Two weeks ago I went to the release party for Fatima Al Qadiri’s latest EP Genre-Specific Xperience, but instead of dancing (each of the five songs re-interprets a different sub-genre of dance music) we sat down and watched a succession of music videos that re-interpreted the very idea of what a music video can be.
Al Qadiri (aka Ayshay) composed each song on a controller keyboard with virtual instruments, using only one three-second sample throughout. She specifically chose to work with artists who work in film—not typical music video producers—and all of the artists involved worked on distilling aspects of juke, hip-hop, dubstep, electro-tropicalia (“a bogus genre”) and 90s Gregorian trance. To what end, you might ask? To ultimately pose the question: “What happens when a genre is re-interpreted through both sound and video?”
After the screenings, the elegant and erudite Al Qadiri, dressed in a nude shirt and black choker, discussed the details of each video in conversation with Kamau Patton, the director of “Hip-Hop Spa.” She gave her interpretation of “genre,” which she explained as a set of characteristics or limitations that identify a sound category, or a mold you work around. As such, the EP and visual experiment proved to be an exercise in limitations (or non-limitations, as the case may be), as Al Qadiri prefers her music to be un-categorizable.
The five music videos have since surfaced online:
“Hip-Hop Spa” directed by Kamau Patton
Al Qadiri said the easiest track to work on was the hip-hop influenced one because of the genre’s “broad visual language.” She imagined this song might go well in a luxury spa for black rappers, somewhere you can get a “green tea facial and smoke a blunt.” She and Patton also discussed how the similarities between being in solitary confinement in a spa and being isolated in jail informed the piece.
“Vatican Vibes” directed by Tabor Robak
“Vatican Vibes” explores the “invisible organization” of Catholicism and the video is an exercise in visualizing the unpopular sub-genre of Gregorian trance. Al Qadiri recalls the first time she heard Gregorian trance—when she was 9-years-old driving from Kuwait to Bahrain with her brother—and liked it because of its cinematic and over-the-top nature. The post-apocalyptic, video-game-style narrative is exemplary of the idea that power implies strategy.
Juke, a progression of ghetto house, is the defining soundscape for Trecartin and LaRue’s visual interpretation of “Corpcore.” The multiple layers of imagery, mixing real-life footage with 3D renders, overwhelmingly feature exercise, white-collar businessmen and the computer (even hooked up to exercise equipment!). Stylistically, they’re very much reminiscent of Trecartin’s spastic and renowned body of work, and the harsh beats lend themselves marvelously to the confounding merry-go-round of footage.
“How Can I Resist U” by Sophia Al-Maria
Sophia Al-Maria’s interpretation of the dubstep track “How Can I Resist U,” is a love letter to London (“the final frontier for forbidden fruit activities”), dubstep and being from the Gulf.
“D-Medley” by Thunder Horse
The electro-tropicalia track “D-Medley” visualized by Thunder Horse explores the fantasy realm through culled YouTube footage of bodacious babes.
What Al Qadiri composed, curated and pulled off in Genre-Specific Xperience further establishes the internet as a multi-dimensional venue, underscoring the significance of working with found footage and how the act of collaborating and translating a theme or emotion through multiple mediums can resonate much deeper than streaming a Soundcloud track. Al Qadiri doesn’t want to be put in a box, and this work certainly makes it hard to do so.
Fatima Al Qadiri’s Genre-Specific Xperience is now out on UNO.