started off proper. Recycling bins for plastic bottles and trash bins for everything else were positioned around the park at various locations as well as several water stations that offered complimentary bottled water to keep guests hydrated. A slew of green portable toilet facilities were stationed across the gravel parking lot and cement driveway for those relieving needs. A maintenance crew walked to and fro collecting bags of trash with latex gloves that made sure the park stayed clean. Several volunteers in neon green tees manned the information booth decorated with bulky white donation buckets and first aid kits. Across from the information booth there were merchandise tables selling HITP bags, tees, tanks and compact discs. In front of the pavilion several vending tents sold everything from food items to painted portraits. Walking around the park volunteers in white tees shoved bulky white buckets in faces for monetary donations. The air smelled ripe with charcoal, perfect for summer holiday grilling. Savory scents of smoked meats, intoxicating flowery perfumes, sweet incense and choking cigarette smoke traversed the air with sporadic whiffs of aromatics. The city’s law enforcement, men and women, in all blue paraded around with eyes covered by sunglasses that were well equipped and more than eager to battle any opportunity that proved harm’s way. All went well until parents lost their children or children lost their parents. Over the microphone, interrupting mid-song and mid-dance, came several repeated announcements prompting individuals to come to the DJ booth and claim their little ones. As if this should be ground breaking news. Further microphone interruptions included; the several vehicles parked on the park’s grass that had to be removed before being towed and the loser with the blue American manufactured automobile that parked on a person’s lawn whose car was towed. Other than that the event went off without a hitch. Even the late afternoon rain that showered the park with love could not dampen the mood’s festivities or keep people away from the celebration of family, food and house music. As African drums played and the rain gods listened, the one giant Family Reunion of alumni and freshmen house heads and non-house heads and soon to be house heads danced and danced and danced thanks to killer anthems provided by all four DJ’s; Salah, Kemit, Ramon Rawsoul and Kai Alce.
The event’s first minister of music, singer/ songwriter/ producer/ DJ Salah worked the musical switchboards with a skilled purview that only a maestro possesses. The dance floor, not the people, struggled a bit to capture the magical energy known to suddenly visit HITP at any given moment. The pavilions makeshift dance floor seemed a bit sluggish to wake as happy feet bounced and pounced to all kinds of drum beats. There seemed to be a slight hesitation, a sleepy silence or a mild tug-of-war to awake the concrete mammoth. The people’s feet already in mid-movements danced hard; real hard. Their bodies fought valiantly with bright smiles, arms slashing with all ten fingers waving about, spreading leg squats and stomping feet to syncopated rhythms of soul. Perhaps the floor’s sluggishness was due to too much genre jumping from Fela’s afro-beat to live act Tortured Soul to disco house crooner Marc Evans; not an easy task for any mixing DJ and certainly not an easy task for dancers to keep pace when dancing to a specific genre. However, Salah’s power play came with Adele’s, “Rolling In The Deep,” a deep house treatment that had people yelling, “We Could’ve Had It All/Rolling In The Deep” with hands raised in the air and heads titled in the sky.
The dance floor was so packed with bumping bodies and humping heartbeats that there was no room to dance and you could forget about walking or dancing your way into the pavilion. People took to the pavilion’s wall ledge using smartphones and smart tablets to take digital photos and digitally film the mass amid thick dance moves and swinging arms below. During this photogenic moment, with an invisible whoosh the dance floor breathed new life and the magic that shows up at the event at any given moment arrived and took those on the dance floor by hand and danced with them through a musical journey of sights and sounds. Tapped to usher the journey was the day’s second DJ, the world famous DJ Kemit that played a sensory of beats ranging from a broken beat remix by Salah Ananse of John Legend’s rendition of Adele’s, “Rolling In The Deep” (played for the second time) to Zakes Bantwini’s afro-house, “Clap Your Hands” (Club Mix) to Ann Nesby’s disco cover of Brainstorm’s, “Lovin’ Is Really My Game” to gospel house courtesy of Kenny Bobien’s, “I Shall Not Be Moved.” HITP’s most breathtaking and most memorial visual came when the giant Family Reunion packed tight wall against wall within the pavilion jumped up and down like a sea of bobbing bobble heads to Nirvana’s, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (Salah Ananse Remix). Fists punched through the air as heads head-banged as if at an alternative rock concert equipped with a mosh pit. Screams of joy were heard across the park disturbing the wild life as the late Kurt Cobain yelled in angst, “With the lights out/it’s less dangerous/Here we are now/entertain us/I feel stupid and contagious/Here we are now/Entertain us”. What a sight to see the mass respond with sheer pandemonium of the house music kind. But wait, that wasn’t all, because from the wreckage came a shuttering broken beat staccato that segued into the silky vocals of the late great Michael Jackson singing, “Rock With You” the Ezel Remix that had the overjoyed caught up mimicking moonwalks and triple spins. Talk about a posthumous honor for the two legends that have influenced and redefined the sound of music.
