DJ ZAHRA as part of FunkAsia at the Pride Stage South (Church and Wood), Sunday (June 29), 8-11 pm. Free. www.djzahra. com. Also appearing as part of Nectar with DENISE BENSON and BLACK MOSES in his Soul Man Revue at the Mockingbird (580 King West), Saturday (June 28). $15, advance $12. www.denisebenson.com Rating: NNNNN
DJ Zahra's got big plans for her set this year on the Pride Stage South, where she'll rule for three hours at sunset on the big day. Start with 40 dancers.
"And performances," Zahra says over brunch. "And I'm going to be dressed as a traditional Indian dancer - it's going to be sexy. There's this festival in India called Holi where people throw coloured dye powder at each other, so we're going to recreate some of that."
In someone else's hands such a full- on production could end up a big mess, but Zahra is a DJ who excels and delights in bringing together groups of people in the name of a good party. She began 12 years ago as a promoter of both political and cultural events.
"What drives me in everything I do is the desire to create a certain kind of atmosphere and to meet needs and fill gaps where they exist. Beyond that, I want to be at certain types of events - if I don't see them happening, then I want to create them."
One of the events she's invented is FunkAsia, which started off as a very small party for queer women of colour but has evolved into one of the most successful mixed (gay, bi, trans and straight) monthly events in the city, and the only one highlighting South Asian culture specifically.
The shift toward a mixed-crowd party was deliberate, and a move that has political undertones for her.
"I started off in very particular underground communities, and it was very important for me to be surrounded by people who were just like me and had the same politics as me and fought exactly like me.
"But then a big part of me feels that I need to be out in the bigger world, to meet people who are cool no matter what. To move beyond identity politics, beyond race, sex, gender.
"FunkAsia is one of the best forms of activism I've ever done. People who were totally homophobic come to FunkAsia, become buddies with the drag queens, dance shoulder to shoulder with transgendered people, and they're comfortable. I don't just want to preach to the converted any more."
In the listings for Pride events this year, it's hard not to be struck by the number of women's parties compared to a few years ago. Are the girls more interested in partying these days or are more women interested in throwing parties?
"Look at how many women DJs there are now compared to 10 years ago. It's unbelievable, it's awesome. Look at any old-boys-club profession - all it takes is a few women to open up the doors, and then others realize what's possible."