Kandi. The charmingly juvenile fashion staple of American rave culture. You probably don’t want to eat it, but by softly clinging to your wrist it nourishes the soul all the same, providing sustenance for individuality. Kandi is a modest décor for the body, composed of vibrant neon beads often framing a string of letters that convey a unique message. It is rugged enough to withstand inescapable accumulations of sweat and dirt that weather the bodies of concert goers, and powerful enough to create timeless bonds between the most unlikely of people. While their playfully bright tones are a nice little garnish to any concert getup, these bracelets provide a subtle yet constant reminder of the importance and splendor of PLUR life – which is why, my friend, you should always take kandi from strangers.
Taking kandi from strangers will not land you in the dark cavernous trunk of a car or propel you full-throttle into a drug-induced psychosis. It will definitely alter a crummy mood though, because who doesn’t like an unexpected gift? You should always take kandi from strangers because then, you will no longer be strangers. Conversation will inevitably spark. Connections are bound to form. Priceless memories will surely be fashioned. So don’t listen to your parents’ antiquated advice. Take kandi from strangers.
Although I personally cannot attest to being a full-blown kandi kid, blanketed in sheets of pony beads with rainbow colored cuffs up to my armpits, I do maintain a small collection of these bracelets that never remains static. My assortment fluctuates with my attendance at live events, the inventory rising and falling as I interchange them with fellow audience members. Some of my pieces are funny (I have one that says ‘sugartitz’ – imagine the response that will get when I gift it…), and some of them unlock vivid, specific recollections of festival bliss. Every piece carries with it a distinct history, the collective assortment them forming a visual diary of my musical journey within the scene.
Even though trading kandi is never my primary focus at a show, I genuinely enjoy this unique interaction because it is one more way to feel closer to the audience I am a part of. It also serves as a fantastic means of channeling my hyper social tendencies in large crowds of random people, as an instant ice-breaker that is neither repulsive nor creepy. Through these simple and small acts of generosity, I have made connections—both fleeting and perpetual—with a ridiculous amount of people who I probably would not have approached otherwise. Through the plastic simplicity of kandi, countless memories and friendships of shows past are creatively preserved.
Kandi can be made using any and all kinds of beads that the heart desires, with avenues of its creation rendered limitless by imagination. It is very reflective of how people of all colors, creeds, and walks of life come together for a show, constructing a space of acceptance where the quality of the experience is limited solely by imagination. Exchanging kandi then, embodies a particular ethos emphasizing interconnectedness, which is so important to a thriving and positive rave community.
So, celebrate the diversity that is so evident at any dance show you could ever attend. Foster new relationships and learn about the stories of others. Appreciate the endless creative avenues that led to the conception of a simple, personalized, eccentric piece of jewelry. Pay homage to the values of PLUR that breathe life into this scene, and take kandi from strangers.
Article written by Anita Obasi