However, it was the third DJ, House In The Park’s founder, Ramon Rawsoul from south- side Chicago that put the house in House In The Park. Be it rather Culoe De Song featuring Thandiswa Mazwai’s afro-house killer, “Gwebindlala” to the deep-house stomper, Ceramic’s featuring Aisling Stepheson on vocals titled “Broken Dreams” (Tea Party Mix) to Peven Everett’s house thumping, “Church” (Sting’s International RMX). Mr. Rawsoul delivered and tore off the pavilion’s roof when Lil Louis’ house classic, “French Kiss” fell from the sky to tortured screams. People lost their minds, held hostage to the instrumental track as the music slowed into a hip-hop friendly groove equipped with orgasmic screams from a horny vocalist. However, looking around it wasn’t the vocalist having an orgasm but the massive crowd of sweaty flesh. With eyes closed heads flung around in the air with mouths wide open drooling saliva as people groped on one another; guys with gals, gals with guys, guys with guys and gals with gals. Shirtless men spun around on hands in dance circles showing off tricky feet movements as braless ladies wearing mid-drifts belly danced and dropped to the floor to do squats. HITP turned into a freak fest as the music sped back up to over 120 bpms and the crowd again yelled for more.
The event’s fourth and final DJ, NYC born via Detroit raised Atlanta resident, Kai Alce’s musical concoction consisted of 90% 1970’s disco and the rest, 1980’s dance classics with a bit of current thrown in for extra flavor like Miranda Nicole’s, “Double Life” the sleeping remix fit for a soft-opening at a quant cozy restaurant instead of sitting perched between dance anthems of yesteryear. There seemed to be a premeditated motive to bring the old-skool back to life. This was great but one questioned begged to be asked, “Where was more house music at HITP 7? Anyways, the one giant Family Reunion loved the music played. Either overcome by alcohol or possessed by a high or not, the people lost their minds and danced and danced like panting wildebeest to Chaka Kahn’s, “I Know You, I Live You,” and even to Rod Stewart’s, “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” until the sun fell silent behind the pavilion and the covered shelter structure spoke with bright lights. The crowd cheered, “Boo” as the MC announced the event would soon end at 8 pm. After the music filled journey dropped various individuals off at various destinations of quality family time, rekindled friendships, exercise workouts, overstuffed bellies, drunken hazes or to cloud 9 on a music high, it was time to say good night and good bye until the next time.
The magic that shows up at any given moment on the dance floor stayed around far after darkness fell, far after all the trash was thrown neatly and tucked away in black bags, far after every grill was disassembled and every tent folded away, far after every law enforcement in navy blue called it a day, far after every piece of hardware and software was packed onto flat beads and loaded onto trucks, far after the last heartbeat left the premises and every four wheeled vehicle abandoned the parking lot, the magic even stayed around far after the park’s 11 am closing time. It’s presence could be felt the following morning on Internet blogs, seen in the smiles of online photos, heard through online videos, spoken through word of mouth statements and experienced through the collective thoughts of memories that would live on.
Photography by John Crooms except for last photograph by John Hobbs
THE TRADITION EDITION
“Guys we’re closed. The DJ’s car broke down but he’s on his way. Trust me, once he arrives we will open,” mentioned the gruff, goateed gatekeeper.
The night consisted of boisterous headscarves, receded hairlines and silver beards. Not only were the afro-centrist out but so were the vanilla explorers all making their annual journey to the music Mecca. Every walk of life from every part of town would join the ranks of the holy land’s pilgrimage. It was MLK weekend. Sunday night’s meeting place was MJQ and the night’s destination was Freedom Village.
MJQ, the dark, dingy and shady underground shack trapped in the middle of a retail business complex of shops and restaurants, sat hidden from the naked eye. The club’s main entrance and main room were closed off for the night. After all, it was the Sabbath and bars were normally closed due to dry Sunday sales. However, MJQ’s Café, the second room; a space no larger than the interior of one of those shoebox shaped automobiles was the night’s party bus. In the room barely lit by red strobe lights, a 3 by 6 feet DJ booth was perched against the front wall. Underneath a painted ceiling a lone disco ball shimmered over a wooden floor which was practically empty with dancing feet. Along the left side of the café sat a drab bar, with no flashy wall mirror or glass liquor bottles, that entertained most of the room’s guests. Besides the single bartender that bounced back and forth in delight of patron’s tabs and tips, not much kept the eye inspired. Except for the door-less unisex bathroom area towards the room’s rear equipped with three stalls that actually received more business than the bar. Uhmmmm.
