"Hyper, worldly, new and, most of all, electric.”
By Kristie Bertucci
Strobe lights in an array of rainbow hues shimmy across exposed beams and gilded brick walls of the Fortune Sound Club in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The place is jam-packed with bodies gyrating to the beats of an eclectic mix that combines heavy bass from EDM, the smooth rhythms of reggae, and the lyrical prowess of some of the best hip-hop joints. Other genres like moombahton, soca, ‘90s dancehall and more weave in and out of the world-renowned Funktion One sound system that the club proudly boasts, providing the night’s party-goers with amplified sounds that rattle their bones. The clashing of such different genres stirs the crowd into a profound reaction of pure sexuality and freedom—which is exactly what its two originators wanted to achieve.
Jasmine Solano and MeLo-X have created and fostered the energy in their renowned Electric Punanny (aka EP) soirees, which started as a monthly party in New York. Fueled by freedom of expression and sustained by a passion for music, the two originators have grown their parties into a vast empire that has attracted the likes of Diplo, Kid Cudi, Theophilus London, as well as a giant cross-section of music lovers. Although they’re not the first who thought up such a party, Jasmine and MeLo-X are pioneers in creating a lifestyle that combines their one-of-a-kind event and its deeper meaning: global musical fusion as a way to unite its diverse community.
There’s no VIP list needed for entry, no rock star headliners and certainly no dress code restrictions. Guests either pre-purchase their tickets or show up at the door, making for long lines that formed early for the night’s festivities. It’s the first time the MC/DJ duo has taken their unique “fiesta” to Canada and, like in The Big Apple, the one-off party that went down on Friday, June 1st is a major success.
“The crowd was a good mix in Vancouver,” Jasmine describes. “Reggae heads, weekend warriors, hipsters, clothing designers, hip-hop heads—the crowd was as diverse as the music we played. As soon we dropped some reggae, you could hear screams. We knew people were really excited about the party weeks in advance because of all the Tweets that were talking about our arrival.”
Although the reggae scene in Vancouver is smaller than that of New York, Jasmine says there were some amazing girls that came out doing the “willy bounce” to their records, as well as guys who were palancing to the soca jams, translating to an all-night sweat fest.
“We had a great response to all the music we were playing, which really made it a night to remember,” Jasmine describes. “The biggest highlight, though, was having this huge crowd in front of us, jumping and dancing all night. Then we’d turn around and have a crowd behind us wilding out. The music was so good that it felt like everybody in the club had to dance; no one could sit down and relax.”
Jasmine and MeLo-X also had an ideal turntable set-up, with two systems side-by-side, allowing them to seamlessly switch roles from DJing to MCing the entire night.
It was a non-stop, rambunctious dance-filled party from beginning to end, a trait that has defined the Electric Punanny events since its inception in April of 2008 at the 205 Club in NYC. As both MCs and DJs around New York’s nightlife, Jasmine and MeLo-X were sick of the usual club scene and its stiff requirements that dulled their creative spirits. “We wanted to give birth to a night that combined dancehall and dance…something hyper, worldly, new and, most of all, electric,” Jasmine says, adding how both her and her partner in crime MeLo-X come from musical backgrounds that fused together hip-hop, electronic, R&B and Caribbean tunes.
Jasmine was a rapper before finding her calling as a turntablist, and has become an influential radio host and all-around industry tastemaker (she’s currently Wiz Khalifa’s resident mix-tress). MeLo-X’s in-depth knowledge of production and MCing, in addition to his turntablism skills, was the perfect match to spearhead a movement. “Melo and I are very similar, and we both embraced all things dancehall, electro, hipster, downtown and more, so whenever we make music together and put on Electric Punnany, I feel that it represents a new generation.”
Because both envisioned something unlike any other event, its name needed to glorify and explain the mixtures of musical genres. When Jasmine casually brought up the words “electric punanny,” they immediately knew that phrase encompassed the vibe they were creating. (Yes, “Punanny” is a slang term in Jamaican Patois for ‘vagina,’ which is no accident.) Once the party moved to the “everso infamous Sway Nightclub,” Electric Punanny had become one of NYC’s most talked-about parties, combining the city’s downtown youth, indie and street cultures into one diverse melting pot of charismatic characters who were as colorful as the night’s soundtrack. Entry was granted to all who knew about the event (via Facebook invites, EP’s Website or word of mouth), if capacity allowed, with the only stipulation being: guests come to have a good time. “The EP lifestyle is one of a world lover,” Jasmine defines. “Someone that is open, free and eager to celebrate. EP represents the essence of NYC in addition to being a venue where creativity and true art in music could coalesce.”
