Retro Night - stepping to the tune of old times | Sunday Observer

Retro Night - stepping to the tune of old times

Ready to rock: Blue Elephant DJs prepare to share the music. Pic: Shan Rambukwella
Ready to rock: Blue Elephant DJs prepare to share the music. Pic: Shan Rambukwella

It is the gathering! This time at their favourite haunt – the ‘Blue’. It would be “just like old times, in fact, better,” say the organizers. Retro Night, a get-together of the clientele of Colombo Hilton’s Blue Elephant Club to share the music of old times, is organised by the Hotel. While it is “more of a private party, by personal invitations, being old Blue Elephant clientele is the only criteria.” Bringing in old charms to the Blue Elephant at Colombo Hilton with their favourite DJs spinning the disks, eight exuberant DJs shared their experience with the Sunday Observer, when they met recently at the Hilton.

He is looking forward to “more than just an event,” says DJ Wendell. “Old crowd is family, just one big family, so it’s going to be just like a private party,” adds DJ Thoshan. It would be “a great opportunity to get together,” DJ Dhanushka chips in. They are all waiting. Waiting to give their best to people who they have got to know over the years, with whom they shared one love – the love for music.

While the music played, lives were made and lives were changed. They became “one big family, there was no difference between staff and the clubgoer. All enjoyed the music,” is what’s echoed through sentiment. Memories, stories galore.

“If we sit together and tell our stories you’ll be here for the next millennium,” opines DJ Wendell, “we’re a bunch of guys who had known each other and worked together over many years.” He is excited about the prospect of Retro Night. “I am looking forward to it, just like meeting your family after a long time.”

It was back in 1987, that the Blue Elephant opened its doors to music lovers and merrymakers of Colombo. It’s going to be a memorable event for DJ Bunty the first ‘Resident DJ’ at the Blue Elephant. “I was a flight steward at the time and was given the opportunity to play at another club, by a friend,” he reminiscences. When in 1987, the Blue Elephant started at Hilton with DJ Karen Askew from Singapore, he was recruited. “In the eighties people knew what the music scene was about and what they wanted to hear. Clubs at the time strictly played on records. Spinning the vinyl is the ultimate experience.” It wasn’t only the records. “We had the most advanced technology at any time. The lighting was computerised. The very first CD players were at the Blue Elephant. We introduced ‘house music’ and released CDs,” adds DJ Noushad who had also been one of the DJs at the start. “We had a very successful regular crowd, even from abroad. The Blue Elephant was very popular among the clubgoers,” he muses. It was regarded as a place patronized by those of the higher echelons, its ambience and music helped the club gain international fame as one of the best in the Asian region within a very short period.

He remembers the American boxer Evander Holyfield, visiting the Blue Elephant “whenever he was in the region,” says DJ Pradeep of his times at the club. “With state-of-the-art equipment, playing for a crowd with a good understanding of music, who enjoyed variety, was fun all the time, and didn’t feel like work,” he ponders.

DJ Kapila who also had been at the club from the start, recalls how they had been, “the only night club of international standard in Colombo.” He speaks of how they maintained international standards through “strict regulations, dress codes, and more.” The club played varied genre of music introducing new kinds to its clientele till it was closed in 2005. According to Kapila, it was a place close to people’s hearts. “Many of the country’s top business people grew up with the club. Some even met their partners here,” he adds. It had been a place where the crowds could revel peacefully.

DJ Danushka affirms. “It was a niche crowd who understood music and responded well. Now, clubgoers comprise a younger crowd who enjoys electronic music,” he says, comparing his time at the Blue Elephant to that of the contemporary. “I thought it would be good for us to get together, and suggested it when some of us met.” Danushka is happy that his idea is being implemented to bring joy to many. His colleague DJ Harith, won’t participate at the event as he is away in USA, he says, recalling the times and the part he played in the life of the Blue Elephant. “Being a DJ at the Blue Elephant, when you are just 21 was a privilege I had,” says DJ Thoshan. While it was a learning experience with veterans playing at the club, “I enjoyed the freedom they gave me to do my own mixing and develop my own style.” He is hopeful that the two nights of music would be “spectacular.”

DJ Viran is grateful to the club and the people. “I was the replacement for Ray, who passed away untimely. He contributed a lot to raise the standards of the club, and gain fame,” he recalls, while others indicate affirmation.

Though his personal taste of music was different to that played at the club, “people who visited the club played a big part in my journey of music,” he reflects. “I grew up with the club as well.”

That’s what makes him take time out for playing at the club for two nights even though he is in the country after 15 years.

Eight of the ten DJs who were at the Blue Elephant will be available on the two Retro Nights to entertain the crowds. Open to the old clientele of the Blue Elephant, Retro Nights is scheduled to be held on August 10 and 11 (Friday and Saturday) at the Colombo Hilton.