The last 5 years has seen a dramatic increase in the South Asian population in the United States and through-out the world outside India and Pakistan. Along with that increase, South Asians have been attempting to establish communities similar to the ones back home. While achieving some of the basic similarities of the motherland, they have also adapted to new cultures and customs. One of the most popular of which is the mixture of Western entertainment in the guise as Club nightlife and such venues. Countless events and organizations have popped up across the UK and now in the US and Canada. There are a bunch of hungry Desis looking to celebrate and profit from this well desired phenom known as "desi parties." In this article, I interview one of increasingly growing promoters of these parties in the US, Don Raja Entertainment, or better known as "DRE." Raj Pottabathni is the young promoter who has organized a growing number of events in various states across the US. I figured who better to explain this popular culture than a young promoter, who is constantly on the verge of growth and change in this developing sub-industry of Desi entertainment.
Khalid Ilahi: Do you think the Desi-Scene itself is something that will grow and become organized, or do you think it is headed towards self-destruction? Please explain either...
Raj Pottabathni: It seems that the Desi scene is in a stage that has the ability to grow, but there are also signs of it dying out as well. It depends where you are. Luckily, I have had the opportunity to attend Desi-parties in every major city, and I can honestly say that areas like the Bay Area and New Jersey are densely populated Desi inhabited locations where the scene just seems played out. The Bay Area, like 2-3 years ago was a hot spot, as was New Jersey in some perspectives, but after numerous fights, and too many parties occurring too soon, the scene has depleted. People have the image that the party will break up due to a fight, and nowadays, Indians just don't want to go through the trouble of being disappointed. On the other hand, there are places such as Columbus, Austin, Boston, and Florida where parties are thrown maybe once every couple of months. This keeps the crowd enticed, and thus most promoters can expect a large crowd. At the same time, LA and Chicago, the largest populated desi cities other than NY, have a shortage of parties for the 18 and over and thus there is space for growth. Hopefully, the scene will rejuvenate, but this will only occur when desi's feel that something new is being offered.
KI: With all of the competition that you have, especially since you're doing promotions in various states now, how do you avoid, or have you avoided personal conflicts with competing promoters?
RP: I have had the opportunity to work with various promoters and crews from all over the country and honestly there have never been any conflicts. I have built a strong network of contacts nationwide, but generally I try and work with people I already know or people that I have known through my brother. I try and avoid competing with other promoters by selecting a date when nothing else is going on. I also have no problem in involving other promoters as I feel that often when more groups are involved, the party tends to be larger. I am very flexible and am willing to work with others. Conflicts are inevitable, but I try to avoid them when possible.
KI: This isn't obviously your career path, and we understand that it is more of a hobby and a great way to make some quick hard cash, so is it really worth it to put up with all of the stress that comes with this business? Why?
RP: Personally, I don't find it a stressful hobby, but at times it is frustrating and nerve racking. It's tough going to another city and hoping that your promoters come through, but I try and develop a trust with these promoters. I have been very nervous at times, but I am beginning to learn to relax and take things as they come and learn from any mistakes or misjudgments that I may have made. In the end, when I see the satisfaction on the faces of the people at my party and the wad in my pocket at the end of the night, all the time spent on the phone organizing and all the frustrations are definitely worth it.
KI: What would you say is the best thing you like about being a promoter?
RP: Developing relationships with various promoters and meeting Desis from around the country are fulfilling for me... as well as cashing in at the end of the night. I can't DJ, and I have no idea of the skills a dj may have, so basically promoting is just the easier route to getting involved with the scene. It is truly satisfying when partygoers come up to me at the end of the night and tell me that the party was off the hook.
KI: The worst?
RP: When you lose money, or hear that people thought the party was whack; are definitely the worst aspects of being a promoter. It seems that parties are generally categorized by the ratio to girls to guys. I have thrown parties where only 150-200 people have showed and only 50 or so where girls. Then I witness the common phrase from people that say that "the party was a d**k fest." However, I have also organized parties where the ratio was 2-1 ladies, and people ask how I pulled that off. It all comes down to who you know, and how the event is promoted. I have so much respect and appreciation for those promoting groups in various states. So far everything has gone well...except for one event that I won?t mention, that DJ Kamran and few other may know about. Basically, hearing bad things about my party and losing money are the downfalls of being a promoter.
KI: I bet you get easy access to a lot of the opposite sex, how do you deal with that? Some stay low, while others use it to their advantage, how have you dealt with that fringe benefit?
