We'd like to Welcome the multi-talented
and world renowned
Percussionist Producer Composer
Educator Clinician Artist...
to the OL Oceanliner Notes Weekly
feature as our Special Guest Artist!
The famed Percussionist Bashiri
is like no other... in that virtually in
every musical corner of the world,
his magical rhythms,
grooves & flow...as touring on the
Cirque Du Soleil Michael Jackson
The Immortal World Tour...
are just the beginning
of spending our week here at OL,
with Mr. Bashiri Johnson!
His tribal and the essence of his creative
and percussive feel, can be heard on
many recordings... from Beyonce,
to Whitney Houston, Donald Fagen,
Madonna, Steve Winwood,
Rolling Stones, Celine Dion,
Gloria Estefan, Barbara Streisand,
Miles Davis, Mary J. Blige, Ray Charles,
Jay Z, Eric Clapton, Sade, Kenny G,
Lionel Richie, Aretha Franklin, Sting,
Queen, Gypsy Kings, Peter Paul & Mary,
Bob Dylan, James Taylor,
Herbie Hancock, Luther Vandross
& so much more...
It's really impressive, folks!
and thank you for giving us and all
of the OL Site Visitors, for what will be a
7-part Interview on the
Oceanliner Notes Weekly Series,
for the entire week of August 10, 2014.
Nice that You can join us in between your
touring! Thank you and welcome...
It's my pleasure to be with you guys.
Thank you for the opportunity.
Bashiri, you're a Brooklyn Native...
Tell us about how growing up in
Brooklyn, and how music first
started for You?
Well I grew up in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn in the 60's and 70's. Bed-Stuy was a unique neighborhood and a very wonderful place in America. I experienced amazing historic events, and witnessed growth, evolution and change first hand, not only in the Black Community, but in the world. So music first started for me as a multi sensory immersion in Black Culture and World events. I believe it was that immersion which fueled my deep interest in music, rhythm, self expression, and my instrument: percussion.
We understand that before all of the
wonderful percussion instruments were
introduced to You, that
beating your own rhythms, came natural
on anything that You got your hands on
to create a beat?
Yes, my Mom said that she was called to my Elementary School because of my disrupting class due to my incessant playing and banging on the school chairs and desks. My Mom went to meet with the teacher and asked if I had finished my schoolwork. The teacher replied yes, I had. My Mom told the teacher that she should probably give me more schoolwork to do. Well, eventually the banging stopped, and I found percussion instruments and the drum to be a better outlet for my groove making.
While attending High School in
Brooklyn, who, or what was the most
influential moment that spoke volumes to
You, in wanting to become a
My High School experience was wonderfully liberating for me. I went to a new school, only 2 years old, which had a completely new curriculum and program. John Dewey High School offered its students many freedoms and options for graduation. It was there in High School that I began to explore not only music, but sports, girls, and activism. But I would say that the desire to play in the band with the guys I was hanging with, was what initially drove me to start playing the drum. After I started playing the drum, it became my passion.
Bashiri, your Music Career, spans and
crosses over to many genres of music and
Artists... who are some of the Artists that
Oh boy, I was influenced by so many artists, and so many people. Ali, Miles, Sly, Malcolm, James Brown, Sun Ra, Motown, Bill Cosby, Quincy Jones, Hendrix, Cream, Bootsy, Airto, Tony Williams, Big Black, Angela Davis, and many many others.
On your "Whatcha Livin For"
video for viewing on YouTube,
You very carefully and thoughtfully
demonstrate some of the percussion
instruments that You like to use, when
recording to a track. Can You share with
our OL Readers, some of the individual
characteristics of some of the percussion
instruments that You often use,
I don't necessarily have a 'default' set of instruments that are going to work for every project. But I do have a percussive approach to each project. I do my best to imprint the track with something that feels and sounds like it was always there, not added or contrived. I try to channel the sounds and rhythms that work in a track that makes you feel like if it wasn't there, something is missing. That's what I work hard at to achieve, being an integral and essential part of the music.
