Retro Bar-Baar

By Narendra Kusnur

If it’s Thursday, it must be Door No.1. The Bollywood DJ nights simply rock as resident DJ Russel Almeida takes over the console. Every night has a different theme but the common point is that the place sticks to retro music.

Located in ONGC Colony, Bandra Reclamation, the place is mostly inhabited by youngsters in their 20s and early 30s. Started by Vishesh Khanna and Mihir Bijur in December 2016, it has become one of the most sought after destinations for the party lot.

The music makes the difference. But one can enjoy their evening tipple or munch on bombil fry, calamari and masala pork with pav, or messy naans and Maggi.et al.

Door No. 1 has a structured weekly schedule but that may change for special occasions. Monday is a Sufi night. Tuesday has a Hindi live band besides DJ music. Wednesday shifts to live English music with a dose of classic rock played by Russel. Thursday is Bollywood retro. Fridays and Saturdays are English retromania. Sundays have an English jam session and live karaoke.

The special nights have included an Elvis Presley tribute by Siddharth Meghani, microgroove vinyl sessions and quiz nights.

This writer has been a regular along with music aficionado Zameer Vahanvaty. Musicians like pianist-keyboardist Merlin D’Souza and flautist Rajeev Raja are spotted often.

The English retro nights are a huge draw. The music moves smoothly between the 1950s to the 1990s. Expect anything from Presley, Beatles and Pink Floyd to Michael Jackson, Eurythmics and Metallica. There is a huge amount of 1980s pop and early electronic music.

The Thursday Bollywood nights have their own draw. Youngsters dance and sing along to hits released before they were born. Last week, Russel focused on Indipop initially. So there were songs by Alisha Chinai, Shaan, Mehnaz and the Aryans. Nazia and Zoheb Hassan made intermittent appearances.

The film songs took over. ‘Apni To Jaise Taise’, ‘O Mere Dil Ke Chain’, ‘Jaane Jaa Dhoondta Phir Kahan’ etc etc. From RD Burman, Laxmikant-Pyarelal and Kalyanji-Anandji right up to Anu Malik, A.R Rahman and Jatin-Lalit.

Russel never plays full songs but switches suddenly after the first mukhda. He says, “At a party nobody really wants to hear entire songs. You get them on the radio and YouTube. They just want to dance and enjoy. So I imagine I am on the dance floor or in the audience.”

Considered one of the best club DJs in Mumbai, Russel started off in 1994, when he attended a party after his board exams. He had been passionate about music but when he saw the guy spinning music there, he decided this would be his career.

He never did any formal course, but learnt from experience. Things started moving and slowly he began doing clubs and corporate parties. “What I learnt is that one can’t have a standard set list. You have to feel the pulse of the crowd and adapt impromptu,” he says.

After starting with cassettes and a screwdriver, he moved on to to spool decks and did a small stint with professional turntables. “I am not a turntabellist though,” he clarifies.

Quickly, he moved on to professional CD players. Today, he uses digital software mediums like Traktor, Virtual DJ and Serato with corresponding equipment like controllers and digital players that require USBs and not CDs. “Technology has changed so much and we DJs have to keep adapting, besides constantly researching audience tastes and moods,” he points out.

English retro, Sufi or Bollywood, Door No. 1 has become quite a music chill-out zone. And the best thing is people come from all over town, and not from.the vicinity of Bandra. It’s the music, the vibe, the party mood, never mind if next day is a working day.

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Narendra Kusnur is one of India’s best known music journalists. Born with a musical spoon (okay, doesn’t fit, but you get the drift), Naren, NK, Kusnur, Narender, Kaansen, Jahanpanna… however else many call him, is a late bloomer in music criticism. He was (is!) an aficionado first, and then strayed into writing on music. But in the last two decades, he has made up for most of what he didn’t do earlier. If ever there is an Ustad given for music writing, NK, would be among the first to receive one. Narendra Kusnur writes weekly on Xyngr. Don’t ask us when.