You Can’t Buy Soul
In a strip club, there are always fights about the women. For years, from my D.J. booth, I had a bird’s eye view of over-the-counter cash flow and stare tactics guys use to frustrate each other in their quest to win over the dancers.
As the night progresses, gents inevitably take full account of their adversaries in attractiveness, cash flow, and style. After they’ve had a few rounds, I can tell who is favoring which dancer and how he will pick himself up when she is near, becoming oh-so-charming, all the while, his eyes riveted to her.
The game is now in the public domain and the beginning of the “set-up” by which a patron can become enraged by watching her whisper into the ear of a perceived rival.
What did she just say that she had to literally put it in his ear, he’ll ask himself. From across this light show-confused, smoky bar, a whisper can even be imagined as a kiss and that can be enough to set off the melee. There is always a strong chance that the rivals could be dating the same women, unbeknownst to each other.
It only adds to the drama. There she stands retreating into her own world, as the first punch on her behalf is thrown, and security takes both guys out to the parking lot.
Truth is that in the minds and souls of most men I know, women are objects of possession. Some men feel a need to control women by “designing” them from an early age to be soft and cute, while boys are put in command positions, “G.I. Joe,” the Transformers, Star Wars – in all these epic adventures the outcomes are ultimately determined by men.
How would you like to convince a woman, the most powerful creature on earth, that she is limited to, relegated to, assigned to – fill in the blank – that she is helpless without you and you will control her for as long as those of similar wickedness conspire with you.
Have you seen a recent picture of congress or of the Supreme Court Justices? Such an uneven membership representing the U.S. of us.
What are women’s special powers, anyway? Bringing spirit life into the material world, for one. I mean, one would think that women would be exalted above everything except the Almighty Herself! How did things come to be where the first female president is such a long-time-coming, far off thought? And an African/Nubian of any gender an even further muse?
I revere women and there I was in the strip club with the most intelligent, prettiest, most misunderstood, ugliest women in the world. Beautiful monsters dancing onstage, and a club full of fellas who only saw what they wanted to see. The guys thought they were in charge. What an exquisite deception.
“I Need a Man,”, by Annie Lennox was a big hit with the ladies along with “Be Good To me” and “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” by Tina Turner. Left to my own sense of heroism, I sided myself with the ladies in almost every way, well, almost.
What I’ve noticed is that order to win, men have to be willing to lose and some people just don’t know how to do that with grace and humility. Yeah, dancers take dollar bills mostly, and what’s a dollar worth on the world money exchange rate again?
So, let me back track a little here…
After I established myself as the D.J. to know, I was approached more and more by fellas who also needed recognition. The music I played attracted local musicians from all-star bands in the area like Bon-Jovi and Skid Row. I remember when I met Sebastian Bach, the strikingly handsome lead singer of Skid Row, and how amazed I was when he requested “Family Affair,” by Sly Stone. I had no idea how he was aware that wonderful song existed, but his cool points went way through the roof since that song has special meaning to folks from my side of the tracks. Sly’s vocal performance on that track alone is as legendary as any before or since.
I got cool with Tony Bon-Jovi, Jon’s younger brother, and Bon Jovi’s drummer, Tico Torre; and Curt Jones, a lead vocalist, guitarist of Slave and Aurra fame. In addition to them, I became acquainted with lawyers, doctors, CEOs, Deans of Colleges, head architects of major firms, real estate moguls, and drug dealers. And while the ladies danced above the bar, each of them was elbowing the other for attention and respect.
“Yo, D.J.Tee, you gotta play, “Atomic Dog” by George Clinton, or “Are You Single?” and “Make up Your Mind,” by Aurra, or “Turbo Lover,” by Judas Priest for her, the one with the red hair and double Ds, and tell her it’s from me, and make sure she knows who I am.”
That’s how it went every night, and I watched the guys compete through music to get to a woman, because it kept me directly involved with the outcome. And you know what? I could never lose.
MASTER OF CEREMONY
As my reputation grew, so did my scope of work. The CEOs began to ask me to be Master of Ceremony and Disc Jockey for their award events, and I was excited to dress and prime myself for what my skills and sounds were really designed for: sophistication
I really went all out at award ceremonies. The music I selected had to have brilliant horn arrangements as the sound of a triumphant army would have to hail their victory. This meant saxophonists David Sanborn, Grover Washington Jr., and Ronnie Laws, flutists Bobbi Humphrey and Jean Luc-Ponty. Vocal groups like Sweet Honey in the Rock and Take 6 would be prominent in my selection, along with Frank Sinatra, Nat King Cole, and Dean Martin since those last three are the ultimate in sophistication.
Now, award ceremonies have as much mad, crazy drama as Friday night at a strip club. The sore losers and the overlooked, the office brownnosers, and corporate sluts — male and female — are the easiest to spot.
And unlike in a strip club where the girls keep things to themselves, the D.J. will hear why, when, and who did everything. What girls are cheating on whom; what man is seeing someone’s wife on the side. You see, the D.J. is outside the loop, and since it will be six months to a year before the next event, for this one night he is privy to all the “dirt.”
Now, all the single ladies like a well-dressed D.J. who plays “Its Rainin’Men” by the Weather Girls. That is a motivator for women to come on out of their inhibitions; and a chance for the fellas to surround the dance floor like lions searching out the most vulnerable prey for their kill. Sometimes the ladies come and drag me to the dance floor, and I do my best to give them some of my rhythm. They really want to dance with someone who won’t pursue them at work or view their dancing as a prelude to sex, and I’m a safe bet in that regard.
So I usually extend both my arms straight up and slowly sway side-to-side and let them dance all around me moving freely and without restraint, tossing their hair and circling back and forth. While I force a compliant smile, I keep remembering how this always happens, yet I can’t believe it each time it does.
