Sunday, November 16, 2008

Entrevista: The Genie

If you were to ask me how I discovered the music of the Genie, I would have to say that it discovered me. I had no idea what to expect when I first listened; no idea that the music would awaken my senses and penetrate straight through to my soul. The moment transcended any mere listening took me to a higher place. I knew that I needed to know the man behind this music, and after knowing the man, I knew that the world needed his music.

These days, I am honored to call The Genie 'friend' and I am very happy to present this, mi primera entrevista, to my readers. It is an opportunity to learn more about the phenomenally talented inventor of 'scratch guitar' in his own words. His music is a blend of hip-hop, blues, dancehall, jazz, middle eastern, electronic, dubstep and more. Do your ears some justice and check out the links at the end of the interview to hear some of his work. Enjoy...

Your name is very unique, so I must start with the obvious: why The Genie? What does it mean?
It’s difficult to pin-point exactly when I chose that name because it has all become somewhat of a blur but it was essentially a combination of three things, I’ll start with the last one first. Back in 2001 I traveled to the Middle East as part of a mission to understand the realities of the people living in Palestine. I had recently graduated from San Francisco State in International Relations and was passionate about learning about the world. I traveled with a peace group and visited several communities to learn what life was like under military occupation. I was really shocked and disturbed by the realities but was also touched and inspired by the beauty of the people I met. I loved the esthetics of the written language, the beautiful sounds of the prayers, and the mystic imagery and somewhere along that journey I remembered the story of the genie. There was so much going through my mind that any bit of imagination was a welcomed relief.
Then there was the Steel Pulse song called “Stepping Out” which has the line “I know you find it hard to believe that I am the genie of the lamp, and I can do anything you wish but right now I’m commanding you to dance.” Being a huge reggae fan I’ve always taken reggae lyrics from artists I love and respect to heart and Steep Pulse were one of those artists.
And then there’s the one I don’t usually share because it’s kind of corny but back in High School I watched Aladdin and as silly as it sounds I could really relate to the character!

What is scratch guitar?
Scratch guitar denotes the fact that I make everything from scratch during my performances and that I employ a turntablist/dj approach to making music live. Because I lay the guitar down flat on a keyboard stand and manipulate the loop machine the way I do it’s common for people to tell me that I look like I’m dj-ing on the guitar so “scratch guitar” seems appropriate.

Did you receive formal musical training?

Not really. Besides a semester of piano in high school I never took music classes. When I was fourteen I took guitar lessons but then when my school grades were poor my parents took them away from me. From that point on I just learned what I could from guitar magazines, books, and from just listening and playing. I never learned how to read music but eventually figured out my own system to remember the notes and patterns.

Tell me who or what inspires you.

Just about everything in life inspires me-the good, the bad and the ugly! I love almost all types of music and art in general. It’s a difficult question because every day I can be inspired by something different. Sometimes even having a bad day or being lonely can inspire the best musical moments.

You've played in numerous cities in the U.S. and beyond and you decided to record a live album, Entropic, in Hawaii. What made you choose Hawaii?

Actually Hawaii chose me. About four years ago a friend asked me to play at a party because he wanted me to meet a group from Hawaii called Quadrophonics who were also playing at it as well They were really impressed by my show and asked me if I would be down to perform in Hawaii and you can imagine my response. They flew me out there and I had one of the most successful string of shows I’ve ever had so I’ve been going once a year ever since. The folks there are really supportive and appreciative of my music and it’s become like a second home.

Where would your ideal location be for your next live album?

At this point there are so many places I would love to play and record a live album at but if I had to just pick I would say Brazil, France, England and/or Japan. I’ve been to Brazil twice and fell in love with just about everything there. I’ve never been to France but I began performing in Montreal, which is a French-speaking city, and the artistic nature of the French culture seems to be calling my music. I’ve been so influenced by British music and have always covered songs by British artists so it seems natural to perform there. And Japan is fanatical about hyperactive musical maniacs so I think they’d be down with me.

What projects can we expect next from The Genie?

Right now I’m working on a project called The Gemixes in which I’m doing live remixes by sampling songs from artist that I like and creating tripped out spontaneous hybrids of them live. Its tons of fun and has given my performances a whole new twist. Besides that I’m always collaborating with different producers and eventually am looking to do a solo album.

Fans have called you a genius, critics have called your music mesmerizing, I call you a visionary. When you decided to leave graduate school to pursue your musical career did you ever expect your music to touch people in the way that it does?
Yes that was the idea and what I was hoping for but I couldn’t at the time envision where it would take me. Looking back I can definitely say that I had tons to learn and was quite na├»ve and inexperienced but in my heart I knew music was what I really loved and decided I would do anything I could to get there. I think everyone is a potential genius at whatever it is that they love and feel in their heart. It’s just a question of dedicating oneself, making the commitment, and being patient.

For more on The Genie and his intoxicating melodies, visit or In the meantime, the video below is a little're welcome:)


Entrevista is the Spanish word for interview. I will be posting interviews/articles written by yours truly from time to time. The purpose of these is two-fold: 1.) I love to write: particularly about people, events, issues, etcetera about which I am passionate and 2.) the subjects of these entrevista posts will be people that I admire who, each in their unique way, bring a little more light to the world through the arts (visual and performing)and whose stories need to be told. I hope that you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy sharing them with you. As always, your comments are welcome, either publicly on the blog or privately (

Happy Reading:)

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Say What?

