Fatima Al Qadiri is a child of the world. Born in Senegal and raised in Kuwait, the musician and artist globe-trotted for years before ending up in, where else, Brooklyn. Her global background is inseparable from her work, which spans several media. Her music confronts the conservatism she faced during her youth through reconstruction and reinterpretation. As a writer and photographer, she calls attention to issues of gender, sexuality and identity in the Arab world and beyond.
This fall, Al Qadiri has released two highly anticipated EPs. Under the pseudonym Ayshay (Arabic for “whatever”), she released WARN-U on label-of-the-year Tri Angle Records. WARN-U is an homage to the religious chants of Islam, comprised entirely of shifted and stretched samples of Al Qadiri’s voice. It is otherworldly and meditative, a tone poem both sacred and profane. And rather than handing over remix duties to a glut of producers, LA bass music duo Nguzunguzu animate the trio of songs with a breakbeat laden megamix. Similarly, Al Qadiri’s Muslim Trance Mini-Mix for Dis magazine (where she pens a column on obscure global pop) samples Sunni and Shia acappellas into an ecstatic mix.
Her latest effort, Genre-Specific Experience, is exactly that: instead of taking on religious chanting, each song is a recreation of a dance music sub-genres, with the same haunting quality of WARN-U and a distinct future bass sensibility. The first and foremost instrument on the EP is the steel drum, from the looping melody of the syrupy boom-bap of “Hip Hop Spa” to the shimmering tones of “D-Medley.” “How Can I Resis You” and “Corpcore” tackle a genre on the decline (dubstep) and one on the rise (juke), respectively. The biggest surprise is “Vatican Vibes,” which starts in a church and ends in a Pure Moods rave of ‘90s Gregorian trance.
Not just an album, Genre-Specific Experience is also a collection of collaborative music videos. The corresponding videos challenge the notions of genres and tropes in the same way her music does. The clip for “Vatican Vibes” is Catholicism as 3D video game experience; the one for “Hip Hop Spa” is a meditation on the solitary confinement of spa treatment versus that of incarceration, all under a layer of hip hop glamor.
Fatima Al Qadiri is a modern day Renaissance woman. From music and photography to fashion and the written word, her artistic vision is like Visa: it’s everywhere you want to be.