Basmala has a vision of the future, one informed not by his social experience at large, but by the inventor’s call that exists in his head. Formerly known as Hasan Atiq, the artist now referred to as Basmala donned the title in order to demarcate a new direction of electronic hip hop. The self-titled debut is a progressive offering of afro-futurism that bonds in brotherhood with Anti-Pop Consortium and the black fusion jazz funk of the 1970s. Basmala brings an attitude to his debut that places him in the periphery of Brainfeeder’s progressive methods, expanding the movement beyond one collective and into the social strata of black music.
The debut oscillates between the heady instrumental meditations like “RNR” or “The Mount” that feed the inner soul and militant rap like “Accurate” that fights tooth and nail for a sacred space. It’s a sound Basmala has coined as “visionary soul”. On closer “Method”, Basmala is alone again and allowing the drum machine to be his voice. The track sustains a hypnotic groove that sits in the pocket, while digital transmissions send intergalactic signals to intelligent life beyond, possibly in hopes of communicating to Sun Ra on Saturn.
Listen to “Method” below and read on for an interview with Basmala.
In developing your “visionary soul” sound, who were some some influential artists that informed your sound?
Basmala is sacred space and Yusef Lateef is the musical role model or capstone. Yet a well rooted study of Bob Marley kicked off the journey. It took until 2010 and a focused discovery of modern soul through James Brown, Parliament, and Sly to ground the experimental, long drawn out sound inspired by Lamont Young, Brian Eno and an assorted cast of ambient artists, which I got into in the 2000’s. Also, most recently digging up some Son House aided in raw vocal expression and delivery.
What kind of music did you start out making and when did you arrive at this current sound? Was there a defining moment or a catalyst that led to not only feeling like you’d discovered something but that it needed a name to categorize it?
The heart or origins of the production is electronic hip-hop. You know, heavy early 80’s hip-hop drums, the Soulsonic force, Mantronix etc. Transitioning from drum machines to computers, I settled into a choppy jazzy sound in the mid 2000’s.
Time and maturity became the defining moment, simply becoming a man, which took patience, perseverance, and healing. The need to define or have a sense of sacred space in this post modern era led to a more internal journey and connection with my true self. A first step in order to release projects that reflect who I may truly be artistically in the purest form.
The Basmala moniker marks a new chapter in your music career. What inspired this change in moniker and what does being Basmala mean to you? How is this identity different?
Basmala is the first step in unifying the sound and various projects. Towards whole soul expression as far as artistic creativity, expansion and consciousness may go. The motive of Basmala is not based on iconoclasm, but actually proceeded the visionary soul stage. Quite simply, Basmala came first. Around 2011, I introduced it as an artistic expression through visual art and two albums as Bil Basmala (in the Basmala), On The Edge Of Forever and Spectrum. Recently the purpose and intention simply shifted to Basmala as a motif. Basmala stands alone, I am clear about that. It’s a utility that unifies and opens sacred space. By attaching myself (Hasan Atiq) or soul to Basmala was inspired by a need for clarity. Basmala and Sacred Space exists for everyone, so we take all our expressions, vision and creative works and put it under that banner simply to clarify the motive, motif or purpose.
You’ve talked about the influence of visionary artists and how they work in color and musicians have a similar process translated to sound. What colors were you trying to translate into sound with this album?
Color as a musical overtone plays a very important part. Whether you’re conscious of it during the process or realize it after. I first heard about this with Duke Ellington, but since I started as a visual artist (in middle school) I understood it like a painting on a canvas. So since 2012, I’ve been working with a pallet of yellow or Life and green or Harmony. And of course a thread of blue and purple hue resonates in the whole catalog.
There’s an attitude to this record that unifies it. It’s a strong and cohesive record. As you were making this, was there a statement you had in mind? Or did certain narratives and expressions begin to reveal themselves as you got further into the recording process?
Indeed, you get it. It’s staging, honing your craft, bringing it back together so you can go out and do it better. The complimentary elements of vocals from Mikial, Mumblz Medina and myself on this album introduce concrete elements to the abstract expansion. Because we started making the album around the end of 2012, it was intuitive. We just wanted to express ourselves fully. I think we all did that honestly and separately whether it was me on production and visuals or everyone expressing themselves on the mic. That’s why you may receive it as a bridge of several genres, expressions or motifs. As each individual brought a sense of honesty to the process that translated to Basmala.
The narrative or thread is truth, bringing us back to a whole or Visionary Soul. Still adjusting, we need to fine tune the approach a bit more and take it to the next stage with clarity, vision and purpose. Thats true artistic expression in our sacred space, Basmala.
Basmala’s self-titled album is out April 29 on Preservation Electronic Recordings.