The Birth of the Aquarian Party

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Written by Shanna Mandira

Shanna DJ copy

To celebrate the Big ‘4 O’ I wanted to mark this scary occasion with a big party. With great music that rocked my boat and turned others on to new styles of music, being a traveller of Asia and very influenced by India and her music I loved the fusion of east and west that Joi mixed.

Having trawled the festivals in the summer and feeling fed up with soulless banging techno and boring bands, I came across Joi – the only colourful music that stood out at a very bland, beige Big Chill festival. Two East end Bengalis brothers Haroon and Farook Shamsher with long black curls were bouncing around on the decks with a beautiful Indian Dancer and a bongo player!

Their catchy mixes of hip-hop, techno and Asian grooves hit the spot. That was it, they were the ones who were going to play the first Aquarian Party 1999! Growing up in the East End of London and listening to their Dad and friends playing in his Sari shop they started recording it and mixing it up with Michael Jackson etc and began the pioneering Joi Bangla Sound System.

They progressed to writing they’re own music, creating their unique fusion of Western dance and Asian forms, from sublime break beat workouts to experimental techno and mystical instruments and tables.

Their very first single “ Desert Storm “ became NME single of the week and was described as the most inventive dance records ever made, and they also contributed to a remix of Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn in 1998. They signed up to Peter Gabriel’s Real World Records and went on to win the Best British Asian Awards with their first Album One and one is one.

And so, the Aquarian Party was born!

With the help of Declan Conolly who was running The Queen’s Hall and who trusted my choice in music, I said I would DJ, do décor, sort posters and get the word out, and if they made any money I’d get paid. In a nutshell I got the party of my dreams and didn’t have to pay for it other than with hard work!

On the night, the party started. Everyone was having fun but there was no sign of Joi boys so we kept the DJing going. It turned out the boys had waited for all their east end buddies to finish work before heading for Wales, a bit unaware of how long it would take! They got stuck on the M4 in a coalface fire and smoke, then got lost on their way to Tenby and police ended up sending them to Narberth!


So, they arrived at last minute and I playfully squirted them with my water spray – wrecking their dats machine in the process. They improvised and played an awesome set, with no Indian dancer, just a bongo player! They were a friendly bunch and wanted to party on but I was too shattered and I had a house full already, so I told them to come for breakfast.

So the Joi boys and entourage rocked up for breakfast with bags of shopping to make up for their short set! They all cooked and played music for another 12 hours, rode the horse to the veggie farm with their walkie talkies and couldn’t believe the country life full of chocolate farms and shops with honesty boxes!

We all had a great time and became good friends though sadly Haroon died a few months later, never to see their successes. Farook made his unfinished album ‘We are Three” in his brother’s name, and we all went to the wake party in Brixton having a car crash on the way. But we still got there to celebrate his life and give Farook a big hug! He would come back to play again at The Queens Hall, and let me use his track “India’ for my little film about my Indian Travels!


So the first Aquarian party went down a storm and was a memorable night all round. We decided to do it again and again, and again – bringing Moroccan Cockneys ‘Momo’ with their fusion of Arabic African and techno grooves, ‘Oojami’ with their Belly Dancing Break beats and now, in our 19th year we have The Freestylers Soundsystem!

Last year we had the incredible Mount Nakara! This years’ favourite – have ever-eclectic style and a renegade approach to production focusing on everything in the bass music spectrum! Whether they’re performing as a live band, sound system or DJ set, you know they’re gonna rock hard!  So I hope you will all join us for our 19th year running on 19th of January and my 59th Birthday dare I say… eeeeek!

1 year to go till my 60th, that’ll have to be a good one!!

Never let age stop you dancing DJing and living life to the full!

Love and blessings Shanna xxx


For more information or to book tickets for the 2018 Aquarian Party on Friday 19 January click here.

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Luke Thorpe

Box Office & Marketing Assistant

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    Hi, the Tim Garland Electric Quartet are at The Queens Hall on Thursday 23 March. You can book tickets by calling our box office on 01834 8693232 or clcik here -

    Luke Thorpe Fri Jan 27

    Where and when is the Tim Garland concert, I can't see it on the flyer!

    Newcastle Emlyn Jazz fan Thu Jan 19

    I wanna be at your 60th Shanna! Sounds like you could introduce me to some sounds that would keep me dancing all night and that would make me very happy!

    Hara willow Sun Jan 15