Here’s a delightful fact: the entrance to the Geisha Bar in Northbridge is not merely a door. It’s a wormhole. A shortcut through spacetime. A really handy way to save on airfares. Of course, a wormhole’s not as predictable as Qantas, so you take a bit of a gamble and sometimes end up in a zoo’s dangerous reptiles enclosure. But lately, the gamble’s been paying off. The weekend has unfurled, punctuated with spectacular hip-hop/rnb from Seattle, hazy parties, warm days, cool lagers. But this is one of those Sunday evenings that comes around and you’re not quite done yet: you want to squeeze out every last drop of weekend-juice. At times like this, the wormhole conveniently allows you transcend time and place, making it the perfect last stop on your journey towards Monday.
So I weave along the streets and clip up that dark and reticent stairwell. The yellow glow of the bitumen shrinks below me; the crumble and purr of streetside footsteps fades from earshot. A pink flash overwhelms me and my atoms go sailing through the ether.
When I regain my senses a moment later, a new set of smells, sights and sounds surround me. A sweet, smoky odour – shisha, maybe? Red, pink, golden hues glowing from lights and windows. Lokum, spiced cocktails, baklava abounds. Amid the heady haze and the moonlight, a row of flags and matching streamers confirm my suspicions: the wormhole’s taken me to Turkey. Turkey!
Groove merchants are lining up tout their finest discs. As the disco ball spins and glints, they err each other on, slapping down rare eastern gems from the realms of funk, disco, psych rock, exotica and electronica. The fierce warble of a Zurna, the strum of a Saz or the distinctive rich intonings of a Turkish singer is never far from a heart-rate-hastening drum break or slapping, popping bass/guitar pattern. Two particularly adept beat-eaters named JO LETTENMAIER and LEIGHTON HEAD are overseeing the smoke-cloaked decks; the former, it turns out, has taken control of the entire wormhole for the evening, along with partner-in-psychedelic-crime JACK DOEPEL. I sip on a tangy rum punch. A flute melody ripples through the air.
“This is totally not Turkish,” disclaims a young lady stood behind a strange landscape of Hello Kitty blankets, computers and glowing machines. Maybe not, but it’s exciting. Her name is MEI SARASWATI and she springs into a set of euphoric textures, percussion tapestries and soulful singing. Saraswati’s compositions are tight, rigourously arranged and mindful of ensuring a good listening experience: sections never drag on despite being good enough to warrant a protracted airing. The wordly sounds that are gathered together are crisp and intriguing, channeling any number of cultural timbres sensitively into an R&B/electronica framework. The fact that Mei Saraswati can operate an APC deftly while singing her heart out, never missing a note, is remarkable, and to witness it is mindblowing. With all that skill you’d assume she would at least fall down in the banter department, but she’s as relaxed and affable between songs as any performer you might have encountered. In the words of Kenny Chesney: she’s got it all.
Soon a man appears in a t-shirt emblazoned with the Turkish flag, promising a set that is almost entirely comprised of Turkish sounds. DIGER ROKWELL is a major exponent of ‘beat tourism’ – travelling to far-flung lands, crate-digging like a fiend, reworking the cream of the findings into sample-based hip hop compositions. Tonight Diger gives us an insight into his Turkish adventures, a sort of beatcraft show-and-tell crossed with an all-out dance party. There are generous dollops of disco amongst the more Dilla-inspired adaptations and boom-bap party beats; this is an eclectic set that manages to artistically reimagine its source material without sacrificing the essence that made it so good in the first place.
The smoke billows, the knees pop, the feet stomp, the ginger-infused vodka flows. Groove-hungry folk slide into the wormhole from the neighbouring extravaganza that is the Ezra Pound Block Party, an astro-turfed explosion of Sunday night good vibes just around the corner. A winning combo! We can thank Jo and Jack’s technicolour nightlife initiative called DAISUKI (part of the “Innerspace” series of shows) for taking us through that extra-special portal to a world delights that truly catered for all senses. Fresh steaming pastries, people. What more could we ask for? If this pattern continues, Daisuki might well merit a weekly teleport. Sağlığınıza!