With the help of fellow NYC DJ, promoter and overall staple in the party scene Roxy Cottontail (who encouraged them to make it a monthly even), and well-known photographer TONE, Electric Punanny organically evolved from being just another party into a global microcosm. “People can always expect a hybrid of people from all walks of life, the clashing of music genres and a guaranteed dagger sweat fest,” Jasmine states. “We’re usually told that it’s the best party they’ve ever been to. And we strive to get that reaction every time, with every party. But that’s what makes our events so special. We just came up with an idea that was going to be fun for us, and we gave it our all. By combining our musical knowledge, crowd-rocking talents and the overall NYC downtown scene, the party took on a life of its own.”
In addition to their own talents, the two also enlisted many of their DJ and artist friends to play at their monthly parties, with acts like Theophilus London, Chuck Inglish from The Cool Kids, Hollywood Holt, South Rakkas Crew, Mickey Factz, Max Glazer and Scotty B taking the tables. They’ve also had special drop-ins from other big names like Kid Cudi, Murs, Diplo and D-Nice, Curtains and more.
With “ride or die” Electric Punnany devotees attending each month’s festivities, they had become an underground music movement by early 2009, with parties getting shut down by the cops when legions of followers attempted to get into the already at-capacity parties. News of the event started to make its way around the globe thanks, sparking interest from other promoters who wanted to bring Jasmine and MeLo-X’s vibrant event to their own cities.
In 2010, they took the party to Denver, Colorado, then crossed the Atlantic to show Parisians how to party the Punnany way. They took a road trip to Philly to join forces with Mad Decent, and are now on a mission to share the partywith the world, with Vancouver as their latest expansion. “We initially set out to make this a worldwide movement, and somehow these locations chose us,” Jasmine tells, adding that instead of doing a monthly party now, they’re very selective about when and where they’ll have EP parties. “Electric Punanny has become a worldwide brand, and it’s because of the time we’ve taken to put forth our best creativity, as well as attention to detail in logistics.”
As they embarked on expanding the party to new cities, it was time for Jasmine and MeLo-X to take their creation one step further. They decided to package Electric Punanny and its essence into a continuous mix of tracks for the parties. “Because the parties were sol wild, we were like ‘we have to make a mixtape and it has to represent exactly what the party is, so that others would know what they’d be getting themselves into at any Electric Punanny event we put on.’” Every event had Jasmine and MeLo-X DJing and rapping to their own songs live, giving fans an intimate performance like no other. “On our Mixtape Vol. 2 we produced a remix to a Hudson Mohawke track. MeLo-X is rapping and I’m rapping and singing. Every time we get into the studio, we try to out do our last mixtape. Vol. 2 turned out so hype and there’s no doubt that Vol. 3 will be even crazier.”
But the mixtape only provides a glimpse of what they’re about, with the biggest draw being how wild the party gets, Jasmine says. “It’s truly a place where everyone lets go of their inhibitions, lets go of their judgments toward other people and we all become one entity.” Every party brought out an eclectic crowd, but Jasmine confesses the best nights were still the ones at Sway, where the atmosphere would be so intense that people would be crawling up walls, jumping on tables, pounding their fists on the floor, hanging upside down and basically creating melee. “We’d both look up at the crowd and realize we had reached some type of DJ nirvana!”
Jasmine and MeLo-X hope to expand EP to different parts of the world, and they already have plans on spreading the party to Toronto for the Caribana festival, Jamaica, Paris, and then to take it back home to where it all started by the end of the year. In the meantime, they’re currently working on bigger Electric Punanny projects, involving more mixtapes with original music, custom remixes and dub plates, including some new performance elements that will involve more MCing integrated into the mix.
Electric Punanny is nowhere close to reaching its potential, with this only the beginning of what will most likely roar across the globe like wildfire, as Jasmine and MeLo-X take their ultimate global party on the road. “We’d like to hit as many countries as possible,” she says, adding that they’d love to one day produce a bigger musical festival. “It’s turned into an international lion, hence the artwork on our mixtapes. It’s an addictive, strong energy that we exude and it attracts all people from all over the world who want to be free, let go and come together via good music.”