In With a Bhangra

New Year's Eve events feature Indo-Pakistani beats

When New Year's Eve comes a-knockin', this town's a-rockin'.

With almost every style of bash going down, it's hard to find some wallflowerin' excuse to stay home watching Regis Philbin filling in for the ailing Dick Clark. Even Indo-Pakistani folks can kick it like Kali and welcome the new year at two events on Friday, December 31, aimed at East Indian expatriates.

The main attraction at both fetes is the spinning of Desi (pronounced "they-see," a Hindi/Urdu word meaning "of the country") and Bhangra music, both of which blend Bollywood-style pop tracks and traditional East Indian folk music, a mix that is popular across South Asia, Europe, and even American burgs like New York City and Chicago.

For the record: DJs Anil Bhatia (left) and Robby Pinnamaneni offer up dueling Desi events on New Year's Eve.
Jackie Mercandetti
For the record: DJs Anil Bhatia (left) and Robby Pinnamaneni offer up dueling Desi events on New Year's Eve.

"Desi is really coming to the forefront in America. It's just crazy popular in NYC; there's a half-dozen or more events every month that pull in thousands," says DJ Anil Bhatia, who'll work the wheels of steel at "In With the New: A New Year's Eve Gala," at Sodhi Palace, 5104 East McDowell Road. "Phoenix is coming along, and we're trying to get a foothold here with events every three or four months."

While hip-hop heroes like Jay-Z (who collaborated with Bhangra wunderkind Panjabi MC on the song "Beware of the Boys") have discovered the musical genre only recently, Indo-Pakistani superstars have been sampling ghetto-fabulous beats for decades now. In the mid-1980s, legendary Desi mixmaster Bally Sagoo pilfered records from his pop's music shop in the U.K. and began blending traditional Indian folk music with reggae and other urban-style jams.

Bhatia's planning on dropping the needle on hits from artists like Panjabi MC, Rishi Rich, RDB, and Sukbir, at the event, in addition to spinning pop songs from such Bollywood flicks as Dhoom and Veer Zaara. Valley spinster Dennis "The Den of Iniquity" Bertoli also plays Top 40 tunes, and '70s and '80s hits. Revelers will get a buffet full of authentic Indian selections -- including tandoori chicken, saag paneer, chicken curry and gobi aloo -- and unlimited beer and wine. Admission is $40 to this 21-and-over event, and doors open at 8 p.m. with evening wear strongly encouraged. Call 602-234-3374 or see www.azdesiscene.com.

And if that weren't enough, Robby Pinnamaneni is bringing some Kaoss (as in San Francisco's premier Desi DJ) to the M3 Lounge, 2623 North Scottsdale Road in Scottsdale, for "Third Eye Theory's The Encore." Pinnamaneni will scratch out his own brand of Bhangra and Hindi remixes, while DJ Avalon busts progressive house and disco funk. Just like Bhatia's "In With the New," the usual New Year's Eve trappings are included, like hors d'oeuvres, drink specials, a champagne toast and plenty of party favors. Admission is $10, and doors open at 9:30 p.m. See www.3rdeyetheory.com or e-mail robbysp@gmail.com.

Even though Bhatia and Pinnamaneni are hosting competing events, the pair hopes to foster the burgeoning Desi music scene in the Valley. The music's even getting local airplay during the "Desirhythm" cultural program on Sundays on KMYL-AM 1190. But Pinnamaneni has bigger plans in mind.

"My vision is to make it like salsa music has been for the Latinos, where everyone comes to dance and enjoy it regardless of their race," Pinnamaneni says. "I try to go for higher-end ambiance at my events and private parties, so if you're not Indo-Pakistani you can still have a blast."

 
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