Yussef Ahmed
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Yussef Ahmed

Birmingham, England, United Kingdom | Established. Jan 01, 2016 | INDIE

Birmingham, England, United Kingdom | INDIE
Established on Jan, 2016
Band World Reggae




"Introducing Yussef Ahmed"

Q) What is Yussef Ahmed about?
I was born in London to Trinidadian parents but spent my formative years in Port Of Spain Trinidad
Before returning back to the UK at 17 years old and have travelled extensively ever since.

Q) What do you love most about what you do?
I like working on poetical and musical ideas, mostly coming up with melodies and then booking the studio in which to develop my ideas further. I also like performing my work and engaging with the audience.

Q) Your music was featured in an award winning documentary by the Hal Aqah Press entitled ’500 Years Later’. How did this come about? Your music also feature on the BBC programme ‘Points of View’. How did this come about?
In 2004 I released an album entitled ”Against All Odds’ and it was well received in fact we were quite busy that year on the road performing at Art Centres and Festivals. The track ‘I Tried 2 Luv U’ was featured on the award winning documentary ’500 Years Later’ and another track from the album ‘Points Of View’ was featured on the BBC program Points Of View. However I did not know about these tracks being used until I was informed by a fellow musician, nevertheless I was honoured that they were used because my work was being appreciated.

Q) What comes’ first Music or Poetry?
I see them all as one because it all derives from Self Expression. In fact I’m currently writing a track entitled ‘Just Can’t Stop’. And in the second verse I recited; ‘Poetry is Music and Music is Poetry together they will Live harmony ‘.
Poetry music and dance are different art forms but they are all part of the tradition of self-expression.

Q) What advice would you give to new poets or songwriters?
You must have the love and the passion for what you do because it’s not an overnight sensation, it’s for those who can endure, but most of all you have to find your own voice or should I say find your own fig tree.
Q) What are the 5 most recent songs you downloaded?
• George Harrison “Grey Clouds lies”
• David Rudder “Behind The Bridge”
• The Meters “Hey Pocky A-Way”
• Mavis Staples “Down in Mississippi”
• Mzwakhe Mbuli “Ngenxa Yothando”

Q) Who is your biggest inspiration?
The Creator and his Creation.

Q) What type of music inspires you?
It’s difficult to answer this question because I have been inspired by so many different musical genres, like Calypso, Reggae, Salsa and Soul music just to name a few.

Q) What type of poetry inspires you?
I am very much into Haiku, especially the English Haiku because you can say all you need to say in three lines. Also I am influenced by the 13th century Persian poet Jalaluddin Rumi.

Q) Your album ‘Circles’ is due for release in the UK in June. Is there a story to the album? If so what it is?
The story is people are running around in a secular world losing sight of their vision. It’s about self-discovery and the realisation that there is an ultimate truth.

Q) What are you favourite tracks on the album?
The Weather Man, This Train, Remember Lumumba and Circles (Radio edit).

Q) Apart from the album what else can we expect from Yussef Ahmed in
You can expect the release of another on line single, music video, the launch of my new web-site and also I will be working on new material.

Quick fire questions
Q) When is the best time to listen to your music?
Whenever you have the time and space to absorb the meaningful lyrics and grooves that would keep your feet moving.

Q) What was the first record you ever brought?
I can’t remember but I think it could have been Jermaine Jacksons’ first solo album on the Motown label.

Q) What’s the wildest thing you’ve ever done?
One of the wildest things I’ve ever done was in my late teens I travelled around Europe on Transalpino intercontinental rail without having any places to stay or money to buy food.

Finish these sentences…..
You never leave home without… A mobile phone and informing your other half of your whereabouts
The future is…. What you make it.
In 2013 I will… Continue my musical and poetical quest of expression and development.

Follow Yussef on twitter: twitter.com/#!/yussefahmed - Flavour Magazine

"BBC WM Profiles of local people"

Poetry From The Heart
Yussef Ahmed describes himself as a poet, cultural activist, storyteller and musician based in Birmingham. He gave Irene Aserie a master class in poetry from the heart.
BBC WM's Irene Aserie talks to Yussef Ahmed >
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Yussef delivers his own version of hard edged urban poetry, set to rhythm's ranging from jazz, blues and reggae.

