It all started with Top of the Pops, Britain’s number one pop music programme for more than thirty decades. Broadcast into living rooms nationwide every Friday night, the chart show was famed for it’s mimed ‘live’ performances, fluorescent stage and ability to snare performances from the biggest international musicians. For most of its viewers it was the perfect way to kick off the weekend, for Basmati, watching weekly from London, it was the discovery of a soundtrack to freedom. A euphoric freedom to feel alive within and in ownership of their identity in all it’s expressions. A feeling they describe as “I'm so happy I want to have sex, I want to cry and I want to beat someone up, and then I want to bake a cake.” It’s a full-sensory awakening that can only be found on the dancefloor.
The desire to share this ‘club-banger’ liberation, as well as a sharp distaste for music snobbery, drives Basmati’s sets, which they liken to their scattered brain. Determined to play everything they listen to, the DJ and event coordinator’s endless sonic references could see the Backstreet Boys mixed with ballroom or techno, swiftly followed by classic Arab and South-Asian anthems layered over funky house and grime. There are no rules, much like a night at Cousins. The decidedly underground London club-night – of which Basmati is Head Uncle – doesn’t shut anybody out and rarely turns a potential party-goer away, but it is fiercely protective of its core raver. The night was crafted specifically for queer people of colour and queer people from Muslim backgrounds. People who likely share Basmati’s memories of dancing along to chart shows and music video channels long before they were allowed to step into a club. Many of Basmati’s mixes have the sensibility of an old-school house raver yet growing up with Iranian parents who were relatively strict by Western European standards, the DJ entered the nightlife scene at 17 or 18, many can relate.
Basmati is unapologetically authentic, comfortably weaving Jamaican slang into a discussion about club classics and emphatically refusing to choose between Iranian staples pistachios and pomegranates before chanting that North London, is indeed, red. They possess that chameleon-like personality that marks children of migration; an unending multifaceted-ness that squishes together the country they’re physically located in and the country that’s located in their family home. It’s no surprise that their music choices celebrate duality and reject boundaries, that they’re plotting on merging the Spice Girls’ Viva Forever with a thumping techno tune and that they are promoting the sounds of the Arab and South-Asian diaspora yet simultaneously trying to protect it from outsiders. While not intentionally mysterious, Cousins is certainly hard to pin down. You may never make it into their 200-capacity venue in the flesh, if you do, leave your entitlement at the door and space at the front for the regulars. If you don’t, press play on STORE MIX 096 while you Instastalk Basmati for news on upcoming appearances and their bimonthly NTS show.