RP: I do alright, but I don't depend on promoting parties to get with girls. I know a few people who do, and they take of advantage of the situation completely, but I feel that if you got it...then you got it, regardless if you're a known promoter or dj. I don't stay low by any means, but I don't publicize my self as a promoter. I would say that I deal with it OK, considering my boyz tell me to take of advantage of it, but I think that most girls really don't give two sh*ts if you're a top notch dj or promoter. It shouldn't mean anything, but I guess there are those who feel that it truly does. Going from city to city I see the vast array of desi girls. I have no particular taste to what type of desi girl I find attractive, whether they are Punjabi, Gujurati, Telugu, Kashmiri, Malayalee, or Pakistani. The looks, the character, and the way the girl carries herself are what matters to me. I am thankful that I have had the opportunity to see how desi girls are in different cities. People may not think it's true, but whether you're in Frisco or Chicago, I noticed that the attitude and personalities of desi women generally tend to be different. I think it's a good thing because it contradicts the common stereotype of how desi girls are...cause they are truly unique based on where you are.
KI: Who is your favorite DJ to work with?
RP: I have worked with a lot of desi dj's nationwide, and obviously it's those dj's that I know well that I love working with. I gotta give it up for DJ Kamran of ABC from Toronto. Not only is he off the hook, he's such an easygoing, hassle free dj. DJ Khaos from DC, Mirage, Gemeni & Michael G from Cali, Sandman from Detroit and Ill~S from the tri-state are very professional as well as good turntablists. There are the big names, and there are those who are good as hell, but either don't care to be recognized or haven't had the opportunity to get out yet. These are the types of DJ's that I respect and hopefully I will be able to give them the chance to be recognized nationwide. I definatley got to give it up for the big names. They have been in the game and have reaped the benefits.
KI: Who is your least favorite?
RP: There really aren't any dj's that I don't like working with, but I do have less respect to those dj's who are hot headed and think they are good, but are really not. And they still want to get paid. I feel that if you don't have a name in the industry, you really shouldn't to be greedy to what you get. Those dj's in this category need to learn to appreciate the promoters who take the risk in promoting them and getting their name out.
KI: Which place/state is your favorite to promote in? And why?
RP: I love promoting in Cali, cause that's my spot, and that's where my cousins and boyz are at. Ohio is a good scene for desi parties as there is a large population of desis and the crowd is for the most part very mature and party-going.
KI: Do you think California or any other state for that matter can ever have the same pace as New York City does when it comes to Desi club Parties? Which state if any do you think can topple NYC?
RP: NYC is in a league of it's own. There will never be a city in this country that can topple the scene that NYC has created. The influx of Indians here are far too many for any other spot to even compete. No where else will you find 6 or more desi parties going on any given weekend in the same city. Based on that, it will take a lot for any other city to come up like NYC.
KI: What is your ultimate goal with D.R.E and where do you see it in one year? Do you intend on growing to do Bollywood concerts or will you stick to doing Party promotions?
RP: I feel that in this stage, D.R.E is slowly being recognized nationwide. Considering I run it myself, with contacts in various locations, D.R.E. is making handsome revenues. I want to keep it like this as long as I can. I will continue to throw parties until the time comes when I need partners. Right now, I do this whole operation by myself with the cooperation of those promoters in densely populated desi cities. I work on this theory: "If you scratch my back, I'll do the same." There are a lot of dj's that work with promoting crews that want to spin in other cities. I plan to make sure that those dj's that helped me in their city come out and spin in other cities. It's very difficult to throw parties outside where you reside, but since I have been all over from Cali to Saudi Arabia to Cleveland and to NJ/NY, I have the opportunity to do so. You gotta know the right people to make it happen. D.R.E is constantly expanding, as I have had offers and the chances to throw desi parties in Dubai, Singapore, Australia, Canada, and India. I have boyz in these spots, who want to get involved, I will throw parties in these countries by next year. Right now, Dubai and Sydney are confirmed, and the other spots will be as well by next summer. I am still debating on what dj's to bring out there, and I am sure I will find the right one to meet the needs of these promoters in those countries. As far as Bollywood productions, I want to get involved with those when the time comes.
KI: Thanks for giving us a better picture of how you work Raj, and what motivates you. D.R.E is all over the place, and we hope you provide your audience with quality entertainment all over the place!
RP: Good luck and all the best.
Do you have any thoughts on this? Feel free to send Khalid an e-mail @ Khalid Ilahi.