at an interesting time. Despite the fact that they have been around in Denmark
for a good few years, they have finally managed to break the UK's notoriously
difficult pocket-money infested market with the radio airplay of chilled summery
crossover hit "Guantanamo" with its Spanish vocals and its Cuban guitar straight
off the streets of Havana. It is an interesting time because of the slow ebb and
flow of international and ethnic music in the charts. Bhangra has made the
crossover it has been threatening for years and everyone's dad bought Buena
Vista Social Club. Somewhere in the middle is Outlandish. On their latest album,
"Bread & Barrels of Water" styles vary back and forth between playful Bollywood
samples and Arabic strings with Spanish guitars and Cuban percussion adding a
summery, chilled and multi-layered album. The vocals, although at times the
rhythms stay the same, are expansive in both their political and social content
and the variety of languages on show. Despite the fact that Outlandish evolved
in Denmark, they rap mainly in English with rapper Lenny adding Spanish and Isam
and Waqas occasionally slipping into Arabic and Urdu. The result is an album
that sometimes hits hard. The song "Fatima" is a passionate take on arranged
marriage and family responsibilities, whilst "Peelo"'s playful child's vocal is
both innocent and hardcore all at once. The album does slip into cheesiness in
places, however the strong songs more than make up for it.
Isam took some time out of their hectic promotional tour in Germany to answer
some of my questions and offer practical been-there, done-that advice to young
budding musicians out there.
So, Isam, what is your
Isam: Outlandish: Isam Bachiri (25) vocalist / rapper - Waqas Ali Qadri
(27) rapper - Lenny Martinez (27) rapper. Me & Waqas were born and raised in
Denmark, Lenny came up here from Cuba in '88. We met in '91 - teenagers playin'
soccer, hanging out & breakin' (I couldn't do it , man). From breakdancin' we
got introduced to the rappin' & writin'. We used to listen to 3rd Base, De La
Soul, Tribe Called Quest in the beginning - and then came the gangster shit! Ice
Cube, NWA, Dre Snoop etc. We used to rehearse a lot after school + we did a demo
(for a 120 quid) & we got signed we a lil' record company. 6 months later BMG
called us & we got signed with a big company The manager we had back then was
hustler! He owned the lil' company & he made us sign management, publishing &
merchandize with him. We were kids - wut can I say? [ a little advise to y'all
out there who wants to make it big in this buiz: GET A SOLICITOR and make sure
it's a good one!] Anyhow, we fired his manager ass & today he delivers mail
somewhere up north…Before we went into the studio for the first album, I studied
1 year in Kuwait (I study economics and Arabic at the university of Odense),
Waqas got married (arranged), so we both had a strong bonding going on with
cultures in that period (98-99) - that was a good platform for the music.
How would you describe
your sound and how did it evolve?
The sound of "Dirty East"! I would sit in my room listening to some beats while
my mother would be listening to some 'Arabic classical stuff' in the living room
- One day I opened the door & heard it blend for a second - Everything was in
harmony for just that second - The rhythm, the flow, the beat, the strings and
the Arabic guitar & flute, etc. - Our sound was alive! This happened back in
94-95; then we started introducing this idea for other Danish producers, but
they didn't get it, cuz they never heard it before (Timbaland didn't exist back
then!) Either you did East or West "How real is that"? Anyhow, we hooked up with
a producer called Jesta - open minded and ready to experiment and we just took
What themes do you explore
on the album and how personal is the lyrical content?
Isam: Lyrically, we keep it very social realistic. Issues like racism,
love, family, God, faith, playahatin', politics and motherlands is what we are
about. The third largest political party in Denmark claims that Copenhagen is
not multicultural society and the media's focus on immigrants is so negative - u
can't imagine…I feel responsibility to express myself on these issues and let
people know (especially the kids) that the media and them politicians are full
of bullshit! The fact that we exist is 'proof' that Denmark is a multicultural
society and that people with ethnic backgrounds can contribute in a positive way
to the society. Themes like: teachers having problems with sisters wearing head
scarfs, parents who wants to raise their kids up here the same way their parents
did it down there (motherland), finding balance between 2 cultures, being God
fearing in the West where most people think God is dead, arranged marriages,
Do you feel that what
you're doing is world hiphop?
Isam: Hip Hop is universal, so I guess "World Hip Hop" is cool with me…Yes!
Like my verse in "Peelo" goes: "Some say I don't sound like Hip Hop supposed to
sound, ain't got no LA, NY, Dirty South type of sound…"
How does rapping in many
different languages communicate to an audience?
Isam: Music is all about vibes! I'm vibin' to some Bollywood Asian singer
even though I don't understand the language.
You've been around for
ages in Denmark, how important is it for you to break the UK scene?
Isam: It's important to break the whole European scene, cuz it's about
time that somebody with an ethnical background represents that part of the
What do you think of the bhangra/Asian
underground scene in the UK and crossover hits like Punjabi MC?
Massive!!! It's getting bigger every day and it's definitely here to stay! The
Asian underground scene has inspired us a lot and we gon' do some collabo's in
the future - Lord willin'! We did the Busta tour in Europe 1 year ago and every
time we would close our show with the Punjabi "Nightrider" track - people went
mad ugly!!! Respect!
As committed Muslims, how
do you feel about the current climate of media islam-aphobia?
Isam: The more we express ourselves through music, books, films, etc. - A
more tolerant & open minded attitude will be given to us from our society.
Do you think that
it's now time, especially after the war, for musicians to be more conscious and
speak out politically?
Isam: No doubt! There's too much bling bling, cash, hoes & cars. I don't
understand how everybody in this business cannot take a stand to what's going on
in the Middle East!? Palestinians are getting killed everyday - and for some
reason the whole international community is keeping it's eyes shut! Whut's the
deal? Wake up!
What is your
message to Bush and Blair? What is your message to the children of Afghanistan
Isam: Don't think the world is a Hollywood movie, cuz it's not! You get
what you give!To those who are not with us anymore: God bless their souls! And
to those still fightin': Keep ya head up - put God first. I pray to Allah that
He will take good care of them. Inshallah…
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