Funky Soul from Syria | Characteristics

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Bassel & The Supernaturals at Milliken Auditorium
By Ross Boissoneau | March 12, 2022

For Bassel Almadani, sharing his experience as a first-generation Syrian-American involves more than talking to people. For starters, you can dance to it.

It’s because he’s the leader of Bassel & The Supernaturals. The band blends their soulful melodies and funk-inspired beats into a jazzy stew that features lyrics about love, loss, and even war in Syria.

If it sounds like an unlikely combination of elements, you’re not mistaken, but even a brief listen reveals just how well it works. Milliken Auditorium audiences can judge for themselves when the band performs March 19 at the Dennos Museum Center.

Business Rhythms
Almadani started playing the violin at age 10 before switching to drums a few years later. Then he picked up a guitar and started writing his own songs. He also continued his college education, earning a BA before studying business at The Ohio State University, where he eventually earned graduate degrees in logistics management and international business.

These degrees have served him well when it comes to building a diverse career. “It’s drilled into you when you’re young, you have to put your head down, work your ass off,” Almadani says. “Most music institutions don’t struggle with that. [singular] approach. They don’t teach you how to build a brand, seize opportunities, earn a living.

The layered approach to his musical career became even more important when the pandemic closed venues and halted performances by virtually all musicians. Almadani says the shutdown gave her a chance to step back and take stock. “Writing, rehearsing, filming, it’s endless and it’s vicious. I recalibrated my life, what I want to do with family, friendships, music.

To Syria, with love
Speaking of family, although Almadani was born and raised in the United States, many of his relatives, including his parents, hail from Aleppo, Syria. Bassel & the Supernaturals works closely with organizations to increase awareness and empathy for Syrian refugees through events, residencies, and donating a portion of its profits to foundations and charities.

“The music is going to be phenomenal,” he says of the upcoming show. “And there is a deeper layer to our commitment. The stories are deep and personal, linked to my advocacy work. Beyond the music, it’s an advocacy opportunity.

In this pursuit, Almadani has collaborated with the Syrian American Medical Society, Intercultural Music Production, and several Arab American artists. He speaks candidly about his heritage and the impact of negative stereotypes on all of us, using music to connect with anyone who has their ears open to listen.

Almadani says he has observed and experienced bias in his life. “There was a lot of racism (against Arab Americans) in the aftermath of 9/11. When Trump was in power, he targeted specific countries, which led to additional negative attention,” he says.

This despite what the people of his homeland, among others, have done abroad and in this country. “People like my father. A doctor, he gave birth to 4,000 babies.

As an example of what he went through, Almadani tells the story of an encounter with a woman at a church in Wichita, Kansas. She approached him and agreed that Syrian refugees should be welcomed. “They really deserve a better place, but not here,” she told him.

“It’s tough. It hits you in the gut,” Almadani says.

Almadani admits he had a privilege that others didn’t just because he grew up in the United States. He says he did nothing to earn or deserve it, telling the Toledo City Paper: to raise (my family’s) voice and help me stay in touch with my cultural DNA, at a time when I threatened sense.

Being able to combine advocacy for all people, regardless of race or ethnicity, with music that moves people is Almadani’s passion. “It’s Syrian rhythm with Midwestern soul,” he says of his musical approach. “We bring grooves, a fresh sound: R&B, jazz, full of flavors. You will find yourself tapping your feet and thinking deeply about the context. »

For more information on tickets, go to dennosmuseum.org/events/milliken.

Photos by Samer Almadani Photography.

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