He's recorded three albums over the past few years including his latest offering being 'Rejuvenation'.
I wanted to know where Yussef gets his inspiration from?

Yussef: "It's difficult to say I get it from one specific place. From life in general, also from my diverse background. "I was born in the UK but raised in Trinidad. There were a lot of things going on over there, especially the whole calypso scene. I'm also influenced by African drumming and fusing Asian instruments such at the sitar and tablas''.

Yussef spends a lot of his time researching traditional music and storytelling from the Caribbean, Africa and Asia. His interests have led to collaborations with other like minded artists including former Birmingham poet laureate Roi Kwabena, who recently passed away.

Yussef paid tribute to Roi by saying: "I saw him as a good inspiration, someone who had good in depth knowledge of Caribbean folklore."

They started working together back in 1985. Yussef then branched out on his own to work in various schools and other venues teaching storytelling, drumming and multiculturalism.

He describes his own style as different from anything else: "My sound is based on the rhythm and the pulsating of a heart beat."

He started his own record label in 2001 called 'Hilal on Wax'.

Yussef went on to say: "I set up my own label because my music doesn't fit into any particular genre."
I asked him to describe how he goes about creating a song?

Yussef: "I work from a concept and build a song through that. I found a new unique way of constructing the basics and roots of melodies and sounds."

And what he would say to anyone interested in taking up poetry or music?
Yussef: "If they have the feeling or the love for it then they will do it, because it's a life's journey. It is a process of learning and teaching at the same time, and it's for people who have the artistic endeavours to do that. Through time you develop your own way of doing things."

For more information on Yussef and his work visit his myspace page: www.myspace.com/yussefahmed

- BBC News

"Enjoy Yussef - it's later than you think."

Headline Enjoy Yussef - it's later than you think Culture Music Terry Grimley catches up with an upbeat Yussef Ahmed ahead of a rare West Midlands date Publication Birmingham Post date 11/06/2007, Byline Terry Grimley.

Not a lot has been heard of Birmingham performance poet Yussef Ahmed for a while, but now he's back with a new CD, a gig at Warwick Arts Centre next week and plans for a live recording.

Following the release of his impressive second album Against All Odds in 2004, Yussef and his band MY5.0 went through a busy period of touring, including an appearance at last year's Montreux Jazz Festival, before retiring to the studio in Leamington to complete the new album, Rejuvenation.

On listening to the CD, it's immediately apparent that they haven't been standing still. Where on their first two records Yussef's eclectic mix of jazz, soul, reggae and hip hop influences were firmly rooted in the band's impressive funk credentials, now the sound palette is being stretched simultaneously into electronics and the use of more acoustic instruments - not least acoustic guitar, a rarity in urban music.

It's not always easy to be sure which is which, although Yussef assures me that really is an African thumb piano that gives a distinctive percussive texture on Prelude 2 Dreams.

Rejuvenation is a beguiling record, successfully marrying Yussef's trenchant politics (though Easy Loving is something new for him - a straight-ahead love song) and unique vocal delivery with a spirit of sonic adventure. But beneath its dazzling and generally upbeat surface, it has doubly tragic associations.

First, the band's outstanding drummer and bedrock, George Walker, died suddenly of a heart attack, aged 42, after laying down three tracks. The album is dedicated to his memory. And since it was completed keyboard and synthesiser player, drummer and co-producer Paul Brook, a strong influence on its sound, has lost his battle against cancer.

"He worked with Coldcut and many other professional bands. He was a master drummer as well, and we knew him because we rented one of his kits when we recorded our first album, Love of Life."

The aim with this album, he says, was to get "a bit more of a dance feel", and there was also a more fluid approach, with some of the tracks being written in the studio.

"Poetically Correct is something I'd written before as a poem, but Aboriginal Dreams - that came without writing the words. With the previous albums I wrote all the words before, but on a lot of this album I didn't have the words until we were in the studio.

"So basically the structure was done without having the words. You would have, say, 16 bars and you knew you would have to fit the words into it. Aboriginal Dreams is quite a strange pattern, and it was done with military precision.

"On What More Can a Poet Say? we didn't have the words, just the chorus, 'Open the door and let me in...'."

