By Gregory Adams
VANCOUVER — Even before Sadar Bahar started working the decks on his own, he was absorbing the culture of Chicago’s party scene as far back as the ’70s. While these early-day experiences of watching other DJs taught him plenty of skills of the trade—from the fundamentals of cross-fading to figuring out which records go together and which don’t—one of the most important lessons he learned was to never underestimate your crowd. No shade if you’re the kind of selector that pre-loads your Serato with a series of boomin’ back-to-back tracks, but as Bahar explains on the line with BeatRoute from his home in Illinois, he walks into his worldwide appearances with only the loosest sense of which funk, soul, and disco rarities he’ll be busting out of his record bag.
“I just do it off the top of my head. I’m a DJ that’s been out here before all this hype stuff started, I’m one of the ones that started this thing,” the vinyl-only DJ says matter-of-factly while he and a couple of buddies enjoy a John Wayne flick on TV.
He adds on the topic of other DJs’ pre-selected faux pas: “You get to a party with a set in your mind, and you’ve never seen these people? They could be having a horrible time while you’re sitting here, going through a set you think is hot. You’ve got to play to the people’s knowledge — how they react, how they dance, and how they move.”
Ever since getting his first set of Technics turntables, a gift from his mom, Bahar has been blessing parties and clubs with a plethora of rarified R&B sounds. A noted crate digger, his collection has only gotten bigger since first coming up in the Chicago house scene of the ’80s, with thousands of rare finds having managed to creep their way into his arsenal. Wax platters that never quite made it en masse to North America are often on his hit list, with the potential treasure of a musty box at a record show or vintage shop appealing more to the DJ than the simplified point-and-click of the Discogs.com scene.
“I’m always on the hunt,” he says proudly. “But I’ve got, like, a good-sized record store [worth of material] in my basement. I’m always finding stuff, and I deal with a lot of collectors, so pretty much every day I’m buying stuff.”
In addition to his year-round club appearances, which he fills with neon-pink disco grooves and rare soul, the producer’s tasty edits of ’70s funk crews the Rimshots or Leon Lee have popped up through his Chicken Wing Edits series of 12-inches. Though it’s been about six years since volume two dropped, Bahar teases that a third instalment is on the way. His Soul in the Hole compilation from 2012 has likewise become classic, filtering together anything from the vintage, cranked-thermostat thump of Lonnie Givens’ “The Heat is On” to the ecstatic, bass-slappin’ sounds of Chuck Higgins & The Wild Bunch’s “Funkyfied.”
Unsurprisingly, even more edits are on the horizon, with a new 7” single potentially being spun on Bahar’s upcoming run of spring dates. While keeping the specifics of the A-side close to his chest, he admitted it’s a track he “used to always play,” despite the audio specs being a bit off for his tastes. “They made it on 33, but it should have been on 45,” he allows. “So we had to do some work to it to make it playable.”
Beyond refurbishing few forgotten gems, Bahar also has a project of originals coming up at some point in the near future.
“The album is going to be raw material; it’s going to be stuff we did in the studio with a bass player, a guitar player and a drummer, all from scratch,” he says, noting that the recording sessions, which yielded somewhere in the neighbourhood of 20 original compositions, took place in Amsterdam. An ETA has yet to be finalized, but it’s looking like the full-length will be preceded by 12-inch singles on Detroit house label Sound Signature, Rush Hour, and a new label that’s being started up by Bahar.
Whether crowds will hear him spinning these latest, modern-day soul songs alongside dusted-off finds from the bargain bins, collectors crates, and beyond is anybody’s guess, Bahar’s included. All that is certain is he’ll pop at least a few dozen LPs and a fat stack of 45s into his bag before he heads out on the road, and take it from there. His simply-stated ethos: “I always change it up.”
Sadar Bahar plays the Pacific Rhythm showcase for Seasons Festival at Open Studios on March 26.BC, British Columbia, Open Studios, Sadar Bahar, Seasons, Seasons Festival