After a song or two, I’m free to get back to work and I haven’t offended any of the guys by playing too long with the office “candy.” This almost assures me that my contract for the next event will stand, and not be shopped to the next guy. Every year, drunken brou-ha-has break out in the men’s room and these fights are intense since they sometimes build up over years and the resentment of losing “Employee of the Year” or “Executive of the Year” is like losing a team sport championship, and everyone takes sides in the matter. There just aren’t enough trophies and promotions to go around, and thankfully these disagreements take place after all the “Bosses” have left.
Why the winners hang around to celebrate or gloat, the world may never know, but if I ever win something like that “Big Promotion,” I’m outta there in thirty minutes and I’ll use the bathroom when I get home.
I’ve learned that when the night grows long, the best way to calm the natives is always Reggae music. It literally transports them to a friendly place inside themselves and lets those attracted to each other solidify the question of intent by demanding they dance together closely and look in each other’s eyes and watch each other’s bodies move.
Anyone who doesn’t have a groove on the dance floor can usually blend in and hide behind the unique syncopation of Reggae. Besides, the seductive feel of it just grabs the human sheet music and writes a song of warmth and invitation. Bands like The Wailers and The Mighty Diamonds with Burning Spear and Black Uhuru, Dennis Brown, Bunny Wailer, Marcia Griffiths, Shaba Ranks, Peter Tosh, Inner Circle, Sean Paul and Shaggy, The I- Threes, and Aswad… “Yeah, Mon.”
Reggae is music that has the characteristics of a heartfelt plea. In the hands of the musicians from the lands of its origin, and the master sculptor who crafted the Steel Drum out of polluted oil barrels that washed up on pristine beaches, dumped there by “civilized” nations. What ancient science implanted in their genetic code led them to take such a dead-end and bring it to life? To create a new instrument and music now studied at universities around the globe.
Barren of commercialism, reggae is a “One-on-one, between you and me” kind of music, and it beckons you to find your own way to its rhythms. “Raid Blues Dance,” by Steel Pulse is a song I rely on regularly, and the club owners always want more of that. When I play, Third World, they come alive as an awesome instrument of peace and resolve on the dance floor with the wonderful percussive keyboards and congas and strong electric guitar solos this reggae band “rocks” their audience to the core and makes me look like a genius.
Reggae is the “rhythm and blues” of the islands. When you listen into it, you can see the waves of the oceans, feel the heat of the sun, grow like the abundant plant-life and witness the attributes of nature manifest herself within you. Raising the human spirit, constant contribution to life, giving thanks to your ancestors, and elders is the message while raising the youth up. This “Soul Music” inspires love as well as it expresses pain.
More often than not, the ladies who really enjoy music tend to hang around the D.J. booth requesting songs that will get their girlfriends going, and always ask if I can lower the lights — lower please — and where’s that song I wanted 30 minutes ago? The ladies are my best friends at this venue because they’re in complete control and I like that.
A PRIVATE DANCE
But, back to where I started, the strip club, where, like the award winners at the corporate parties, the men are seeking their trophies.
The fact is dancing on a stage above the bar is the easy part of any dancer’s job. But private dances became an integral part of a club’s ability to make money. If a guy is watching a lady’s performance all he has to do is wait until she makes her way around the bar. If she’s not attracted to him, she can play to it by simply touching his hand as he tips her, or whispering softly in his ear and moving on.
Private dances change all that and trap the dancer into making complete body contact with a guy, giving him control in a manner she’d never dreamt. Now, he’s got her in a darkened room, her private parts swaying immediately above his loins, and he’s mentally penetrating her as never before, Oh the horror of it, she might be thinking, as she leaves with 20 dollars and gives the house 10.
Once a rich man wanted a dance from a lady named Shari who was so fine she was usually exempt from having to do them. But he offered to pay her well, about 300 dollars for 8 minutes, so she agreed.
In this part of the world, Shari was Hollywood with the most picture-perfect hair, body and face I’ve ever seen in real life. She was the best dancer outside of Africa, too. The rich gentleman followed her into the private room with the biggest smile, and I thought “that boy is gonna get the dance of his life.”
Well, eight minutes later, Shari came out looking bored as hell, and he came out with a frown a mile long.
Shocked, I asked what happened, and he said, “She wouldn’t let me stare into her eyes as she danced for me.”
He told me he wanted to look directly into her eyes, look into her soul, and make her his. The fact that for the right price she gave him what no other man in the bar would get that night– status– should have been enough for him, but of course it wasn’t. It had nothing to do with sex. He wanted to penetrate her divineness, break her down, and control her.
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She told me later that she breathed into his ear and let him touch her naked waist with both hands, even got close enough for him to smell her sweet breath, but she was not about to let him inside, penetrate any of her in her spirit/mind, so when the time was up, she grabbed this fool’s money and hastily made her retreat, letting him know they would not be going down that road again, and reminding herself, hopefully for the last time, why she didn’t do private dances.
From the booth as I looked down upon the spectacle of it all, I couldn’t help thinking that you can collect trophies and maybe even buy time… but you can’t buy soul.
Groomed to be an accomplished dealer of funky music from childhood, T’challah has studied all genres of music as an avid listener and drummer, guitarist and singer. He began Dee-Jaying parties at eight years old. He graduated from Essex County College where he majored in communications. T’challah has done approximately sixty weddings and 105 award ceremonies. A graduate from The Center for Media Arts with their “Golden Ear” Award, T’challah studied to become a recording and video engineer. He has worked for Hype Williams and Erik White as a live sound engineer and on videos for successful Rap Artist D.M.X., Ja-rule, and Nelly. He’s currently producing Hip-Hop and R&B acts with Erik White and Michael “Moon” Reuben.