What was the first Production that You
performed 'live' with your percussion
One of my first gigs that I can remember where I had a full-ish perc set up, was with a band I was in called Solar Caravan in the early 80's. The band was headed by brothers David and Trevor Gale. One of the first professional perc set up gigs I did was at the original Live-Aid concert in Philly with Mick Jagger and
Tina Turner back in July 1985.
What was the first recording that You put
your special percussion tracks on?
One of my first professional percussion overdubs was on the Album 'Whatcha Gonna Do With My Lovin' by Stephanie Mills. But probably one of the first records to get a Bashiri Johnson sound was 'Candy Girl' by New Edition in 1983.
Tell us about some of the Masters that
you've studied your craft with?
I had the good fortune to have spent about 3 years being mentored by Mtume. Mtume is the father of my musical career, and I owe him a huge debt of gratitude. He not only schooled me in percussion, but allowed me to be privy to the inner working of the creative process, the music business, and how to be a professional musician and conscious citizen. Prior to Mtume I did some study with Olatunji, Ladji Camara, Jazz Mobile, Richard Landrum, and
Sam Ulano who taught me how to
read music. My style of playing is from Mtume, and his influencer, Big Black.
Bashiri, respectively, you're also known
as the Bashman. This is also the name of
your Production Company, where You not
only perform, but write and Produce in
various projects and media, also?
Yes, yes. I have been writing songs and composing music for many years now. I still consider myself a student, for I feel I have so very far to go and so much more to learn. But I have been producing projects for myself as well as many other artists, and love doing so. Music is one very effective form of expression. But I try to take a rhythmic approach to all the creative ventures I'm involved with, and I find that opens me up to even deeper expression.
Tell us about your your Recording Studio
in Brooklyn... 'The Lab' & what... to date,
would be one of your favorite projects to
have been Produced there?
I have a recording studio housed in my apartment where I have most of my percussion instruments, and a full blown state of the art recording facility. I'm able to do music for anything from TV Commercials, Film, Records, etc. It's quite a blessing to have a space to create in. I think one of my favorite projects that I recorded in my studio was my Musical Alphabet CD, which is on ITunes. That record I'm very proud of.
When you're working on other Artists'
projects at other Studios, what would you
say are some of the advantages of
working from your own Studio,
I think the advantage of working on a project from my studio, is that I'm in my world. I'm in waters that I'm quite familiar with, and I have a process that has been tested and proven. However, I'm always very happy and excited about working in other studios, for that is exactly where I got all my experience as a session player, in the NYC Recording Studios. I really prefer to be global, and not just confined to one location, session-wise. These days I'm able to do sessions from anywhere; hotel rooms, the beach, my backyard.
Technology is a handy tool.
Bashiri, we're going to be covering as
many Artists as we can, that you've
worked with over the years,
but given your spectacular
recording history and impressive
credentials, we're believing that
maybe this just might be impossible in
one week... hey, but we'll love trying!...
So, on that note,
in closing in this part 1 segment, tell us
about your years of working and touring
as a Band Member, with the great
Whitney Houston, and what it
meant to You, when we lost her?
Recording and Touring with
Whitney Houston was one of the
highlights of my life. I was extremely fortunate to have played percussion on some of her biggest hits like "You Give Good Love," "I'm Every Woman," "I Will Always Love You," as well as played behind her in her band for many years. Being in the band gave me the incredible joy nite to nite, to see her, hear her, be touched by her greatness. I saw and heard her do remarkable things vocally on a consistent basis. She was truly loved, and is now deeply missed.
I played on her last tour, and played at her funeral services.
Dearest Whitney, we'll always love you.
Thank you Bashiri. We look forward
tomorrow in Part 2 of this 7 part
Oceanliner Notes Weekly Series, as we
travel with Bashiri, in words, on his tour
with Cirque Du Soleil Michael Jackson
The Immortal World Tour,
and so much more!
Bashiri, is there any music commentary
you'd like to share with the OL viewers,
as we conclude this Interview 1 of 7
Yes. I would say, never settle, always be a seeker of truth, knowledge and excellence.
Thank you Bashiri.
We'll see you tomorrow!
And thank you all for visiting
OL's Oceanliner Notes Weekly!