Gonjasufi – Word, Sound, Power

Foto: Sofie Fatouretchi
Gonjasufi is one of the less originals in music biz and has his won history with music. So here he is talking with Valentin Menedetter about music, friendship and the letting-go.

Gonjasufi has his own history with music. Starting out as a young kid, singing from an early age on. Getting into Hip hop and Boom bap later on, and eventually discovering Hard Rock and Punk for himself. The Yoga teacher from Texas with his soft toned and rough voice has been singed to Warp and released his debut album A Sufi And A Killer in 2009. His performances with his band remind you of a religious ceremony – one of his band members cleans the room with incent before the performance. His music is deep and dark, fuses elements of Hip Hop and Rock and you find yourself in a new realm of sound when listening to the album. Valentin Menedetter caught up with him at a show.

At what age did you start making music?
Gonjasufi: The first time when I made a beat on a machine was when I was twelve years old. I’ve been singing since I was young. I was actually in an opera when I was eight – so since 1986.

Did you receive any professional training as a musician?
Gonjasufi: No, it was just stepping on the stage and doing it, just experience itself…

You’re also a Yoga teacher…
Gonjasufi: Well Yoga found me – it was this past life that I lived. A Yogi awoke in within me in this life. So it’s just something that found me. I guess I was seeking for it – the way of the life as a Yogi. What it tells you in life and what it expresses. Yoga is a touchy subject. It’s not just about the Asana, which everybody seems to be stuck on at the moment. There comes a point where you have to abandon it for a minute and step of the limbs. There are different limbs and it’s all about letting go of the limbs. So there’s a practice called Samadi and it tells you to let go of the letting go to reach a higher realm. Yoga to me has become, me being on stage and fulfilling my life. So when people ask me about being a yoga teacher, that’s what I have been doing, that’s what this music is. It’s one and the same, it’s words, sound, power.

You’ve been putting out music since the early nineties, Hip Hop projects as well, how would you describe your development as an artist?
Gonjasufi: Since the nineties? I’ve always wanted to really play the guitar and sing and play drums. So I went from Boom Bap, hard rap shit into more Hard Rock, Punk shit. The nineties for me was a Boom Bap era. 2000 for me was just Rock and Punk shit, now I’m just combining them. It’s the same energy; it’s the same aggression, the same message. It’s one and the same; I don’t really see it like there’s a bridge between all this shit.

You’ve been featured on Flying Lotus’s album Los Angeles, actually as a vocalist. How did you and Fly Lo start making stuff together?
Gonjasufi: It was just timing man; me and Flying Lotus have this weird connection, kind of through the grapevine. We had made music even before we met – like those songs, I recorded them way before. Our relationship now is different. Now I call him and I get advice from him – he’s younger than me but he has done so much. He has helped my career and my life and I really admire him and look up to him in a lot of ways. For me what he has done with electronics, computers and shit – it’s hard for bands to do this shit. But he makes it sound like it’s an actual band. You have to respect that; where he’s taking it.

Would you say that he has been a big influence to you?

Gonjasufi: Yeah has, in a sense of just teaching me how to do it and not to be afraid. When I was full of doubt, even on the stage – not getting the response I wanted, he would always encourage me to be myself and it would always come around in a comfortable circle.

When you sit down to write and produce music, do you do that on your own or is it a creative process with the band?
Gonjasufi: I have a lot of heads sending me beats, I go through phases where I feel like just smashing my own shit out – and I don’t even want to hear anybody else’s shit. I’m just making shit to make shit; I don’t even record vocals or anything. I just like making beats and shit, just smashing my MP, so that’s where I get open – that’s where I get crazy with the kids. In between they all get lost and then people will hit me in the right time and send me some shit and then we would find something in there. That’s kind of how it works – but I still have to stay busy by myself and then all the people around me would send me shit and it comes all together. But if I’m just waiting around for people then fucking nothing gets done.

Speaking of the future, are you currently working on something?
Gonjasufi: Yeah, I have a couple of albums, I have an album that I could put out right now, that I would want to put out now. Fucking seven to eight tracks, just a ten inch. So when I get back to the crib I will mix the shit down, because I’ve been sitting on it for a minute. I have a couple of albums that I have ready. I’m a perfectionist; it’s hard for me to let go of shit. That’s one of the things that I’m working on right now. The universe is taking music from me in the sense that I erased music from hard drives because I had this shit on there so long. So I’m just going to put the record out that I want to hear right now man. And that’s what I’m looking forward to, straight yo.