Bashiri Asad is one of the hardest working talents on the Indianapolis soul scene, performing and recording at a steady pace while raising the banner for Indiana soul music here at home and beyond. Asad brings a high level of quality to all his musical endeavors, so it's always worth taking time to check out his latest project. Asad's newest release is an EP titled Proximity.
Asad will perform a tribute to Al Green at the Jazz Kitchen on June 17; play Castelton Grill on Father's Day Weekend, headline Taste of Indy on July 2; and play a songwriter's showcase at the Hi-Fi on July 7.
NUVO: I think of you as an artist whose work is deeply influenced by the pioneers and legends of soul music. I think that characteristic is evident in your overall sound, but certainly also in the live tribute shows you've done at the Jazz Kitchen celebrating artists like Marvin Gaye and Bill Withers.
Bashiri Asad: I believe as a soul singer and songwriter we have to be first and foremost the soundtrack for the times that we live in. My favorite artists were able to do that, and those who are still alive continue to do that today. People like Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Nina Simone, Oscar Brown, Curtis Mayfield, Leon Ware and Raphael Saadiq. All these artists were able to contribute to the times they lived in and create a great soundtrack for those times. My goal is to be able to do that.
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NUVO: How do you translate that classic soul vibe into a sound that contemporary audiences can connect with?
Asad: I don't worry so much about keeping up, or arranging things in a way so that a certain demographic will listen to it. My goal is to make music that everyone will want to listen to. I'm hoping that it's different from the norm. I can only make music the way I know how, and if I did it any other way it wouldn't be genuine. I can only speak from the experiences I've had and the things I've seen. I want to pull people to where I am, to see the things I see, and hear the things I hear.
NUVO: Whenever I talk with you Bashiri, you're always repping Indianapolis music and musicians. I'm curious if you were influenced by the historic of legacy of Indianapolis jazz and soul music when you were first cutting your teeth as a young musician?
Asad: I knew Indianapolis was big, and still is big in regard to jazz. Lots of the greats have come from here, and we have great musicians here in the city today: Rob Dixon, Jared Thompson, The Tucker Brothers, Brandon Meeks and Charlie Ballantine. I glean from them, and the way they take chances on themselves and bet on themselves and make music that represents the movement and the city.
They motivate me. It's an exciting time to be a musician here in Indianapolis with regard to creativity. It causes you to harken back to those times when the Avenue was jumping with J.J. Johnson and Freddie Hubbard. We want to make our mark, and we make our mark by making our music.
NUVO: I recently saw Clint Breeze and the Groove perform, a band that includes a few of the musicians you just mentioned. When I was watching their performance it occurred to me that there's a whole generation of musicians here like you and Rob Dixon and Native Sun and many others who are reinventing and redefining that classic Naptown soul/jazz sound. Are you and this crew of musicians forging a new Indianapolis sound?
Asad: We are. I have to thank my man Bobby Young, who is frontman for Native Sun. He'd been talking about this for years. "Naptown's got its own sound", that was a chorus to one of the songs on their first album Step Into The Light.
Naptown does have its own sound. We're creating a lane of our own and it's not necessarily genre-specific. There's a meld in genres, whether it be jazz, funk, blues, hip-hop or soul music. You can put all those into a vat and stir and you have the Naptown sound.
All those people I mentioned, we're all cool with each other. We work together and do shows together. We all have the same goal to make great music and put this city on the map for great music. And we're starting to do that along with MCs like Oreo Jones and the Naptown rock scene.