With a new drummer and a replacement also having to be found for the former bass player, who had moved out of the area, it's a new-look MY5.0 which will take to the stage in Coventry on Friday. But two stalwarts remain in guitarist Mel Jones and backing singer Shaz Akira.

"When we do unplugged gigs, the three of us do them," Yussef explains. "We played a lot of acoustic events last year, so when we came to do a session for the BBC it was quite easy to do it.

"Mel Jones has worked on all three albums. He did less on this one, but he is on most of the tracks. If I've got an idea most of the time I will go and talk to Mel. It's poetry but I seem to be more like a songwriter - I'm thinking of verse and chorus, and I play some guitar as well.

"Everybody in the band comes from all over the Midlands, from outside Birmingham, and we all work and do other things."

He is hoping the band will tour in October but meanwhile there are a handful of dates, including Friday's at Warwick Arts Centre and one in Bath two days later which will be recorded live.

"I've got a couple of new tracks for that. Once we've got this live recording we'll get it back up to Leamington to edit it and maybe do a single or EP and then a full album.

"Audio is a way we've been exploring ourselves more, but at the same time we've been considering visuals. We've got a video on YouTube and we're thinking about doing more.

"My stuff is a bit like story-telling. When you listen to folk musicians in this country, for instance, they tell stories and they just use an acoustic guitar. So in this country you have a great tradition, like in Ireland. You go to West Africa and they have folk music with a kora or drum.

"Hip hop is an artform that started in New York, but before that it took a lot from DJs in the West Indies. So what I&# - Burmingham Post



Tagged with: Yussef Ahmed Circles Fusion World Dub Rap Hip hop reggae funk soul pop rock rumba flamenco World Music WorldMusic.co.uk Glyn Phillips Review Alvin Davies

“Circles” is an interesting album that effortlessly encompasses world, jazz, hip-hop, dub, funk, soul, rock, pop, rumba-flamenco, electro, old school rap… I could go on and on. Yussef Ahmed filters and fuses these different genres and influences (circles within circles) to create a world where he is in the centre as poet and proclaimer, observer and oracle. Ahmed takes a seething mass of music, politics, cultural references, history, personal experiences, observation and mindfulness and sends it all back out again to land where it may (ripples upon ripples).

In my mind he comes from a tradition of conscious lyricists (think Last Poets, Gil Scott Heron, et al). So, yes, it’s deep, but not at all heavy. ‘Circles’, the album, is a great listen. Full of surprising musical ellision, catchy hooks, humour and hope as well as thoughtfulness, poignancy and anger. Not maybe a typical album for inclusion on WorldMusic.co.uk, but it was too fascinating to ignore.

The album starts with the jazzy, rippling, liquid groove of “The Weather Man” - a vibe that takes me back to somewhere in my youth in the 70s for some reason I can’t quite put my finger on. When Ahmed’s voice comes in it’s a bit of a surprise, much higher than you expect and almost a cartoon vocalisation as the 'Weather Man' brings you the news broadcast warning of the approaching winds of change. Love this track - there’s a mesmerising and insistent groove to it, a forward pulse driven by the cymbals, congas and bluesy acoustic guitar.

Ahmed’s not ‘a singer’ as such, he has a limited vocal range but he uses what he has to good effect (a tongue-in-cheek, very retro 70s rap & 80s pop vibe that belies the seriousness of his songs). He seems to lay out his words before you, allowing you to go over, pick them up, turn them over and around and make up your own mind about them. He also lays down plenty of percussion alongside the programmed sounds.

In fact, Ahmed’s recruited some great musicians to perform with him including Paul Brook (nuff instruments…), John Blackford (basses), Mel Jones (guitars), Alvin Davies (sax, flute, trumpet), Errol Smith (trombone) and backing vocalists: Shaz Akira and Prince Jamo - as well as musical contributions from David Saylor (Spanish vocals), Jeremiah Thompson (keys), Tony Jones (drums) and Steve Wilson (bass). All these guys bring many years of total musical immersion - and it shows. There’s an easy and reassuring confidence throughout.

There’s 10 original tracks on the album with some alternative versions of three of them: the radio edit of the title track "Circles", a jazzy reworking of the "Remember Lumumba" song (retitled as "Remember the Music") and the Spanglish version of “Got a Gun” (very distinct from the original - sort of slow, moody, ‘spaghetti hip-hop’).

