Like the old country

Special to The Times

AS the rich, thumping strains of contemporary Indian film music filled the Joint on Saturday night, Yash Sharma, a 24-year-old software engineer, wasn’t afraid to admit why he was there: to meet other Indians.

“You just don’t see a lot of Indians in L.A.,” he said, surveying the crowd at the club near the corner of Pico and Robertson boulevards. “It’s not like in San Francisco, where they are everywhere.” Indeed, several out-of-towners from Dallas and San Diego chose to spend their only Saturday night in Los Angeles here, at the Bollywood-themed Mid-Summer Bash.

The Mumbai-born Sharma, who moved to L.A. five years ago, is part of a demographic being catered to by a number of promoters organizing Bollywood-inspired dance nights, hoping to draw in crowds homesick for the film music, pop videos and people of their native country.


On this night at the Joint, a crowd that peaked at about 120 people danced to music spun by Indian DJ Taher, who usually performs at weddings and private parties. TV screens overhead were filled by images from the latest crop of Bollywood movies, with their sari-clad, gyrating starlets.

“One of my implicit goals was to make sure that people got together with other Indians,” said Amit Jain, who has been organizing the events for the last three years, usually every couple of months.

Another promoter, Harry Datwani, who recently founded BollywoodBoogie .Net to organize similar dance events, said he was motivated by the many parties held on college campuses across the U.S. for Indian students. But his upcoming event, slated for Aug. 18 at Ultra Suede, is designed to attract an older crowd.

“We did a test run on New Year’s Eve and the event sold out,” Datwani said. “It was really in response to a lot of requests from people who said there was a hole in the market because they loved Bollywood music and there was no place for them to go. They said they wanted to party like they used to in Mumbai.”

The music at the upcoming Bollywood Boogie, as with other similarly themed nights, runs from hip-hop to bhangra, which is essentially folk music from the Punjab region of India, with a sensibility that’s now in myriad types of music.

“We’re not going to be confined to any particular music,” Datwani said. “There will be the Top 40 stuff you hear on KIIS-FM as well as Bollywood, which over the past few years has really been able to break out of its boundaries and is touching American communities.”

Faryal Parker, who owns the club promotion company Le Mast Mast, is a scene veteran, having organized parties for 11 years. “It’s become very popular again,” she said, adding that the recent emphasis on Bollywood film and music has led to a rise in attendance at her events, which she runs once or twice a month. “I get DJs calling me from London who want to come here and play these parties.”

Her events -- the most recent was at the Tiger Lily restaurant and bar -- focus on multicultural music offerings, which could be Turkish, Spanish or Indian.

Tantra, a popular Silver Lake-area Indian restaurant known for its lavish décor that includes hammered copper doors and light fixtures made from wrought iron and rich silk, is a popular spot for Bollywood-themed nights as well. At the end of September, the venue will host a launch party for “Bubble Gum,” the new album of Indian music producer Deeps Pabla, who calls his fusion of bhangra and reggae “bhangraton.” Pabla also founded RadioPhive, an event organizing company, to cater to the growing numbers of south Asians in the L.A. area. In fact, RadioPhive is planning a three-day event in January called Desifest 2008 (“desi” is Hindi for “Indian”). The weekend will include nights at hot venues such as Avalon, Spider Club and Key Club.

Ana Santos, a partner in the company, is also holding an event this Saturday at Basque in Hollywood. “This is something new to Hollywood, so the events are starting to attract other crowds as well who are not necessarily Indian or south Asian,” Santos said. “The thing about Bollywood music is that it has a bit of every culture -- Latin, hip-hop -- and it attracts people who like that kind of varied music.”



Bollywood nights

9 p.m. Saturday at Basque Nightclub and Restaurant, 1707 N. Vine St, Hollywood

10 p.m. Sept. 29, “Bubble Gum” launch party at Tantra, 3705 W. Sunset Blvd., L.A.

10 p.m. Oct. 27, Heaven N Hell Part 2, South Asian Halloween night at Tantra


9 p.m. Aug. 18 at Ultra Suede, 661 N. Robertson Blvd., L.A.


Aug. 31 at Chakra, 4143 Campus Drive, Irvine