In the Book

“I think the world was expecting everything to change after 9/11, and things just got worse. The acceptance of ‘Let’s be as capitalistic and commercialistic as possible and exploit every petroleum pipeline out there,’ and the gung ho-ness of ‘Let’s be a proud American, wave our flags and dominate the planet.’ One of the things that has really fueled my fire of this continual talk of ‘the hit, the hit, the hit,’ is that when 9/11 went down, I didn’t see anyone on television reflective of my people. All I saw were white-blooded Americans. I saw the cowboys. I saw maybe a few African-Americans and Latin-Americans, as to what is reflective of America, but I didn’t see any Arabs. I didn’t see any Indians. That pissed me off. Seeing that, and seeing what’s going on with the way the Bush administration is running things, hell, music is such a small drop in the bucket of what’s going on in the world. Getting a hit, and promoting music that will make some type of change, cause some type of chain reaction—that’s really what I want to see.”

“You can’t separate politics from Afrobeat. If its not directing a political message, it has to have political over- or undertones. This era is ripe for that, and it would be a shame if other people got into the music don’t do it. It would just be party music. We got into a debate the other day. Someone said ‘We’re not a political band, we’re a party band,’ and I said ‘Well aren’t political groups parties?’ You cannot just want to go out and party and forget the responsibility of an Afrobeat soldier is to constantly keep people aware and find new ways of addressing the same issues.”

“When record labels were doing their jobs, artists could just be artists. Now artists have to be entrepreneurs, business people—they need to find ways of getting their music to the public because the industry is not doing it any more. It’s the artists who are putting up albums on their own sites, loading bonus tracks, and are savvier about the business who are succeeding. So you look at Ojos de Brujo, who is very careful to maintain control over their artistic product and are very savvy about what the Ojos de Brujo brand is. Their shows are very well thought out, in the way they look on stage, the visuals shown and the quality of sound. Nothing is left to chance. It’s a very professional outfit, even though at base they have this hippie communal quality. They’ve found a way to combine their politics while working within a business structure.”

“A practice like chanting has a number of different ways that it allows the mind to settle, rather than grabbing it and holding it down. Purification is a really powerful word, and it shouldn’t be thought of as meaning pure and impure, good and bad. All this attachment we have for stuff and for who we think we are, what we want and don’t want, there’s a certain amount of energy that’s frustrated within us because we don’t know how to get what we want. So you’re never going to be able to calm your mind with that energy because all that energy wants to do is get off.”

“Music for me is organized sounds. You organize in your own way specific sounds; the source of sound is what matters. In an abstract format the sounds are like a mirror. When you reflect on someone they can see something about themselves, but music is very literal. What I like to do, if love is my subject, through my song, or through my sounds, I would like to make each person feel it in their own way. So instead of telling them a love story—because if you like a song with lyrics you will get bored after a few times—I give them something abstract. That way each time an image changes because you’re changing. That’s why sound is much more interesting to me than music: it is raw. It’s organic, it changes every second.”

“I never really identified as a DJ in terms of playing other people’s music. I like reworking things, making them a little more interesting. I would hook up guitar pedals to stuff, approach the turntables like an instrument rather than just playing records. I would hear punk bass which was more head frequencies, and then they would drop into dub and that was totally chest frequencies. That made me rethink the bass. I experienced it in a different way. It was the vibration, you could feel it in the chest, it was like a chakra hit.”

“I cannot possibly believe a normal human being looks at another human being and immediately feels animosity. That is not the case and that has never been the case. What music does, however, is make you aware culturally of what people are all about. I firmly believe art actually has, in some ways, made this possible in these parts of the world and anywhere else.”

“I hear instruments like the flute, sarangi and sarod as a voice. If you don’t understand Urdu or Hindi you won’t understand. Even if you do, the way these songs are laid out, it’s not the way it’s done in Indian music either. The point is to frame the sentiment within a structure. Sometimes there is a chorus but it doesn’t come in the same way it would in a pop song. Sometimes there is no bridge, it just changes to another place and never comes back. I see them as travels through landscapes.”

“I never see dangers of classical tradition because I don’t come from a tradition, whether classical or not. Older people, with more of an academic approach to music and more fixed ideal of how things should stay, with a background of having studied and grown up that things should be a certain way, talk about a real danger of anything that challenges the structures that exist. I don’t have a problem because I don’t have a culture, I don’t have a tradition, and I don’t have a school that taught me that this is how it is. I just mutate and destroy things and make a mess and people either like it or they don’t. My culture is on the other side, it hasn’t even happened yet.”

