Music: Meet Imaad Wasif

imaad.jpgYesterday on the radio I had the pleasure of interviewing a young desi brother by the name of Imaad Wasif. He’s a guitarist and singer who is currently touring as an additional band member (and occasional opener) for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and who released his first, self-titled solo album in April. Although Imaad can rock out with the best of them, his own music is of the introspective, quiet kind, a little minimalist, a little gothic, maybe a little fey at times. Listening to the album before the interview, I really enjoyed the first half, and found the second half a little slow and less compelling. Perhaps it would have benefited from a bit more time in the Nashville studio than the week-and-a-day session that the promotional materials boast about.

Having said that, I really enjoyed Imaad’s in-studio performance: he played one song from the album, “Out in the Black,” and a new song called, if I remember right, “Spell on Me.” He’s got a great touch and a lot of sincerity. Another interesting aspect was that he came in with his guitar and an electronic drone machine called a Raagini. It’s an Indian-made box that generates a drone in the manner of a tampura. He showed me the different settings before the show and it would have been cool if we’d had more time to talk about it on the air.

Imaad is another hyper-diasporic desi — his parents come from Bombay and Hyderabad but he was born in Vancouver and grew up mainly in Palm Desert, California. There’s nothing particularly desi to his trajectory as a musician. Yet at the same time, he credits as an influence the old Indian records from his father’s collection that got damaged in a flood, so that the labels all peeled off, leaving him to listen to the vinyl without knowing who was playing; and also, here he is with this Raagini machine, weaving the very Indian drone into his live performance, even though he hasn’t — yet — used it in recordings. Hybridity: it operates in mysterious, wonderful ways.

For those who enjoy introspective indie rock, or those simply looking to hear some new sounds, check this brother out. You can hear/download our conversation and his live performance here (scroll down second segment).

10 thoughts on “Music: Meet Imaad Wasif

  1. Out in the black is an amazingly haunting song. I’m gonna have to get that album- reminds me of some of my faves, Nick Drake, Duncan Sheik, Jeff Buckley. Y’all oughta consider posting some ipod mix suggestions of desi artists.

  2. The Raagini is a staple on Carnatic / Hindustani concert stages the world over now. As a singer myself, I can testify that it’s no substitute for an actual tanpura since it can’t [as yet] simulate the complex harmonics that occur between strings as they are plucked, as well as the tempo variation that results when a tanpura is being played. However, it’s a fantastic effort with a pleasant, deep sound and it’s a perfectly acceptable alternative when an instrument isn’t available. Nice to see it being used in other musical settings…

  3. “…he credits as an influence the old Indian records from his fatherÂ’s collection that got damaged in a flood, so that the labels all peeled off, leaving him to listen to the vinyl without knowing who was playing”

    Even while it reminds me of the time my brother decided that the industrial chic of aluminum-sans-labels would improve the aesthetic sensibility of a Green Giant canned corn display at the local Stop-n-Shop, I am also thrilled that Sunday morning brought me this beautiful image of a young Mr. Wasif being so moved by music with no name.

  4. Siddhartha, Thanks for the great post and interview.

    Somehow, I had the feeling that Imaad was nervous in the radio interview. There was a discernible quiver in his voice. Did you get the same feeling too?

  5. Thanks n00b, glad you enjoyed it. As for nervous, I don’t really think so — I think that’s just the way he is, a kind of low-key guy. I do think that he was most fully in his element when playing, but hey — he’s a musician, that’s the whole point :)

  6. kudos to SM for bringing some light to this young brother. I found him through a friend on myspace some time ago – diggin it fa sho.

  7. Great post Sid, I found out about Imaad while looking for news on “Folk Implosion” and have been looking for his music ever since. (The mp3 for “Out in the black” can be found here.)

    I like Imaad’s soft and sincere sounds: it’s retro without being derivative and indie without being pretentious. Comparisons to Nick Drake and Iron Butterfly would not be unfounded.

    Rano: post your list of desi artists here, I’d love to listen to the new talent.