Thursday, February 26, 2015

Soulful Band Bassel and The Supernaturals Address the Syrian Civil War in Hometown Show

Photo Credit: CB Lindsey
Five days before Bassel and the Supernaturals left on tour in 2012 to promote its EP Dreamer, frontman Bassel Almadani’s apartment complex burned down. Since moving to Chicago from Ohio with his band, Almadani has encountered setbacks including theft and a fainting spell that led to broken teeth and broken noise. Almadani also struggles with the reality that his family is living inside the conflict in Syria. But Almadani isn't defeated. He uses those trials to inform his soul-infused, indie-funk band that he describes as “Stevie Wonder meets Steely Dan meets Asia.”

Bassel and the Supernaturals will be returning to Northeast Ohio to headline a show at the Beachland Ballroom & Tavern at 8 p.m. Feb. 26. A Kent native and his band are working on a new record that draws from Almadani's experiences as a Syrian-American and connections to his cousins, aunts and uncles that are in the throes of conflict in Syria. To Almadani, music is a way to get the message out and help further humanitarian efforts in Syria. “We’ll donate a percentage of our merchandise, but it really goes above and beyond that, whatever we can afford to send over for charity purposes we do,” says Almadani, who also has hosted workshops and seminars to raise awareness about the issue. We talk to him about coming home, how being Syrian-American has shaped his music and how he turns his struggles into art.

CM: What does it mean to return to Northeast Ohio to headline a show?
BA: My musical roots tie back to my days in Kent. I used to travel every weekend to see some of my favorite bands, and I have some very vivid memories of shows at those local venues. It kind of puts things in perspective when you get the opportunity. We’ve been increasing momentum for a really long time. When we get a show booked, you don’t think too much of it until you put that in perspective of how I viewed that venue as a kid, and the bands I looked up to. Once you take it in, you realize that it’s really neat. It’s really cool that it’s coming at a time when Cleveland is really getting back on the map.

CM: How has your connection to Syria influenced your music?
BA: There’s a lot of it coming into our next album. It’s taking me a bit of time. I didn’t want to rush the creative process when approaching this particular subject. The crisis in Syria is a very sensitive subject. People are affected by what’s going on, and I’ve taken a lot of time to figure out how I personally connect with this. As a soul musician, you can see right through it if it’s not genuine. I experience Syria through the lens of my family, the news article I read and the pain that I feel every single day. It’s constant anxiety because of my role here. I must find a way to connect back to that experience and make a difference. There are a lot of examples of that going into the new record. I’m really excited about getting that material out the door.

CM: Is there a specific song on your upcoming album that stems from your personal setbacks?
BA: There’s a song on there that hits the subject real hard. The song "Lost" relates to two stories. It’s about my cousin being murdered in Syria last year; she was a victim of crossfire, as well as a story about my guitar being stolen during a crazy rainstorm at a festival in Painesville. The song is really about that emotion of loss. Anybody can really personalize to them about something that they lost as well.

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