Preserve the soul

Interview with Sadar Bahar

Preserve the soul

22-11-2013 | 17.09

Sadar Bahar grew up in Chicago, playing alongside the likes of Frankie Knuckles and Ron Hardy. He cultivated his skill playing a breed of music that would soon become known as house. This coming Saturday he will be mixing up some soul–in-the-hole gems for the Rush Hour Weekender at Trouw. We managed to have a word with the house legend at Rush Hour while immersed in his favourite activity: digging for records. 

I believe you cut your teeth playing at the warehouse in Chicago…
(Antal starts laughing in the background) See, they get it confused. The warehouse that Frankie played at was not the warehouse that we were all playing at. The one we played at was on Randalf. The one Frankie was playing at was on Jefferson in 1977. 

This was way before it was called House though. 
Yeah we weren’t calling it house yet. We were calling it soul and disco. Once the music that Frankie was playing at the warehouse was claimed as house music, we started pretty much calling everything house music. We went through a serious punk phase. Playing a lot of  The Cars, Whip it and Gary Numan. We were calling that house and that was so not House. I guess it was a Chicago thing. Everybody was calling everything House. 

Was there any inclination that you were part of something unique and special at the time?
Yeah, you could kinda feel it, cause it was cultish. House wasn’t just the music; it was more like a culture. You could look at a person on the bus and be like, “ah he’s house”, and there be no music playing. It was a lifestyle.

How do you believe the scene has developed over the years?
Well, now like anything that grows, it’s got commercialised. A lot of the real house feeling, like love and commitment has gone. Me, I loved house growing up as a kid, but as I got older I started getting more into the artists and instrumentation. And I didn’t really feel House like that anymore. I started getting more into the disco, soul, afrobeat, reggae and just, different stuff. 

You currently live in Amsterdam…. 
No, I moved back to Chicago. 

You do seem to have a special bond with Rush Hour. 
Yeah, that’s like family. I’m always with the RH crew doing parties and having a great time. Me and Antal are currently working on a project that we should be putting out soon. Ha Antal! 
Antal: “I don’t know”

Can you tell us a little more about this project?
It’s really just gonna be like a compilation. We haven’t been telling a lot of people what’s going to be on it, because we wanna surprise everybody. It will be nice. Everybody knows Antal picks out a lot of good music and everybody knows I pick out a lot of good music. It’s going to be something special. 

Is it going to be anything like your recent Soul in the Hole compilations?

How did the Soul in the Hole concept come about?
We first started off as Goldmine productions, and then we changed to Capital sounds. But Soul in the Hole just felt right to what we were doing. We are like the last cats out here that’s playing the soul music and trying to preserve the soul.  When we started digging it wasn’t a popular thing to do, but then it grew. Now you have all these groups doing the same thing. Its power in numbers, but it’s a two-way street. People are discovering things that you discovered 30 years ago.  

How is the digital revolution affecting this part of DJ culture in your opinion?
I can’t stand it. I think it has really killed the game. I am one of the cats that believe if something is not broke, don’t fix it. Now you have everybody thinking that they could be a DJ, but they don’t understand that the DJ makes the party.
When you are a DJ, you have to learn how to read the people. You know, if you see they aren’t accepting the type of music you’re playing, you are going to have to change it up and go with another style of music. A lot of people don’t understand that. Give them a couple of CD’s or a laptop and they think they are a DJ. It’s killing the culture. 

Do you think it will eventually spell the end for the vinyl enthusiast?
See … there are two different fields going on. You got the people, like myself, that really love this and can’t change it. It’s like a sickness. You are always searching for those original pieces. It’s not a fad. The other side of this is the people that really don’t care about the records. They are trying to look at it, like it’s a gimmick. They’re perpetrating. But, it is good to see some new, real kids coming up. They love the music and they are finding these original pieces. It reminds you of when you were a kid. It’s like your work is not in vain. You get to see it coming up with the youngsters. It’s wonderful and it’s happening all over the world at the moment.

Speaking of sickness, your friend Donna McGhee once stated that you couldn’t play all of your records in two lifetimes. 
It’s not something that you plan on doing, you know. “I’m gonna have a huge collection”. It just happens. You are always looking to stay on top of the job. It’s a fun job but its still a job… making people have a good time. 

How do you decide then what goes out with you on the night?
A lot of times, I try to have a different variety around me. I specialise in Disco, so I always have some disco around. I bring a little soul, a little funk, a little old school house or sometimes the new stuff. I have friends in Chicago still making good music. I’m blessed to get a lot of their stuff before it even comes out. It helps to stay ahead of the game.  I love it.

Bearing your two lifetimes worth of music in mind, do you think you should be Rush Hour with more records on this occasion?
It’s something you can’t stop doing. There’s always something. Right now while we are doing this interview, there’s probably somebody out there making a cut that we’re gonna want. It doesn’t stop. 

Text: Mischa Mathys