In the heart of the dance floor, a few guys chatted with beers in hands while a couple of gals danced with each other. Although the pilgrimage started out with a handful of gatherers, this would soon change as additional pilgrims joined those in rank dancing on the floor. Alas, the musical journey was set to begin.
Cullen Cole with 1970’s porn-stache, of former MJQ Deep fame, started the night’s bon voyage traveling southbound on Deep House Lane. Cullen provided the sounds that were not only soft on the ears but easy on the feet. The grooves, so deep and mellow, cleverly blasted from large speakers with clear and precise sound. Every knock, beep and burp could be heard within an ear split of the audio equipment set about the place. There was one large speaker and subwoofer positioned in the front of the space near the DJ booth and another large speaker in the back of the room near sitting benches. Whoever hooked up the sound system did one heck of a job to ensure massive eargasms of auditory delight. No one would have any qualms about traveling the distance, if these sounds accompanied the trekkers.
The musical journey was off to a rave start. Twenty or so minutes later, the box was completely packed from wall to wall with bodies in motion. There barely existed breathing room. The room became so hot it felt more like a mass Hebrew exodus from Egypt in the summer’s hot desert sun than a winter night out in a club.
Before long the smooth sounds of deep house gave way to afro-beat. Unbeknownst, the legendary DJ Kemit was behind the dashboard and made a mad left turn onto Afro-Beat Parkway. With the volume turned up to full blast, Kemit kept the Fela Kuti coming to a room of hyper-acting-like children in the backseat of a car on a long voyage before being released at a fast food restaurant’s play area. People stood up on benches, threw their arms in the air and roared like jungle lions. WTH?
As if that weren’t enough, DJ Kemit had the audacity to make a sharp right onto Disco Drive as BT Express, “Peace Pipe” poured from the box’s speakers. An escalating stream of hoots, hollers and whistles let loose. Once again, the crowd went absolutely bonkers and displayed a mad scene of bedlam.
The excitement didn’t subside as Michael Jackson commanded the crowd to, “Get On The Floor” and dance with him. Within the song’s disco break, lil’ sister Janet arrived and took control with “Go Deep” (Masters At Work Thunder Mix). The song’s spiritual flute played under Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous proclamation, “I have A Dream.” With a slow fade the music disappeared into oblivion as Dr. King’s vocals were the only sounds left standing in the room of rousing handclaps and stunned visages. One would have thought the people had reached their destination, Freedom Village, but they were a plenty miles away. So the music continued with Donnie’s, “Holiday.”
Like a pillar of fire by night, DJ Kemit continued to lead the voyagers eastward on Funk Avenue before making a quick right south on Soul Boulevard. The multi-ethnicity crowd followed suit and haphazardly danced and sung through the skyscraper laden city streets of Music Town, for they knew their music maestro would lead them to safe pastures.
However for some, a dose of fresh air was greatly needed. Some experienced car sickness and needed a quick, ‘catch my breath.’ Honestly, the box was just too hot with heat and sweaty bodies, not to overlook the gray cloud of cigarette smoke that hovered over the crowd.
After a quick cigarette break for some and a burst of fresh air for others while dancing in the café’s foyer, the crowd danced off Soul Boulevard and onto Interstate 101 a.k.a. House Music Highway. Percussions from talking drums lightly banged as a female’s voice thundered from the heavens that welcomed the trekkers to Dennis Ferrer’s, “The Red Room.” One quick glance around revealed that the pilgrims were in the red light district of town. Hooray!!!
The sweet scent of sex permeated the air. A soft touch, gentle rub or warm hug from someone meant more than a friendly “hello.” Such gestures were masked with carnal sexual desires. Throughout the free(k) zone, flesh groped flesh, groins gyrated against waists and wet kisses were exchanged with total strangers. Yes, the freaks were in the house.
After exiting the over-charged red light district, DJ Kemit dropped one of the many ‘WTH’ music surprises of the night. That of a smooth four-count beat resonated from the three giant speakers positioned throughout the room to the rescue of Stevie Nicks on vocals. It was “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac.
