King's Magic Entertainment
44 Macklin Street
Markham, ON, L3S 3Z2
King's Magic Entertainment
44 Macklin Street
Markham, ON, L3S 3Z2
His hocus-pocus has a hip-hop beat
Magician takes low-key act to downtown club
Music sets the right tempo for his bag of tricks


A bunch of thirsty college students are chillin' around a candlelit table and nodding their heads to some underground hip-hop beats streaming out of the speakers at the Down One lounge.

Then  poof  out of nowhere, an eager-looking 22-year-old dressed in black pulls back the curtain of beads nearby and offers: "Hey, you wanna see something?"

It's a peep show of sorts, intended to thrill and amaze, although what's revealed is a plain deck of playing cards, a few sponge balls and some serious skillz, yo.

At a time when famous illusionists like David Blaine and Siegfried and Roy are making headlines by risking their lives (or their sanity) in their over-the-top acts, Toronto's Bryan Abichandani is more convinced than ever that keeping it simple  and safe  for small audiences is the true trick of his trade.

"What they do is more of a stunt. I don't consider that magic," he says of some of the flashier, big-name performers.

"I think magic is what you can do buck-naked on a beach with a pack of cards," says the fully clothed Seneca College engineering student, who is clearly playing with a full deck.

So you won't catch him on stage sawing a woman in half or pulling a rabbit out of a hat. And no taunting untamed tigers like Siegfried's less-fortunate half, or living in a cage à la Blaine either. Just some good old-fashioned sleight of hand, conjuring and "close-up" magic served to your table that has customers on the edge of their seats  and in the palm of his hand  all the same.

"What? That was amazing. I don't know how he just did that," wonders a wide-eyed Jessica Parrales, 22, after she and a friend were tricked into signing their names on some cards and they both ended up written on the same one.

"I'll do it one more time," Abichandani says after they plead for an explanation, although they're twice as lost the next time.

He also pretends to goof up in the middle of a trick, but that's all part of the act. And don't even try to figure out how the card you originally picked turns up floating in your beer bottle, how missing sponge balls land in your hand or how the card you first selected is discovered later on, stuck to the inside of a pane of glass that covers the fire extinguisher.

It's enough to make your head spin no matter how much you've had to drink.

Freaking people out everywhere from bars to bar mitzvahs is standard stuff for Abichandani, but it's the hype mix of hip hop and hocus-pocus that seems to be the best fit for him. The Down One on Front St., near Church St., just celebrated two years of Saturday night hip hop and trip hop, courtesy of the Cell Division crew.

While DJs NV and Vision hypnotize the basement lounge with positive rap selections and some intense vinyl scratching, Abichandani works his low-key, mind-boggling magic on tranquilized club goers and hip hop heads.

"This is the music I enjoy. The tempo and the atmosphere are perfect. It's not too fast, not too slow. It sets the tone for how I want to perform my tricks," he says, noting: "This doesn't work too well at raves."

The young magician won over Down One owner Ivan Lee instantly, and innocently enough, when he showed him a couple card tricks in the hopes of getting a free drink one night.


`People are always cheering

and screaming and laughing when they see him'

Down One club owner Ivan Lee


"Right away I thought he was great," says Lee, who hired him on the spot for the weekly gig a year and a half ago.

"I never thought of having a magician here. But everybody loves him. He's a great asset. We get a lot of birthdays on Saturdays so it works well. People are always cheering and screaming and laughing when they see him," says Lee.

Abichandani stumbled into the world of illusions when he was 15 while recovering from a broken jaw. He was bored at home so his mom bought him a book on magic tricks and he became obsessed.

It all seems pretty hokey in a world full of high-tech gadgets and video games. But he constantly practised the old-school pastime, then hooked up with other budding magicians at Browser's Den of Magic on Eglinton Ave. W., and things fell into place, well, magically.

"With cards, he's dead on," says Raymond Chance, his pal and co-conspirator in the magic business, who likes bigger stage performances.

Not Abichandani.

"I like the personal touch. I don't like busking because I'd rather interact with people," he says, although he practises all the time in his seat on the subway and the bus.

"It's my passion. I do it for the reaction and just for fun. Sometimes I scare people."

After his Down One gig Saturdays, Abichandani gets to his North York home around 3:30 a.m., then turns around to perform for the Sunday morning brunch crowd at Sandy's Bar and Grill in Markham.

He does four paying gigs a week at various bars and private parties, plus volunteer work, but the practical side of him won't give up his day job as a part-time cashier at Dominion.

"I'm unionized," he explains with a chuckle.

A hip-hop backdrop works so well for him too because the love for the music runs in the family. His brother, Daniel, teaches hip-hop dance classes on an extracurricular basis at the University of Western Ontario.

But he won't let him in on the secrets behind his tricks. The cardinal rule, of course, is that you can't tell anyone how it's done. He'll often give his confused audience an explanation at the end of his tricks, but "it's a ruse. I tell them one thing and really I'm doing another. But they always ask."

Surely he must let someone in on his bag of tricks ...

"I tell my girlfriend," he admits. "When it comes to that, you sort of have to."

Everyone else will just have to believe in magic.

Nov. 9, 2003. 08:33 AM
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