Thursday, December 28, 2006

Racism - 2006 Remix Reloaded

I had started writing my post Racism - 2006 Remix with a different direction in mind. The examples I used, were meant to be anecdotal and introductory, leading to a discussion regarding race and music. I felt the post was complete before I took it any further and honestly I felt too lazy to build further on my point. However, as time has gone by, I realize that the original direction I was headed is still relevant and deserves to be aired.

I was going to intertwine what had happened at Tangos and Crews late this summer into my discussion. For those unfamiliar, Tangos and Crews is a gay club/bar located in Toronto’s “gay village” on Church Street. It was in fact the first gay club I visited upon accepting I was gay. I remember sitting their on a plush dirty couch on their top floor, listening to Alanis Morsitte whining in the background. I felt depressed. Alanis did not move me, she did not inspire me, she did not speak to me, and she certainly did not make me want to get up and shake my ass. When getting ready for the night, I had felt a nervous excitement; I imagined that I was going to be somewhere that I belonged. When going to straight venues, while I may have been with a group of friends, and heard music I enjoyed the fact that I saw boys and girls getting their mack on and I knew that wouldn’t be happening to me, always made me feel out of place.

I hate Alanis Morissette. And, while I don’t mind Ani DiFranco, the artist they played next, she was not what I had in mind, in terms of dance music. It was 1996 and at the time hip-hop was the only music that moved me, in heavy rotation on my CD player at the time was A Tribe Called Quest, Gangstar, and Wu-Tang Clan. I accepted it as my fate, that being gay meant either listening to techno or lesbian folk rock. I gave up on the gay scene. I figured that my taste in music could be not reconciled with being gay and so didn’t investigate further.

Earlier this year me and my boyfriend visited Tangos and Crews. The top floor which a decade earlier had maybe ten people dancing to Ironic was now packed to capacity with at least eighty people bumping to a Cutty Ranks track. My initial instinct is to put one hand in the air, grab my crotch with the other hand, and start moving my hips in time to the music. The crowd is probably a third black, with a strong showing by other ethnic groups. Of course, this isn’t the first time that I have been to a gay jam and heard black people’s music. I slowly discovered that within the gay scene in Toronto, their existed sub-scenes, and that one could go to gay hip-hop night or gay desi night. But, this night at Tangos and Crews was different, because it was not being hosted by someone black. This was a “white” club, which recently had begun to play “black” music. All the other popular gay clubs in the city still played exclusively Madonna, Brintey Spears, and ABBA.

I learned near the end of summer that management at Tangos and Crews had banned the playing of Reggae, Dancehall, Reggaton and Soca at their establishment. Now Magaine which ran a piece on the situation stated that Tangos and Crew’s didn’t return any of the calls regarding their policy. As I see it, the club wanted to get jiggy and play some hip music, but didn’t like the people that came in through the door as a result. The music had begun to change the racial makeup of the club and I think that made people uncomfortable. By controlling the music, they attempted to control their clientele, which is really fucked up, if you recall the history of segregation that black folk have endured. Back in the day, clubs used to have “paper-bag tests” where if a black person was darker than a paper-bag they were not permitted in, or “comb tests” where if their hair didn’t pass through the comb this meant no entry. It’s even more fucked up, given that gay people have their own history of persecution and exclusion, and for a gay establishment to continue in a similar vein is disgusting. The club later allowed West Indian music back in their club, but, it was done grudgingly and half-assed. The West Indian music set lasts twenty minutes, with 2 soca songs being played, then 2 dancehall songs being played and so on and so forth. They do it enough, so that you can’t cry racism, but not enough to get the crowd hyped and excited with said genres of music.

We recently had a “Holiday Season” party thrown by the Big Evil Corporation. It was a big event, with a huge venue being rented, and a big name DJ from Toronto’s popular urban radio station providing tunes. I was having a conversation with one of the planners regarding the event, and I came to learn some disturbing news.

“Yeah, he said he didn’t want to hear any rap music,” the planner informs me. The “he” in question, is one of the top Don’s at the Big Evil Corporation. “He said he didn’t like the rap music.”

“That’s not fair, it’s not for him it’s for the call centre,” I reply back.

“That’s what I told him, have you seen the call centre, its uhm pretty urban. He said he didn’t enjoy himself at the last party and he got lots of complaints.” My mind travels back to the last party. I remember being surprised as to how much fun that night had been. I had gone with low expectations given that it was a work function, but ended up dancing the night away on a packed dance floor.

I actually know of the Don in question. He is queer. And while I don’t think there is a “pink” conspiracy to bring about the demise of danceable music, I think he is perpetuating racism through control of music. A good DJ should cater to his crowd. At a work function it is accepted that their will be a wide variety of tastes in music, and a DJ should be able to feel out his crowd and play to them. But to exclude a whole genre of music, which basically means that you are in essence excluding a whole group of people is discrimination. I understand not liking a genre of music, when I am at “cracker” bars and hear the likes of Barenaked Ladies, I feel any sort of buzz I have being sucked out of me. What I see happening here, is the practice of exclusion, which I feel is based on fear; a fear based on stereotypes associated with black culture.

This makes me sad, and to relive my feelings I will smoke a joint and put on some Marvin Gaye, I think the Whats Going On album is in order.


Blogger Neha said...

I'm glad you reloaded the remix.

9:21 AM  
Blogger Diasporic Girl said...

that is so disappointing that CREWS a) buys into fucking stereotypes b) believe that there exists a musical on hierarchy

what a load of crap, however once again -an excellent observation and thanks for writing about it. quite frankly why don't you see if you can send this over to eye magazine or something, its too well written not be read by those who enjoy nightlife...

10:44 PM  
Blogger dutty brown boi said...

Thanks Girls.

I'm flattered that you think its worthy of Eye D.G. - but I think its to late of an observation.

That's my problem - I muse on things a bit to late.

7:49 PM  

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