Published May 01, 2005There are few events that embrace the musical eclecticism and spirituality many of us witnessed at New York's Body & Soul before it closed down in 2002. The opening of Sacred Rhythm, a new night and first-time residency for B&S maestro Joaquin "Joe" Claussell, marked not only a return, but also a desire to go deeper into that near-religious philosophy of underground clubbing. Living up to the promise of its name, the party commenced with various ceremonies of Orisha worship by drum and vocal ensemble Los Tambores Bata de Carlos Gomez. The series of rituals saw lead percussionist and high priest Gomez improvising through a non-stop narrative of talking drums, blurring the sacred and the secular with invocations of Yoruban spirits, as well as evocations of dance music's break-beat history. Moving into a call-and-response of liturgical hymns, soul-claps and spontaneous dance, the two-hour-plus session with Los Tambores Bata cleansed the space and set the stage for a rinse-out like no other as Claussell took to the decks. His play list time-travelled through Philly soul, Loft/Garage classics and all shades of deep house, alongside meditative excursions into churchy jazz, no-wave funk and other aural oddities. What made this "performance" so special was the atmosphere at Sacred Rhythm: the devotional frenzy of its culturally diverse crowd; the spectacles of bodily freedom on the dance floor; and the chillin' vibe that saw Claussell take some time out at the end to dance with the rest of us while Masters At Work's Little Louie Vega took over as unannounced surprise guest. The sound system at Love NYC was equally elemental. Partly designed by Claussell, its full-range of frequencies made you feel like you're dancing with the musicians in the room, if not in the natural ambience of a forest. When the man applied his shaman-like touch to the EQs, the bass rumbled like thunder and the treble felt like rain. In an era where DJs still make their name by exporting themselves all over the world, the inaugural night of Sacred Rhythm brought back the importance of the local. For Claussell and his congregation, that meant turning this party night into a new Sunday ritual, and for the rest of us outside New York, a future pilgrimage site.