This Saturday night, the Howlin’ Wolf might feel more like the set of a Bollywood movie than a live music venue.
The traveling Jai Ho! Dance Party, hosted by performer Prashant Kakad, takes over the space with Indian-style electronic music and dancing. Guests are invited to wear traditional Indian costumes or clothes in vibrant hues. For an added festive touch, they can adorn themselves with intricate henna tattoos at the party.
The bash, produced by Bollywood Dreams Entertainment, is based in Portland, but they’ve stopped in San Diego, Seattle, and San Francisco, among other cities on the West Coast. This will be the second time the production company stages a party in New Orleans.
“Taking this to a different city is not something new to me. But I was touched by how much people in New Orleans want to support (us),” a charismatic Kakad said, explaining how he developed friendships with fellow dancers during his last visit to the Crescent City.
“The New Orleans community is very much about supporting music and art, and I really appreciate that,” Kakad said. “And, it's open to new things, which is also just beautiful.”
The Jai Ho! Dance Party begins at 9:30 p.m. with a Zumba session, followed by an interactive Bollywood-inspired dance lesson, performed to the sounds of “crossover Indian dance music” that comprises Bollywood and Bhangra rhythms, and remixes.
Kakad, an experienced choreographer, described the lessons as “very attractive and engaging.”
“It’s not like: ‘OK, now we're going stop the music and count (the steps)," he said.
After the lessons, Kakad will spin tunes and sing while guests groove on the dance floor, illuminated by black lights. Indian desserts will be served throughout the night.
Kakad was raised in Mumbai, India, and moved to the United States nearly 15 years ago to study science at Cornell University. He later worked at Intel as an engineer but left that company to pursue a career as a performer.
“I thought I might go to India and become a singer with 'Indian Idol,' which is equal to 'American Idol,' but I somehow stayed here,” Kakad said, adding that while in the U.S. he began teaching dance and learning how to DJ. He also focused on singing.
“I kind of felt like I was doing better here,” he said. “I was getting so much support from the community.”
Kakad launched his entertainment career by performing in Indian communities and spinning music inspired by the massive South Asian country and beyond.
“I would do salsa, merengue, West African, hip-hop, and Arabic music,” he said. “I would basically ask people to just give me their favorite music.”
Kakad established Bollywood Dreams Entertainment in 2010 to “give people dance lessons, and to basically bring Indian music to the Portland nightlife in a way that felt both familiar and foreign.”
Diwali, Festival of Lights
The Jai Ho! Dance Party follows a monthly theme, like disco, for example. The New Orleans bash celebrates Diwali — India’s Hindu Festival of Lights, which honors the victory of light over darkness, in a metaphorical and literal sense. In India, people rejoice by placing candles around their homes and in temples.
On Friday, Kakad plans to “light up the whole venue with lots of LED lights and black lights” to recreate the scene that takes place in his native country.
“It's great to see that people in the U.S. are opening up to this festival and celebrating it,” Kakad said. Diwali in India is like Christmas in many other places; it’s a time of merry togetherness that he misses, he said.
“The work I do in bringing these festivals — it’s for people, for sure — but it definitely helps me, because it gives me that connection of being in India,” Kakad said.
“That's part of what I would like to recreate — that same festival atmosphere that I would have with my cousins and my family in India,” he said. “And I’d like to be able to bring some of that vibe to the dance floor.”
Jai Ho! Dance Party — Diwali
When: 9 p.m. Saturday (Nov. 11)
Where: The Howlin’ Wolf (907 S. Peters St., 70130; 504-529-5844)
Tickets: $10 at thehowlinwolf.com