“I can’t believe he’s playing this,” mentioned some guy with dreads walking in the room right before he joined the others singing the chorus, “Thunder Happens Only When It’s Raining.” Once again, DJ Kemit bought out the smile in everyone. But wait a minute. Was that Moloko’s, “Sing It Back” accapella riding over a gritty house beat?
Not long after, Kai Alce former resident of MJQ Deep Saturday nights, took over the musical steering wheel that led the people to Freedom Village by way of Old School House Highway to Disco Drive. The appearance of Freedom Village was left open to individual interpretation. The destination was more spiritual than physical; a sort of state of mind that could be intangibly reached rather than tangibly touched. Whatever its shape or form, the people enjoyed its every offering of love outpoured through music and expressed through dance. Upon their arrival, the people danced like never before. They danced harder, their feet moved at lightning speeds and sweat poured from faces faster than torrential rains. Someone please, help the guy off the ceiling; things were getting crazy.
Abstract Truth’s and Monique Bingham’s, “We Had A Thang” (Matty’s Deep Dub) refreshed the over-heated with cool rhythms, a sultry horn solo and jazzy vocal scats that kept the crowd wanting more. Mr. Kai Alce granted such requests with his recently NDATL release, “I Got Life” by Kemetic Just with Terrance Downs on the mic. The pied piper didn’t stop there but took the congregation to church with his upcoming DJ Rowland Clark remix of the “I sing because I’m free” gospel anthem, “Sparrow.”
The wooden dance floor was besieged with several dance circles as people watched bodies dropping on the ground to do the splits. There was the usual guy hand standing with one hand, completely upside down. Talk about balance. Some even caught the Holy Ghost as English caps fanned the hot air while others jumped up on benches to dance in the spirit. The journey had become a free expression for all to celebrate freedom through any vehicle of choice.
Once Freedom Village was reached the crowd began to thin out, which meant more dance space. Soon, Cullen Cole returned to helm the vessel and dropped a furor of beats that kept the dancers on fire. After a captivating night of a peaceful journey to celebrate freedom, the house lights slowly conquered the former dark space, dimly lit by red lights. The celebration had reached its end and now it was time to say ‘goodbye.’ Never would the pilgrims forget this pilgrimage to the holiest of holies. For within the music, peace, love and joy were found. Through dance, freedom was obtained and all had a right to participate. Dr. King’s speech truly illustrated that people of all walks of life, ethnicities, sexual orientations and creeds could peacefully gather and celebrate as one. “Thank God All Mighty. We’re Free At Last.”
House In The Park had become a musical destination for those around the globe to partake. People traveled near and far to attend; some as far away as California, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Indiana, Tennessee, The Carolinas and Florida. Seattle, Chicago, DC, and Detroit were all in the house. One infamous social networking site even posted a couple flew all the way from Paris, France.
The weather for the day was perfect. Temperatures for the Labor Day weekend were forecast in the mid to upper 80’s. After a torrid summer the milder temperatures were highly welcomed like cold brews after mowing grass. A gentle breeze blew in the air that signaled the transition from summer to autumn. Soon to be brown leaves perched high in trees swayed from side to side in musical rhythm.
Generally the park’s lush greenery was barren but by 12:30 pm the site was populated with tents and tables as far as the eye could see. “WOW, these people are serious.”
The scene resembled something straight from the pages of magazines of popular music festivals that occur in Austin TX, Manchester TN, or Chicago IL. Nothing like this had ever existed in the city for a HOUSE MUSIC event. Folks this was for HOUSE MUSIC, not hip-hop, rock, folk or a pooh-pooh platter of all the above but for HOUSE MUSIC. To say this was unprecedented would be an understatement. Not to mention it was only twelve thirty in the afternoon and the event began at noon. These campers had to have been in the park since eight or nine that morning. Not to mention the people that slept in the park overnight. How amazing.
Past the several vendor tables selling every item imaginable from organic handmade soap to HITP paraphernalia was the park’s lone pavilion with dance floor. DJ Kemit already on deck warmed up the small smiling crowd of twenty dancing feet. After ten minutes of making rounds to speak with everyone camped in tents and grilling meats the dance floor was made way to as DJ Kemit dropped a soul fueled mix of “Hard Time for Lovers,” from a singer who channeled the late great Luther Vandross as though Luther was alive at the park. By that point the dance floor was so warmed with love it felt as though someone blessed the space prior to the event’s start. The pavilion radiated with a natural joy that cast out any naysayer’s negativity.
