Unlike most party producers, the organisers of the queer Middle Eastern-themed dance party Club Arak insist there’s a place for politics on the dancefloor.
At its last event in February, the Club Arak team served up a commentary on last year’s Cronulla riots as part of the closing show.
We ended off with a point about land and ownership and sharing. We had an Aboriginal friend of ours up there at the end and an Aboriginal flag waving, Club Arak’s co-producer, who likes to be known as Foufu, tells Sydney Star Observer.
To mix politics in the gay scene and have people laugh and cheer and also question themselves while they’re partying is quite hard.
I think we did it that night.
Club Arak has been trying to shake things up since it first gave local audiences a taste of Middle Eastern music at the debut event in 2002.
We tried it out and the first party was at the old Caesar’s on Parramatta Road. We just had no idea who would come.
There was a line all the way down the stairs. There were 400 people in that one room that night.
Some of the stuff we play is quite mainstream [in the Middle East] but over here it’s very different.
Club Arak has now given fans a chance to relive its nine parties so far by releasing a CD that includes tracks played at the events.
The album by Club Arak’s DJ Gemma should find a diverse fan base if the typical party attendance is any guide.
There’s big age differences and big cultural differences, Foufu says of the Club Arak crowds.
Some people go there who don’t normally go out to parties.
There are heaps of girls, which is great, and heaps of sexy boys too. Lots of bears go.
To prove its event isn’t just about revelry, Club Arak has also donated money to gay causes including an LGBT support group in Lebanon and The AIDS Trust of Australia, which is using the money to help HIV orphans in Cambodia.
[HIV] affects a lot of people, not just queers. So it’s nice for us to be able to be doing something else but it’s coming from within our community and it’s going out, so I sort of like that, Foufu says.
The Club Arak CD is available at Hum Records in Darlinghurst and Newtown, So Music in Newtown and Recycled Records in Glebe or through the Club Arak website. The next Club Arak party is planned for later in the year.