Beautiful words to encourage us all on our journeys:

"Have patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own imperfections but instantly set about remedying them-every day begin the task anew." -Saint Francis de Sales

A journey is step-by-step, not instantanious...Houston wasn't built in a day....Rome either, hehe:) Don't be so hard on yourself today, ok? And keep the quote submissions coming!

Happy Thursday:)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Brandon McClelland...R.I.P.

Jasper-style lynching in Paris, Texas
On the 10th anniversary of the lynching of James Byrd Jr. in Jasper, Texas, Brandon McClelland, a 24-year-old Black man in nearby Paris, Texas, was dragged to his death on Sept. 16 by two White men. On Oct. 5, parts of Brandon’s skull were still on the ground and local officials were still denying this lynching was a hate crime.

This is an article that I found in the San Francisco Bay View. We must end the hate and ignorance, people. Let love rule your lives. This is so sad, not because it happened to a Black man, but because it happened to ANY man. Hate is not the way. There should be no separation or biases, because really, the only race is the human race. We have much work to do to extinguish the hatred fire that burns deep in this country. Things can change...maybe not today or tomorrow or next week, but I know that things can change. Look how far we've come as a country already. Don't be weary in well doing. Don't let Dr. King's dream die. Believe that things can change, work towards that change and BE that change. Let it begin with you.

"Vexation of spirit is a waste of time. Negative thinking, don't you waste your thoughts. Verbal conflict is a waste of words. Physical conflict is a waste of flesh. People will always be who they want, and that's what really makes to world go round. Unconditional love is scarce."
-Damian Marley, from the song "There for You"

Monday, November 3, 2008

Say What?

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

True wisdom from a visionary...taken from us before he could see his dream become reality. I will not let it lives on in my heart.

I Am, Because They Were

On August 6, 1965, the Voting Rights Act was signed into law. This embarrassingly overdue piece of legislation guaranteed the right to vote for all Blacks in the United States. Yesterday, a close friend told me that he wasn't going to vote because he just "doesn't do that." "It's your choice," I told him, "but for me, its not an option."

The authors of the Declaration of Independence claims that all men were created equally, providing the false impression that they would be treated as such. But to follow the history of African descendants here in America, its hard to take those words seriously. I don't vote because some celebrity tells me to rock the vote. I don't do it because the candidates commercials, or any other superficial reason. I do it because if I were to pass on this sacred right to be included as a valid voice in this country, the blood, sweat and tears of my ancestors would be all over my hands. Men and women who looked like me were told for years that they were "second-class citizens." Here in the ironically monikered 'land of the free,' African people were anything but and were denied the right to vote among other things.

The same brown skin that India.Arie so eloquently paid homage to in her ballad celebrating our beauty was bruised, beaten and broken on the backs of our slave predecessors. We are now business owners, doctors, professors and lawyers, but then we were called mongrels, savages and niggers. We were forced into this country from our homeland and then persecuted from the moment we arrived here. Now we are here and many of us choose the path of apathy rather than keep the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement alive in our hearts and ever-present in our minds. We were once slaves and servants...the lowest of the low and denied nearly every so-called "basic" American right. Slave families were ripped apart, many never to be reunited again. Small children were pulled from their parents sheltering arms; families robbed of fathers, uncles, brothers and sons...human beings were auctioned as if cattle and handed over to masters to live out their days as cotton pickers or kitchen servants.

The road to being acknolwedged and treated as human beings was paved with many brave men and women who finally decided that enough was enough. They came together and even gave their lives fighting for freedom and equality, knowing that most of what they fought for would not be seen within their lifetime. Now here I am in 2008...I've never been a slave, never known firsthand the pain of my ancestors, never had to fight like the brave soldiers of the civil rights movement. But yet, here I am living the dream that they believed in even to the point of death. They fought for me, without ever having met me, so that I could live as I now do. So for me, voting is not an option. Voting is what I owe to all those who came before me. Its what I owe to all those who never lived to see a day when a little brown-skinned girl in the United States could walk into the polls and have her vote counted just like everyone elses. It's what I owe to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Nat Turner and all the greats who paved my way to the polls. It's also what I owe to my descendants. I want to pass on to my children an appreciation and reverance for all that our ancestors experienced. Although our lives are much improved, we must never forget what it cost to get us here. That is the legacy that I want to leave for my children.

Even as I write this, I'm fighting back tears...this is no small thing, America. Not only did they struggle so that I'd have the right to be counted, but because of that same struggle, for the first time in our country's history, a man of African descent is a candidate for the highest office in the land. Whether he loses or wins, I admire his courage and strength. At one point in the history of Africans in America, we merely dreamed of being free. Now, because of the bold sacrifices and boundless bravery of our ancestors, Barack Obama is a sign of hope that we can dare to dream any dream and we can go as far as those dreams can take us, no longer oppressed because of the color of our skin. Whatever the results are tomorrow, this 2008 election is already a huge triumph in our country's history.

We've come a long way and still have far to go to fully see Dr. King's dream become a reality. I hope that you all will exercise your right this year and remember all those brave souls who fought hard, but never made it to the polls.