Since conducting and publishing our 2016 Deconstructed Ego-centric interview, I've been in contact with Jaubi guitarist and producer Ali Riaz Baqar every couple weeks; he's been painstakingly writing, recording, and meticulously re-arranging his Hip-Hop-minded solo debut as Ila Zair ("Ali Riaz" backwards.) While Ali Riaz Baqar has been fine-tuning his premier release, Jaubi's The Deconstructed Ego EP has garnered wide-spread acclaim from the likes of Bandcamp Daily, Beat Tape Co-Op, Flea Market Funk, Music Is MY Sanctuary, and Stones Throw. With their Astigmatic Records-released EP, Jaubi have single-handedly introduced the Hip-Hop-loving world to a unique brand of Experimental Pakistani Instrumental Hip-Hop, largely due to their critically-acclaimed cover of J Dilla's "Time: The Donut of The Heart." I've personally heard at least three different versions of Baqar's self-produced beat tape, which through the months, has been referred to as simply "BEAT TAPE," Emancipation of a Statistic, STAEB ("BEATS" backwards,) and most recently and quite fittingly, ZAIRISMS, Vol. 1.
Although they consist of various track permutations, all three versions I've heard of Ila Zair's ZAIRISMS contain the same Middle Eastern-influenced sonic fingerprint mixed with undertones of 1990's Western Hip-Hop. BEAT TAPE/Emancipation of a Statistic/STAEB/ZAIRISMS, Vol. 1 all contain similar versions of "Dedication," "Mind Surrender," "Soulvibin,'" and "Time's Up" and it's been interesting for me to hear Ila Zair's unique production style grow and progress. ZAIRISMS, Vol. 1 is a collection of beats and song sketches crafted after the release of Jaubi's debut EP, The Deconstructed Ego in August 2016. Ali Riaz Baqar says his "love for Hip-Hop is deep and not only evident in the compositions with JAUBI, but also influences his approach to any type of music, in general." We're proud to be premiering Ila Zair's ZAIRISMS, Vol. 1 beat tape here at The Witzard, after a year's-worth of secretive bumpin'! Along with ZAIRISMS, all of Ila Zair's assorted social media channels are live today, as well as a comprehensive interview with mastermind Ali Riaz Baqar himself, which can be found down below. ZAIRISMS, Vol. 1 is now available on Ila Zair's newly-launched Bandcamp page on a Name-Your-Price basis.
Matt "The Witzard" Horowitz
... with The Sounds of Science
I. I'm a bit curious, Ali: coming from your background, what made you initially want to record and release a proper "BEAT TAPE?"
Hip-Hop has always been my first love; I started my musical journey by making beats when I was in late high school. My best friend and I used to make beats and play them to each other, sometimes in person or sometimes over the phone. Then, if we were at a party or out with friends and we had the beats, people sometimes freestyled over them. They were the good old days. After leaving high school and then, discovering the guitar, I continued to listen to Hip-Hop, but stopped making beats completely, as I devoted my free time to the guitar, which I'm still trying to learn. There comes a point though, when you need a break and try something different, so in my case, I went back to my beat-making. I never really intended to release a "beat tape," but they just accumulated so I thought why not.
II. What were some of your greatest inspirations and influences while recording ZAIRISMS, Vol. 1?
I would say that the old school New York or East Coast Boom-Bap style of Hip-Hop production is the biggest influence on me, as it’s much more Jazz-orientated. In terms of actual producers who influence me, I would say Easy Mo Bee, Pete Rock, Q-Tip, and of course, J Dilla are the main ones.
III. What was your typical recording process like? Is ZAIRISMS, Vol. 1 a sample-based project? It's really hard to tell and if so, you must have really interpolated the original compositions well!
It is all sample-based. As tempting as it was to play stuff over the samples, I tried to resist the temptation. I didn’t have access to machines, like an MPC or [E-mu] SP-1200, so everything I did was on the laptop. After I found a potential sample within a song, then, I would isolate that part with Amazing Slow Downer and then, import [it] into GarageBand and then, micro-chop the sample to fit the drumbeat. Some samples, I [so] finely chopped up that the original sample may be unrecognizable. Every track has probably 3-4 samples from different songs. It was hard trying to figure out the key for all the songs, but I eventually and painstakingly, did it by ear because I didn’t use a keyboard. Once all the samples were laid out, then, I would use QuickTime Player to record the audio and make the song in real-time. It honestly, was a painful process. Some songs would take a few hours, but most of them ended up taking days or even weeks.
IV. Would you mind talking a bit about ZAIRISMS, Vol. 1 cover art? Where is it from and what does it signify? It's a very striking image and I must say, I'm very intrigued by it!
The cover art is an old Sufi picture. I'm not really sure what it signifies, but I imagine it would signify the troubles of exposing yourself and dealing with temptations. However, like you said, it’s a very striking image!
V. Do you have any current plans to revisit your ZAIRISMS, Vol. 1 EP with a handful of rappers to properly lace it up with some rhymes?
There’s no plans currently, but I would love to collaborate with good emcees and give them my beats. That would be dope! If not, then, I’d still intermittently make beats.
VI. What's next for Jaubi? Are you guys currently working on a proper follow-up to The Deconstructed Ego EP?
We have a single coming out soon called "Lahore State of Mind," which is an interpretation of the Nas & DJ Premier classic "NY State of Mind." The video is done, so now, we're just waiting on the [administrative] side of things to settle. We also performed at Lahore Music Meet 2017 earlier this year and we made a few songs during the rehearsals, but I think it’ll take a good few months to come up with material that doesn’t sound like our previous EP. I’ll be playing electric guitar, instead of acoustic.