TLD’s CMJ Music Showcase: Saadi

We hope you’ll be able to make it to The Lo-Down’s CMJ Music Showcase at Fontana’s tomorrow night. It’s going to be a fun and eclectic evening featuring Andrew Vladeck, Less The Band, the Desert Sharks and Boshra al Saadi.

Last week, we chatted, via email, with Saadi, a 15-year Lower East Side resident. Here’s what the very talented songstress had to say:

TLD: How did you get started as a musician?

Saadi: I always (made music) but formally, here in New York, I was another art school renegade looking at music like it was an escape valve.  I was a student the Cooper Union here in the East Village and I started doing these bizarro open mics at the Sidewalk Cafe. I was about 18 years old and really thrilled. It was a real subculture at that point..lots of unique people playing really eclectic music dubbed ‘antifolk.’ Those open mics were my gateway drug(s). I joined a band about 5 minutes after graduating.

TLD: How did your current band come together?

Saadi: I had to search far and wide. In the first year of Saadi, I programmed backing beats and played bass live, searching all the while for the right way to present this music. Saadi has been everything from a duo to a 5 piece band (including vibraphones!). I actually found Poala (the drummer) on Craig’s list. She was the only one to respond to an ad: “Seeking female electronic drummer who can sing.” One girl! In all of NYC! Luckily for me she nailed it. Tim, the bassist, actually runs my label, Dither Down Records, and coproduces with me sometimes. Joanna on keys and vox was recommended to me by mutual friends via the Loser’s Lounge circuit, and Natalia the dumbek player is the star pupil of an amazing percussionist who played a bill with me. Natalia is from Columbia. Paola is from Ecuador. Jo is Chinese. Tim is from Long Island. Multi Culti!!!!

TLD: How do you describe your music? Do you like the term “indie electro goddess?

Saadi: Sure! Who says no to that? It’s got a creationist bent to it, which I guess is true, since I’m writing and composing everything digitally.  When people ask I always say ‘electro pop dancehall reggae african dabke’ although I’m sure there’s a catchier sound bite.  Someone described Omar Souleyman’s music as ‘Ethno-Techno.’ I don’t sound like techno but I like the moniker.

TLD: How did you go from folk to electro pop?

Saadi: I got bored. I wrote a lot of songs in first position on the guitar. I started writing because of Bob Dylan, but I started listening long before that, and I what I heard growing up in the 80’s WAS electro pop. There was a lot of Arabic music around the house too, and all the music from my formative years came into my consciousness later as an adult. See? Freud applies to music too! Maybe by next CMJ I’ll be writing a cappella jams in French. Who knows?  It’s a personal evolution for anyone making art…you pick something up, mess with it, mash it up with something else–anything to keep yourself motivated and interested.

TLD: What do you like about performing in New York?

Saadi: It’s a fertile place. It’s very pressurized and concentrated, and that intensity can be very inspiring. It can also exhaust and drain you if you’re not careful. It’s very very hard to do music here. I go back and forth about it, sometimes several times a day. I can’t quit this town though…I’m addicted to the stimuli.

TLD: What do you think of the Lower East Side/East Village these days?

Saadi: We got gentrified and de-gentrified and now it’s a bunch of eccentrics again, thank God. I will always love this neighborhood. I have lived here since those days at the Sidewalk Cafe, and while the storefronts changed, and the hip kids crossed the Williamsburg Bridge, and while the rents skyrocketed and came down again, that kernel of REALNESS, that potent grit that we loved about the NY Dolls, and Blondie, the Ramones, the Talking Heads…it never left.

You can catch Saadi at The Lo-Down’s CMJ Showcase at Fontana’s tomorrow night. Check out our Facebook page for more info.