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Sunday, May 10, 2015

Chicago band Bassel and the Supernaturals using music to entertain, provide understanding




By ERIC SCHELKOPF


Bassel and the Supernaturals frontman Bassel Almadani believes that music should do more than just entertain.

Almadani, who is Syrian-American, also believes that music should be used to help provide empathy and understanding, especially about what is happening in war-torn Syria.  Almadani and his band will perform May 15 at House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn St., Chicago, as part of the venue's annual "Local Brews, Local Grooves" event.

I had the chance to talk to Almadani about the band's activities.


Q - Great talking to you. The band will be playing as part of "Local Brews, Local Grooves" on May 15, your birthday, no less. Are you looking forward to the gig? What do you think about the concept behind the event? 

We are incredibly excited!! House of Blues is a legendary venue, and I've been looking forward to performing there with my group ever since I moved to Chicago in 2010.

On top of the fact that it's a gorgeous room, we've been offered the opportunity to co-headline an event that is centered around Chicago's culture and robust music scene. On my birthday too! Could a guy ask for a better birthday gift?



As for the concept, it's truly phenomenal. House of Blues and Live Nation have a rich history of working with top-notch acts from all over the world.

"Local Brews Local Grooves" allows them to integrate Chicago's homegrown talent into one of their biggest parties of the entire year. We are truly honored to be part of an event that puts the spotlight on our own city. 

Q - I'm sure you've heard the band's music described in many ways. How would you describe the band's music? What would you like for people to get out of your music? 

Combine Steve Wonder, Allen Stone, and Steely Dan's "Aja" to land in our general ballpark. Our music is contemplative, soulful, and dynamic. The stories are both emotionally saturated and accessible.

My goals vary depending on the setting, but my intention is to give the paint brush to our audience to create their own portrait. 

Q - I understand your next album will address the ongoing conflict in Syria. Describe what people should expect from the album and how you were inspired to write songs for the album. 

Going off of my last comment, I believe that the most effective way to bring our listeners closer to the Syrian crisis is to help them personalize the emotions that Syrians are facing on a daily basis.

By telling stories of love, loss, helplessness, and ambition, we are able to humanize the Syrian population. In a time where the war in Syria has become no more to most Americans than an occasional headline, it is more crucial than ever to put a face to the crisis.

 
The Syrian people need a voice now more than they have at any point since the beginning of the Syrian Revolution in 2011. This is what has inspired me to write and share stories related to the conflict.

Q - What made you want to relocate to Chicago from Ohio? What do you think of Chicago's music scene and how do you think the band fits into it? 

I had my sights set on moving into a bigger scene with greater resources and challenges, and Chicago was the natural choice for me since my brother already lived here and I had a corporate job lined up that would allow me to reinvest directly into the project. Moving to Chicago without being attached to a community allowed me to dig deep for a sound that I could identify with, and I gradually shifted into the world of soul-jazz.


I quickly fell in with incredible musicians that exemplified these styles, found a niche, and contributed to a community of artists supporting other artists. 

Q - The music business continues to change. How have you tried to keep up with the changing nature of the music business? 

That's a fact! Of course there's no recipe, so our method is pretty simple: Be innovative, create a memorable live experience, and put our noses to the grindstone.

The deeper our connection is to the music when we're performing, the stronger the connection will be for the listener. Soul music is transparent, and it's easy to see through the bullshit.

That being said, I've also made a bigger effort to collaborate with universities and charity organizations across the country on humanitarian seminars in addition to our performances. Given my cultural background and connection the crisis in Syria, this has been a significant opportunity for me to connect directly with audiences seeking more information in a laid-back and accessible environment.  

Q - What are the band's short-term and long-term goals? 

On the short-term, we're genuinely looking forward to finishing the new record. We've been working diligently on this material for the last couple years, and it's beyond exciting to see it all coming to fruition. 

On the long-term, we're excited to release the new record and to build off of the momentum. We've seen a lot of success over the last few years in Chicago and on the road, and we're planning to expand our influence.

There's a big and beautiful world out there, and we're ready to explore it so that we can inspire ourselves to keep writing and recording. 

On both the short and long term, I plan to continue providing a voice for the Syrian people in any way that I can. I will continue to host humanitarian seminars, charity events, and fundraisers for as long as the crisis in Syria continues. 

I am always wide open to ideas on how to make a greater impact, so please don't hesitate to reach out to me at bassel@basselmusic.com to discuss.