Shortly thereafter, DJ Kemit’s time expired on the 1’s and 2’s, HITP’s second DJ of the day stepped aboard to wreck havoc. Salah Ananse the singer/producer/DJ/ and all around entertainer, entertained the ever growing crowd with some hard core jams. Without notice the music stopped. Then the acappella voice of Tony Momrelle singing the anthem, “Star” arose from the ashes as a phoenix. It was as if the man was right there singing live from the DJ set-up. Moments later, drums and warm synth pads exploded behind the acappella which signaled it was time to get down. There were granddads stepping in the name of love with grandmothers all over the floor. There were the fancy footwork house dancers stomping all over the floor. And then there was a little boy no more than the age of two creating a masterpiece of artwork using various colors of chalk on the pavilion’s floor. It was only one o’ clock in the afternoon and already HITP was off to a collage of activity.
As if that were not enough, Salah played a hand crafted organic remix from one of the city’s most spirited visionaries who was a self-proclaimed android from the future. The singer, signed to one of the world’s leading hip-hop mogul’s record label walked the “tightrope” between both worlds of the underground and the mainstream. The remix so cleverly orchestrated bridged the gap between the female’s futuristic rap vocal laid over a present-day broken beat drum loop that culminated to deliver a vocal melancholy of funk.
At best there was no stopping or at least slowing down Salah who was on fire by blessing the crowd with additional unleavened self-produced productions fresh from the studio. There was the “I Need You” dub to the soulful drenched testament of love’s healing power. It took no time for the crowd to strengthen in numbers as they partook in the oratory delight.
What happened next was nonetheless miraculous. Salah esteemed the crowd with an Atjazz production titled, “Mercyless” from San Fran’s Fred Everything. The song’s hook “merciless” sung over razor slashing synths and a beat so choppy the song practically needed its own pair of chopsticks pronounced it was time to dance. A slew of shouts surged through the air to greet the arrival of people rushing or dancing to the dance floor. Soon, everyone and their momma was on the dance floor digging deep to find dance moves to accommodate the choppy beat. There were video cameras filming the choreography and cameras flashing at individuals losing their minds. Everyone was ranting and yelling as if recently tasting music for the first time. The only disappointment was the talking MC announcing the news of a lost little boy at the front information desk over the soulful “woohoo hoo hoo” of Wayne Tennant’s vocals.
Damn, what a great way to disrupt the positive flow and the musical energy with negative news. Unfortunately, no one seemed to bat an eye at the missing child announcement because five minutes later the MC was back with microphone in hand making a second announcement, then a third, followed by a fourth and so on. Where were the child’s guardians or parents at? Sadly, HITP was a perfect place to drop off an unwanted crying one year old infant by older teenage siblings, an irresponsible babysitter or just plain wayward parents. Unfortunately, by the sixth announcement no one had claimed the little toddler. In what was no surprise the city’s police threatened to call DFAX. The crowd applauded and yelled with approval. It was high time someone stepped up and claimed responsibility. Actually the legitimate threat worked because within five minutes someone claimed the child but not without another announcement; this one for a lost little girl in a pink top and blue skirt.
PLEASE, EVERYONE WITH CHILDREN; MONITOR YOUR CHILDREN BECAUSE MUSIC INTERRUPTIONS ARE BEGINNING TO UPSET THE CROWD. Thankfully the little girl was quickly found and no additional “missing children” reports were noted for the reminder of the event. Sigh.
Notable music stand outs included Culoe De Song’s, “Gwebindlala” dropped by Ramon Rawsoul. Thandiswe Mazai’s feminine afro chants over a minimal driven afro-beat drove HITP to Africa’s deep jungles. DJ Mick’s Culoe De Song Interpretation of Gladys Knight’s and the Pips retitled, “The First To Say Goodbye” secured itself as the deep house anthem of the year. What a surprise when Kai Alce, the city’s local legend dropped St. Germain’s, “Rose Rouge” a jazzy house classic from the year 2000. It was said the crowd in the pavilion went crazy; absolutely bananas. It was nothing like seen or heard previously that day. Everyone fell into a trance possessed by some hypnotic force which caused them to bend over with arms outstretched while hoots and hollers vomited from their mouths.
By 8 pm, beating drums besieged the park to announce another HITP journey had reached its destination. There was a drum circle of several individuals dressed in African attire dancing around drummers banging talking drums that beckoned individuals to sweet somber. There were the faces of little girls and adults fixated with smiles speaking the same language of dance and love. What sheer delight. Long after the digital music stopped and the electronic CD players and mixer were neatly packed away in tight coffins the organic drums continued to play. Their message spoke, “Good night to all. Peace, blessings and prosperity. God bless.”
Photography by Carlos J. Bell