I must draw attention to a few tracks in particular. “Got a Gun” has a definite David Bowie feel to it. “This Train” brought Massive Attack to mind and “Our Destiny” has echoes of Lou Reed and JJ Cale at times in the early stages before Shaz Akira and the children's choir kicks in (lovely!).

“Remember Lumumba” uses an experimental spacey dub reggae matrix to honour Patrice Lumumba, the first democratically elected leader of Congo, deposed, tortured and murdered by a combination of Belgian authorities, CIA and the UK. Truth is, these are just a few of the 'voices' that I hear inside the music - each person will take away something different from the whole album: there's plenty to mull over, both musically and lyrically.

The title track “Circles” takes hip-hop and Spanish rumba-flamenco and melds them in a smooth fusion underneath Ahmed’s rap delivery. As he puts it in the liner notes:

“The message on this album title track “Circles’ speaks of the fast moving fragile secular life we have and our longing for inner peace and security which cannot be found through material possessions”.

“Superfluous Myths” seems to blend funk and pop - again love the chorus line, pure catchy pop used to great (presumably ironic)! effect to reinforce Ahmed’s thoughts on the mind-numbing effects of popular culture: comic book heroes, TV and computer games.

“Remember The Music” (which for some reason has had its lyrics missed out of the booklet) is a jazz dub-hop reworking of the chorus line from "Remember Lumumba" with Alvin Davies’s sinuous sax skills prominent throughout and especially near the end.

“Power People” starts with a ‘freak of the week’ funk rhythm and b-line, has echoes of classic Talking Heads and is laced throughout with elements of early electronic music and yet another catchy pop-hook.

Finally, “The Journey Has Just Begun” seems to throw the whole history of e - www.worldmusic.co.uk


Love of Life - CD Album
(Hilal On Wax / 2001)

Against All Odds - CD Album
(Hilal On Wax / 2004)

Rejuvenation - CD Album
(Hilal On Wax / 2006)

Totally Live- CD Album
(Hilal On Wax / 2009)

Circles- CD Album
(Hilal On Wax / 2013)



Yussef Ahmed is a poet, musician and cultural activist who has been on the cutting edge of literature & music, bridging the gap and making the art form more accessible to a wider audience.

His nation wide performances have been varied with headline performances at various clubs, art centres and out door events such as Cheltenham Literature Festival and as far afield as the Montreux Jazz Festival.

Sharing the stage with the likes of Mutabaruka, Benjamin Zephaniah, Youssou N 'Dour and Gabriel with his unique style of social commentary fused with urban grooves

London born of Trinidadian parents. Yussef is dubbed as a
Musical poet extraordinaire because of his uniqueness as a performer steams from his ability to captivate an audience through a stunning delivery of his perspective and often wry lyrics, which covers a range of subjects on the poetic licences that he now endorses

Yussef's eloquence and dexterity leaves you with a feeling of unity and happiness as his poems successfully dances from the page to the stage.
Along with his band their performances are infamous for building to a frantic Crescendo, vowing to induce sensations which mobilize all senses.

Yussef has produced four full length albums 'Love Of Life'
(2001), 'Against All Odds' (2004), 'Rejuvenation' (2006) 'Totally Life' (2009) and 'Circles' (2013) on his own label Hilal On Wax.
Yussef has also worked with various producers, most notably Paul Brook (who worked with the likes of Coldcut) and currently with Paul Hauton (who worked with the likes of
Steel Pulse).

Yussef's poem 'For No One' and lyrics on 'New World' and 'Go Boy' has been recorded by the widely acclaimed group Zap Mama. His music has also been featured on an award winning documentary by Hal Aqah Press entitled 'Five Hundred Years Later.

His extensive touring has fulfilled engagements throughout the UK and main land Europe, which has led to his performances being broadcast on the national media.

According to Yussef Ahmed "we make music to keep your feet moving and your mind working, hence there will always be meaningful lyrics copulated with organic grooves from the soul of the diaspora". .

"A unique talent, a poet and lyricist with a rare gift for satire and celebration".
(National Poetry secretariat)

'''A man with a compelling story to tell. His poetry & music gets you thinking about freedom, peace and the way we live
with each other''.
Chris Highton (Senior BBC Broadcast Journalist)

Band Members