Jimmy Love's a self-proclaimed "white boy from New Mexico," but his tastemaking skills go beyond his ethnic or national origin. The DJ started one of San Francisco's most popular club nights -- Non Stop Bhangra -- and in the process helped bring traditional Indian folk music to the dancefloor (blended with hip-hop and reggae, among other styles). He's also a part of Surya Dub, another melting pot club night that's risen in the ranks in short order.
The next two Saturdays offer two opportunities to feel the Love, as it were ... but first, check out the passion this guy puts into his practice as a DJ in our Q&A below.
Name: Jimmy Love
Style(s) of music you spin: Bhangra, hip-hop, breaks, house, dancehall, dub, world music
For the uninitiated, what is Bhangra music and what kind of twist do you put on it for Non Stop Bhangra? Bhangra music is folk music from the northern region of India called Punjab. Traditionally known as a dance to celebrate the harvest, over the years it has become the major music played at Indian celebrations or community gatherings.
Based on a 4 on 4 beat much like most Western music, it has changed over the years by adapting to the culture in which the Punjabi culture has migrated too. As the people migrated to the UK, a massive infusion of reggae, garage and drum and bass was infused into the sound. In recent years North America has played a greater role, bringing everything from hip-hop to reggaeton into the sound.
Our twist to Non Stop Bhangra is to have the whole dish, and get to enjoy it all night long. With less of a desire to be cutting edge or underground, our overall focus is to present something to people in a way they can have a good time, and walk away feeling the energy even if they don't really know what just happened.
The joy from doing an event is sharing an experience with your crowd, and what is great about NSB to me is the fact that since San Francisco is so diverse we can mix in everything from reggae to hip-hop and the crowd keeps up. When we have DJs in from other parts of the world, they just say the openness of our crowd and format covers the Bhangra spectrum.
Where did your interest in Bhangra initially come from? I initially got into Asian music when I first heard Talvin Singh and Bally Sagoo some years back, which was one part of my decision to move to San Francisco.
Bhangra music itself was more of a build, hearing tracks like "Beware of the Boys" (Punjabi MC) I was into it, but didn't really grasp the depths of the music because it was only a lifted sound and not introduced in a proper way to Americans. (Even today it's a hard style of music to track down.)
I got more into the music when I met my partner and girlfriend Vicki Virk of Dholrhythms some years later. She and her partner Suman Raj started Bhangra classes in the Bay Area, and I kept asking her where her students went to dance the moves they were learning. Since there were no places to go out and dance, I threw myself into the ring and teamed up with Dholrhythms and we threw our first Non Stop Bhangra event over four years ago.
What other elements do you add to the club night that have helped attract such a following? We really focus on community, and the crew -- which is family to me -- put all their love into the night and I think the crowd feels that authenticity. The infectious beat helps a lot, and the fact that we involve the audience and teach them about the culture and how to dance to the music, which is lacking in the vibe of most club nights. SF sometimes can ride the trends too hard, and the general person just wanting to go out and let loose gets turned off by not feeling cool enough to enjoy the music the musicheads feel is the end all.
What's the best way of staying current on dance music culture in other countries?
I find out what is going on mostly through blogs and other DJs. World music is a diggers' game, much like old funk, which is where I started. You can find some stores on-line, however they only stay current as long as someone at the site is interested or until the designer quits. Magazines play a big part as well, though I find blogs and forums is where you end up hearing what really works on a dance floor or what people really think about a sound.
I am a big bookmark person, and have added hundreds of bookmarks on my browser separated into folders. I search everyday looking for different music based on which music I am about to play. If you are really serious about a certain sound, I would track down DJs you like and start going through tracklistings from mixes they put out. Let someone else do some digging for you, and pull out your gems from them.
Name of a track you can’t get out of your head:
DJ Vadim - "Watch That Sound (J Star Remix)." It just makes me happy.
Favorite DJ experience: Hands down, opening Stern Grove Festival last summer. I was on the decks as they announced the group to 14,000 people, saying "San Francisco's own Non Stop Bhangra Collective." It was the largest crowd I had ever seen from that angle, with just a drummer and me on stage. My hair still stands up thinking about how proud I was of where we had taken it, and feeling like part of this wonderful city.
Worst request: I was booked some years back to play a NYE event, and they wanted me to go on at 12 a.m. with a breakbeat set. I was welcomed into the New Year with a girl crying because I wasn't playing Britney Spears, with two of her guy friends that didn't want to look me in the eyes. She followed with, "Please, just play something we all know" as I was playing a remix of Nirvana's "Smell's Like Teen Spirit."
Most treasured vinyl score: Way too many to pick one...
Best thing that's come out of becoming a DJ: Honestly, the friends and family you meet going through the process. People in general think it must be easy to just play songs or paint and people love you. Through the arts I have met really dedicated people who put so much into the hours no one ever sees.
I've gotten to see people who I would least expect behind me end up pulling for me when I needed it, and people come into my life for a reason I only see years later. It is also inspiring meeting people that you looked up to as you got into following your dreams, and years later meeting them and realizing you have become friends and share in the journey together. That is a trip to me, and far better than any money made.
Musical mantra: I come from the James Brown school of music, "Whatever it is, it's got to be funky!" In my personal time I can get as deep as I want, but when playing for people it is all about the groove and keeping people moving no matter the style.
Other music-related projects you're currently hard at work on: I am also part of a killer collective of cutting edge DJ's and producers, who I am truly inspired by and love to death. The night has done really well, winning Best Club Night last year, among other countless awards. Surya Dub bridges the gap between dubstep and reggae. Formed by my friend Maneesh the Twister, it features a dedicated group of people who all excel within their own sounds and bring it all together to keep SF's heart beating.
Question we didn’t ask you but you often ask yourself: How did this white boy from New Mexico ever learn how to play Bhangra?