Durango’s getting a big nod from musicians like Bassel Almadani.
If you regularly read this column or have professional musician pals, you know music scenes are suffering nationwide, careers are off-track and stable livelihoods are in question. Durango’s not the only game on the planet when it comes to hosting virtual concerts in lieu of the real thing, and those efforts are not going unnoticed or underappreciated, especially by musicians.
Almadani is the leader of Bassel & The Supernaturals, whose entire summer and fall tours were scrapped minutes after their latest record was released, which included an appearance in Buckley Park. The Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College is one of the only venues from their corona virus spoiled tour that tried to honor the date; the band will still play – Almadani’s backyard in Chicago will be the stage, and wherever you and your personal phone or computer are at the time of the show is the venue. The show with Bassel & The Supernaturals is set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday via durangoconcerts.com.
“I’m just really grateful Durango is preserving this culture of the arts during this time,” Almadani said. “We have to look for the arts as something to help us pull and push through. It just brightened up my soul to see how innovative Durango is in finding an alternative to still make this happen in some fashion.”
The Chicago-based outfit is a horn-driven, high energy dance band that can lay down classic, soul-powered rhythm and blues. Their latest release, “Smoke and Mirrors,” was released in April. It’s an upbeat and uplifting dose of vocal funk and acid-jazz grooves, where classic soul and blues are kicked into club-gear.
They’re also a band with an activist mindset and goodwill mission. Almadani, a first-generation Syrian American whose parents immigrated to the United States before his birth, wants to educate listeners. An internet search on Syria will produce photos of a country ravaged by war, while also painting a dim picture of the Middle East. Almadani wants to show a human side to Syria and the Middle East, attempting to reveal the common ground that exists for all of us – it can all start with music.
“Being able to touch on it through the music has been such a critical element; to be able to truly communicate what’s happening and my connection to this particular issue,” he said. “It was partially about the music itself, but it also became about the story and how to communicate through our music a different narrative than what people were hearing about Syria, from somebody who’s always had their foot in two different worlds.”
Almadani is stretching the definition of soul music well beyond a genre description. As a music fan, he was reared on the canon of American soul and rhythm and blues, most notably Otis Redding. Musicians like Redding broke color barriers, their songs doing more than just bringing pleasing sounds to the ear. It changed attitudes, and that power is something Almadani and the band are trying to channel to their audiences.
“It didn’t matter the color of Redding’s skin because they were so moved by the music. He was a symbol for how people can come together through the arts to better understand one another. Through his music, though his lyrics, through his tone, his expression, his body language, everything,” he said. “Whatever I do, I want to be that connected to the experience. Whatever I’m writing or performing, I want to write it from the soul. It was never about writing soul music, it was about how to perform this music in a way that can be that profound and timeless and activate people in that special way.”
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at email@example.com.