“World Music is a way to help categorize all types of music, but you don’t know all the subtleties of all the music of India or North Africa. I love to see all different people from all walks of life unified, together on a dance floor grooving. Embedded in that is every person’s feeling of belonging and being accepted. And then there’s knowing you know how to make it happen in the right way. It’s satisfying knowing you’ve done some sort of body of work and that people were moved by it.”

“The intent was to make a modern record with substance. That was a big thing for us. We knew that, living in America, people are not going to understand the languages we’re singing in. So the main thing was to tap into the universality of music. For Carmen the natural tendency to make it more electronic, while for us the natural tendency was to make it more organic. That pull made us find a good balance.” — Azam Ali

“The hip-hop scene in Barcelona is still relatively young. In the ‘80s the first thing to arrive was more the dance form, breakdance. But the musical scene started to develop a little later on, at least in the sense of material richness, and in the way of identifying with it more personally and less orientated towards an imitation of it, although I’m afraid that still exists. But the way it influences other bands is just matter of context, as one becomes a little more familiar by hearing it around you. Some bands draw on the more electronic inheritance of hip-hop and others on the vocal metrics, while others in the contents and attitudes of the art form. The way it is really influencing is by relating as a social tool to denounce the injustice of the system, the injustice of the street, the barrio.” — Max Moya Wright

“I’ve never thought of myself exclusively as relating to any one particular culture. I’ve always leaned towards being globally minded, rather than Indian or Punjabi or Asian. I’m a human being and I live on this planet. This sounds a bit crazy to certain people, but this is how I’ve thought of myself. Punjabi was a link with my parent’s culture. My culture is a new culture that’s evolving in Britain, because I’m an alien—if I were to go to India, that’s how I’d be viewed. It’s a matter of creating a new identity, and to create a new identity is to take the best bits of different cultures and to make it my own.”

“If you look at the yoga of sound, that’s what it is, we try to find that perfect note or that perfect sound that drops all the worries and hang-ups and all of this and that into that state where we get a little taste. It doesn’t stay because you have to cultivate it. But you try to get a little taste of what could be pure sound. It takes practice. You could take years practicing one raga and then you hit that right note. Well when you hit that right note, you’ll know it and the listener will know it because the listener will also hit that right note. It’s not just you that hits the right note and you’re so great and blah blah. No, the point is that the listener also gets it when the right note is hit. That’s what makes you be aware that there is something divine about music; there is something that crosses the border and is universal. But I think it’s more that perfect note. The whole idea behind qawwali is to get that note or that sense it is divine and yeah, we are all united and are all children of God, no matter where we’re from, what we speak, all of that, because it transcends. If the universe was created with sound, then it’s all there. We have to go to the source: what is that sound.”

“It was very important to properly produce the brass section. It’s a very important element of this sound that there is a tradition in playing the melody. It’s not something that you can just write down as notes. It needs this kind of attitude while playing. The problem always when you are remixing is that you have to edit, and you have to edit brass on the beat, and this is something I didn’t want at all. All the drums and grooves were recorded, and the brass came on top of it; it was much more into the groove, but also had the chance to be colorful. This combination brings you immediately to the dance floor.”

“I was in a car the other day, and I pull up to a red light. I look over and this woman is listening to some music and she’s bopping her head at the exact same BPM [beats per minute] that I am. We just look over and we’re there. God knows what she’s listening to, and I’m sure she has no idea what I’m listening to. It was so powerful, it got me through the rest of my day. I’m in my vehicle, in my enclosed space, she’s in her vehicle—it’s a beautiful analogy. She’s got her mode of transit to get to that BPM, as do I, and we’re there. You can look away and ignore it, but if you step out and look at the bigger picture, even though we’re in our own little bubbles, we got there together, but for a moment. It’s still very valid and very true; it’s beautiful. You can’t disrespect that.”

“How music has developed from African drum to today’s techno, everywhere we have this element of trance. Even in Baroque music. We are animals, humans. Maybe that’s why this element is so important—it keeps your body in tune. You are just safe when you are in trance. You feel like you’re not alone. If you are listening to music that is not very trance-like, when you are in the concert you’re not sure where you are. When you play trance, you can put the audience in the place where you want. If you want to play a little slower, they will be slow.” — Wojtek Krzak