Call & Response: Zaki Ibrahim

Call & Response: Zaki Ibrahim

Toronto-based soul/hip hop sensation Zaki Ibrahim recently released her official debut record Eclectica (Episodes in Purple) to a capacity crowd at the Mod Club. Since I didn't get my Q&A back from her people prior to the show, this is my first post-event Call & Response.

The show was great. DJ Nana, Candy Coated Killahz and Kamau warmed the eager crowd up nicely, and Zaki enthralled everyone in the place with her beautiful voice and passionate charisma. I heard a girl gush about Zaki behind me on the streetcar ride home. People love her music and they love her performances even more.

I have to admit that Zaki's music was new to me but I got into it right away. Her record - just as the title suggests - is an eclectic mix of beats and moods. I found more out about Zaki when we talked about her multi-continental upbringing, her undescribable attraction to Toronto, and her feelings toward technology.

Keep reading for the complete Q&A.

blogTO: What are your fondest memories of living in both Vancouver and Capetown/South Africa?

Cape Town and Vancouver are both home so it's always lovely to be there. A favourite memory in Cape Town is New Years Eve. When I was a kid we would stay up all through the night with all the families downtown and watch the live bands compete with Goema drums, Banjos, horns and voices until the sun came up. A favourite memory in Vancouver was traveling by ferry to Nanaimo, where our family home is and seeing killer whales jumping out of the water and thinking to myself that I am one lucky girl to get to see all of this.

How has global travel had a positive influence on your music?

I think that every experience I have and the more variety of cultures and people I get to observe helps me to understand the different parts of who I am. When I see something I've never seen before, I become inspired to expand the way I write and listen to music.

How long have you lived in Toronto? How does it compare to other cities you've lived in?

I moved to Toronto for the first time in 2001 and left to South Africa twice to live, the first time for 8 months and then the second time for a year and a few months. I love Toronto. I can definitely call it home. Other cities like Vancouver and Cape Town are physically beautiful where the mountains and ocean are a source of energy and inspiration, but somehow, Toronto feels like it hold a special kind of beauty that some may not be able to put their finger on.

Who are your favourite Toronto bands/artists/DJs/etc?

There are so many (again, one of the reasons why I love Toronto so much). My Favourite DJ is the lady who helps to manage me and is in my band, the one and only DJ L'oqenz. Also, DJ Nana (Together they are Double Dragon). Producers and artists like Darp Malone, Nick Holder, Mr. Murray, Sarah Shafey, Chin Injeti, Tanika Charles, Kamau, I James Jones and Junia T. Bands like The Fairsides and Fools (a few secret projects that will soon be unveiled, mwahahaha). I could go on forever because there really are so many.

Is your new album a collection of remixes? What was the inspiration for this project?

The album is actually my first official release. The first CD that I printed up was a short run to have something to leave behind at a show. This collection of songs is a mixture of organic and electronic recording methods drawing on pieces of my full length album. Sort of a foreshadow to things that will happen in the next chapter. There are two "remixes" for "Connected" and "Grow Again". I took those songs and collaborated with producer Chin Injeti and Khalil to flip them up...coz I felt like doing that. I was able to really learn different methods of production. For example: setting up water instruments like gourds, the Udu and slashing water and recording it over backward electronic snares (In "Love-Like" with Nick Holder and Kush). The album, to me, represents being able to take what I've learned and put it to the test.

You describe the song "Computer Girl" as a "resignation to technology while embracing its limitations". Do you spend a lot of time online? Are you happy to be an artist in this technology-heavy era, or do you wish you had come up as an artist earlier in history?

Hahaha! I actually get pretty frustrated by computers and freaked out by the internet and I spend more time than I'd like online but yes, I am happy to be an artist in this era because the digi-world is like a the size of a basketball! It's a love/hate situation.

What song on Eclectica are you most proud of and why?

"Lost in You" was partly written in my sleep. It's in French although my French is not that strong, I do love writing short poems. And the French language explains love nicely. It took some grammer changes in parts, but it still came out exactly how I meant it to. Translation: "If you play, you will know the sad". In English I may have said, "Love can be a toughie, but I'm willing to do it"...way better in French.

Where is your favourite place to enjoy the sunshine here in TO?

On my roof.

Call & Response is a series of Q&A's with artists from or playing in Toronto. Lead photo by Che Kothari. Mod Club photos by Carlos Weisz.

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