After RH’s second House Of Music magazine, it is now time to start working on a third one. We are so pleased that disco king Sadar Bahar is coming back to Somewhere In Amsterdam to play more fantastic hidden gems from his huge record collection. Reason enough for us to share Bahar’s story that we featured in the second HOM edition.
Theo Parrish calls him one of the best American DJs around. His record collection is as large as it is famed. And because of the ‘Soul in the Hole’ compilation he did over a year ago, Sadar Bahar made quite a few new friends. Despite of all this, the endearing American has been struggling for years. “Chicago is a gangster city. Throwing parties is a huge challenge, but I have to do it.”
If you ever witnessed a DJ-set by Sadar Bahar, you know the crowd indulges in his great vibes. That happened at a Somewhere in Amsterdam party (regularly thrown by Rush Hour), at s sold out Lowlands festival or in the dampy caves of a former train station in Rotterdam. His sets of obscure disco, boogie and shreds of gospel usually win everybody over. Many fans even compare it to a spiritual experience. A few hours of dancing to Bahar’s history lesson leaves you with a huge smile on your face, a sweaty back and many new friends. Sadar Bahar is one of those DJs who bring pure joy to people.
For Bahar joy comes in a record sleeve: vinyl. He doesn’t play anything else. CD’s don’t interest him. Memory sticks and mp3’s even less so. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, he smiles. “When you’re behind your computer downloading music files you simply do not feel the same excitement as when you dig out a record.”
Vinyl. Even Sadar Bahar’s dreams are captured in grooves. The record collection of the American DJ is so extensive; his own house is not enough to stack it all. Even his mother’s basement is filled with records. He confesses he sometimes owns as many as nine copies of a single release. “I know, even for me that’s pushing it, haha.” Wherever Bahar travels, he always pays a visit to the local record stores. Dusty old shops with boxes scattered all around are the best, he knows. “That’s where you can still find the gems “, he claims. Places where not even the owner remembers what he has in store anymore. Kneel down and wear out your jeans for hours on end, going through all those bins. It’s paradise, according to Bahar. No wonder he is looking forward to visiting the Netherlands again. “I always end up missing the record fair in Utrecht, but not this year”, he says, beaming.
Bahar has been specializing in singles lately. 7inches. He noticed the sources running dry. It’s now or never. “A while ago I drove for hours to visit a shop where I used to be a regular back in the days. When I finally arrived, a sign said ‘no disco’. Turns out the whole collection had been bought up by Japanese collectors.”
Later, when Bahar went to Japan for a show, he understood why. “Japan has some very fanatical collectors, their record stores look like ours did in the seventies.” Friends of Bahar tell him he probably owns more records than he could ever possibly play. He knows they are right, but giving up collecting is simply impossible. “It’s an addiction. Whenever I hear a super funky record I just have to have it myself.”
Sadar Bahar (1968) starts DJing on his thirteenth. He learns the technical tricks from DJ Charles Breckenridge, while Frankie Knuckles shows him the magic of the dancefloor. Later Bahar will play back to back with the Chicago house legend in Club Fisque. At the Music Box he meets Lee Collins, DJ and future soul mate.
Together with Collins, Bahar starts organizing dance parties in Chicago. First under the Goldmine Productions banner, later as Soul in the Hole. It turns out the name is derived from a record store in Detroit where both friends spend a considerable amount of money on a weekly basis. “We asked the owner whether we could use his name for our DJ and dance collective. He was cool with it and said: ‘I am not mixing and I am not dancing. I sell records. So go ahead’.”
Towards the end of the eighties house emerges in Chicago. Many colleagues of Bahar switch to this new and exciting genre. Sadar himself however stays true to his own style of disco, soul and boogie. “I did try it” he sighs, “but I just wasn’t feeling it. I need a drummer and a real singer who knows how to hit notes. This combined energy of a band is something that really resonates within me. My soul runs deep.”
City of Gangsters
While house music explodes everywhere around him and mutates into various different sub styles, Bahar keeps on doing his own thing. Steadily he builds up an enormous collection of disco records; buying up entire collections, and at the same time organizing his own parties. Chicago is known as the birthplace of house, but Bahar and his fellow promoters have experienced nothing but hindrance by the law. “Throwing parties is an enormous challenge. The police want everybody home at two. Twelve-to-twelve parties have become impossible. Chicago is a gangster city, you know. Everybody wants their cut, even the authorities.”
According to Bahar that’s the most important reason why clubs in the “Windy City” could never last. “The Music Box, the Warehouse and my own Kings & Queens have all been closed down within two or three years. At the same time, politicians are asking why the murder rate in Chicago is so high. People here are tense, ready to explode. So why not give them a place to release?”
Nowadays Bahar turns down most of his American booking requests. “To us it’s about the music. But often local promoters are more interested in making money”, he sighs. No wonder he prefers playing in Japan and Europe, where he has built up a dedicated network of music fans that love having him over. “There’s a lot of disco heads out there”, Bahar smiles.
He even lived in the Netherlands for a while and was determined to settle permanently. “I needed a break. Some peace of mind. In Chicago I became too distracted by side issues to be able to focus on music.”
But finding a permanent place to stay proves more difficult than he anticipated. As a foreign DJ with no steady income, getting a mortgage is too much of a challenge. These days Bahar is back in the Chicago, the city he continues to have a love-hate relationship with.
As a DJ, Sadar Bahar is all the way old-school. Not only because he solely plays vinyl (coming from cute briefcases filled with 7-inches), but also because he swears by the American technical set-up, that consists of a ‘lollipop’ headphone and a rotary mixer. Equipment used in legendary clubs like Paradise Garage and the Music Box that have become part of vinyl culture, according to Bahar. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, Bahar repeats. And again bursts out in laughter.
Will Bahar be doing the same thing in 10 years from now we asked him? “Definitely.” Even though things like reading the small print on labels and travelling have become a bit more demanding for him these days. “Already as a kid I knew I wanted to be a DJ my entire life.” Bahar sees DJing as his calling. Someone should spread the gospel. Let it be him. “There’s so much music around that doesn’t get the appreciation it deserves. Often made by musicians that aren’t even around anymore. On top of this, on a good night I get so much back from the audience. Even though they don’t know my music, they understand what I’m trying to do.” When Bahar played in the famous Panorama bar in Berlin last year, some people left crying of joy; one person even fainted. “That gig gave me more confidence. If I can even emotionally move people in a techno club, I must be doing something right.”
Text: Rene Passet
Translation: Andrei Vilcov
Editing: Max Cole
Cover photo: Joss Kottmann
Somewhere In Amsterdam ft. Sadar Bahar
26th of April, 2015