Fatback’s Roots: Selam on U Street

KC @ Selam

Before there was Fatback, there was Selam. This little family-run restaurant that mainly catered to DC’s Eritrean diaspora on U Street symbolized half of the humble beginnings of the Fatback crew. For me, this is where I solidified bonds and friendships with Danny, KC, and Pete through our loose partnerships on the decks. It’s where I randomly met Michael Miller and his partner Kelly. It’s where I learned you could make $25 if you got people to come to this establishment and spend a few bucks on drinks.

I remember, before DJing at Selam, meeting KC through a community radio station here in DC. He was starting to book Friday or Saturdays at Selam after randomly walking in and asking if he could throw a party for his birthday. Soon it became a regular thing. I wasn’t that great at DJing, but I had a ton of disco records and wanted a reason for collecting these things - not just for nostalgic purposes.

Anyway, the folks at Selam were willing to take a chance on letting a bunch of professional house partiers make the jump to throwing a party at an actual establishment. It was a break of sorts. And an educational moment. This little restaurant could transform into a club. It could become this space separate from its identity. All it needed was a few speakers (that worked) and some atmosphere.

And, it wasn’t a “club”. A night club… You know? With the dess code and the lines and the pre-programmed music. This little restaurant was a spot where we could build a little community. Something that was a little more representative of the music we wanted to hear and the vibe in which we felt most comfortable.

Selam was where my brain started piecing together the fact I wanted to DJ. But, most importantly, I wanted to DJ with a collective. It’s the first time I realized that I had so much to learn about how to make people dance - how to read a crowd no matter how big or small.

Sometimes people came out on a Friday and partied with our little crew. Sometimes no one came and I was just trying to see if I could make KC or Pete dance. It didn’t really matter because we were playing music as loud as we could with our friends.

Eventually Selam came to an end. KC was going to walk across Nepal. The licenses Selam needed for “entertainment” were in limbo. It felt weird and unnatural to not have Selam be one of my weekend destinations.

But, the weirdness didn’t last for long. Eventually this crew would VOLTRON once again with a few other guys. This time, it was a lot more organized and the lessons from Selam made this next night, Fatback, even stronger from the get-go.
More on that soon……..

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared.