Club Arak -“ the club night with Middle Eastern spice -“ comes from simple beginnings. A group of friends would have loungeroom parties playing their records from overseas, and everyone would dance, and dance, and dance.
Organiser Alissar Gazal says she had always hoped to put something like Club Arak together, but doubted there would be enough interested people in Sydney. When she took a trip overseas and witnessed first-hand the booming Middle Eastern queer scene in London and Beirut, she knew it was time to bring Sydney up to speed.
[Club Kali in London] was the most exhilarating thing I’ve been to. The diversity of people was amazing -“ the music was fantastic. I was standing there going, -˜Wow, I’ve danced for three hours, I’ve had such a good time,’ she said.
And then I was in Beirut at Club Acid, which is a gay and lesbian club there, and there was this incredible fusion of Arabic and hip hop music. The whole thing was so wild.
Gazal said she and the other organisers realised the idea of a Middle Eastern-themed club night was an unknown in Australia. They expected 150 or 200 people to show up to the November night at Caesars in Camperdown. Instead they got more than 500, and according to all of the after-party hype, everyone had an amazing time.
The music was just great. [DJ] Gemma has got herself a reputation, she’s been around for a long, long time, and she was willing to push the boundaries. We spent many hours with her listening to music -“ we got some music from overseas. She was really open-minded about it, she said.
Gemma has signed on for the next party -“ which will be held on Saturday 15 February as part of the Mardi Gras festival. The venue has changed to the Off Broadway Hotel.
We want people to come along and let their hair down and dance. Our emphasis is on the music and on the dancing, she said.
As well as introducing the girls and boys of Sydney to Middle Eastern beats, the organisers had another reason for hosting the party.
There’s quite a growing community of Arabic gay and lesbian people. We’ve found it frustrating there hasn’t been a voice for us, or a place we can call our own. There’s never been any acknowledgment that we exist, Gazal said.
We want to create a positive image of Arabic Australians, which is really lacking. We want to create a space for a lot of non-Anglo Australians -“ so they know it’s their space. It doesn’t matter where you come from, what language you speak. If you are queer, you’re welcome.
Club Arak, the Middle Eastern-flavoured dance night for queers of all colour, will be held at the Off Broadway Hotel, Broadway Shopping Centre, on Saturday 15 February from 10pm to 3am. Tickets are $12 at the door. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.