Gonjasufi is on the road a lot: As a singer, DJ, actor and also as a yoga teacher. He will perform at SCHIRN AT NIGHT on April 7. The SCHIRN MAG talked with him about his music and his plans for Saturday night.
Gonjasufi, you work as a DJ, vocalist and actor. What inspires you when creating new music?
People, birds, trees, the bees, the ocean, family, nature itself, just the ability to breathe and have self-awareness. The ability to create and sculpt what is invisible – that is the most powerful form of magic to me.
I read that you also have an additional job as a yoga teacher. How does that influence your work?
I only teach yoga now to my children and people close to me in the community, people I work with. I haven’t taught in front of a class in a yoga room for years. The Western world just seems to have become so superficial and has turned everything into a “Happy Meal” from McDonald’s – I no longer wish to participate in that.
When I listened to your album “A Sufi and a Killer” for the first time it conjured up associations with ecstatic rituals and mysticism as well as deep contemplation and meditation. It’s a wild bunch of references that can be found in your latest album “Callus” as well. How did this unique style come about?
Well, the musical style came from going directly into what I fear. From realizing that the path to liberation is through fear, knowing that the entire time you’re protected and there’s no such thing as death, so fearing pain is also an illusion.
And what’s your relation to the works of Jean-Michel Basquiat?
Jean-Michel Basquiat was a major influence on my work in the 1990s. I was introduced to his work and it was as though I immediately identified with his perspective magnetically, with the way he simplifies everything that seems to be so complicated. It’s almost as if a child made the drawings. He seems to retain his child-like spirit in his work, so anyone at any age can identify with it the same way that Bob Marley’s music resonates. Jean-Michel has allowed me to soften the edges within myself and to embrace the delicate side, knowing that this is actually where strength comes from. Basically just to be yourself and not worry about what other people think about you.
What role does your African-American descent play in your art – if any?
Me being of African descent has shaped me in many ways. Living here in America and being of African descent has been quite an experience. America still seems to be unaware of the truth behind Africa and still worships a white Jesus, which is the mascot of white supremacy. So for me growing up knowing that Christ is black has definitely been an open secret that I’ve had to repeat to myself while trying to maneuver through this supremacist nation.
Many times I ask myself and others who go to church: “If you were to show up one day and that Jesus picture that you see was no longer white, but black, would you be offended and would you still go to church?” Imagine how we, people of color, feel knowing the truth! I’m a realist, so I look forward to finally getting my feet on the ground and relating to Africa and connecting with my roots in a way that I haven’t been able to yet.
At Schirn at Night on April 7, you will play a DJ set. What are your plans for Saturday evening?
I am planning to play a bunch of electronic-weird-broken-dark-distorted-decrepit beats and to mix that with some Afrobeat Jazz. Everything that Basquiat seems to have listened to himself. It’s going to be freeform spontaneous. I might play some unreleased new music I have. I’m just going to have fun scraping off all the resin that the radio has been poisoning us with, so if you can keep a beat to a faltering BPM, you’re definitely going to enjoy my set.