For local singer/songwriter Bassel Almadani, music isn’t simply just a way to entertain people. It also a platform to educate people on important issues and help make the world a better place. One such issue he and his band the Supernaturals care deeply about is the Syrian refugee crisis.
Bassel & The Supernaturals Album Release With: Molehill, The Maytags, Willy Dynomite When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 24 Where: Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie (relocated from Double Door) Tickets: $12-$15 (21+over) Info: logansquareauditorium.com
“When people come to our shows, it’s a fun type of music. We’re playing soul and funk,” says Almadani. “But through soul music, it’s only effective if you have that emotional connection with your audience. Addressing that issue and doing it a little more directly, I think allows us to create a deeper impact with our audience and leave them with a deeper sense of meaning or inspiration to contribute back to this issue.”
Almadani and his bandmates knew they needed to do something and the release of debut full-length album “Elements” provided them with that opening. They launched a pre-order fundraiser for the album with some of the funds (more than $2,600) being donated to local charity the Karam Foundation. Additional funds from merchandise and other means are also being donated.
“Their whole initiative is building a better future surrounding Syria, investing in the families and children that are forced out of their homes,” Almadani says of the foundation. “They give them a sense of normalcy and get them back in schools and get them back on their feet.”
The Syrian crisis hits home personally for Almadani. He is a first-generation Syrian-American with family and friends still living in the war-torn region, several of whom have died or lost their homes.
“I tour around the country frequently and partner with organizations, whether its colleges or churches or other types of organizations, collaborating on performance or speaker/Q&A-type of events to bring light to [the Syrian crisis] and telling stories of what my family has experienced or what brought things to that point.”
The band and Almadani’s heritage allows them to connect to audiences on a deeper level.
“Given our genre is this neo-soul and funk hybrid, our music is more traditionally American and appeals to a lot of people who otherwise have not met anybody [who’s] Syrian-American or connected to this issue in any way,” Almadani says. “Through our music, I’ve found that we’ve created a channel for a lot of people to have that personal connection to that issue and really embrace that identity and cultural connection to this.”
The band also has also seen the community support them following the unexpected death of bassist Mason Cormie, who died last spring.
“Elements” is the band’s final album on which the musician is featured.
Almadani feels the band’s sound on “Elements” is much more dynamic and complex in nature than on their 2013 EP “Dreamer.” That’s because the sound and stories are more complex; nearly 20 musicians are featured on the album, while the live show features nine.
“There are some very deep stories in here,” he says. “And the arrangements have aligned with that, too. There’s crunchier harmonies and thicker horn arrangements and then you have the addition of the woodwinds and strings. We were very intentional about each track and the story it was telling, how it’s shaped and its creation in a way that really told the story.”
The album’s lineup of songs features lyrics about love, loss, and the war in Syria.
“We cannot overpower the natural order of things and we have to learn to accept what we’re handed and to work with that,” Almadani says. “There are hints of physical elements all throughout the album, whether it’s fire and water and earth and sand and wind. We replicated sounds throughout it thematically.”
The band’s show on Feb. 24 was originally slated for the Double Door, where the band has played before and which has since been shuttered, prompting a change of venue to the Logan Square Auditorium.
“Double Door is rich with history, and you can feel it as soon as you step into the building,” Almadani said. “The production quality is also top-notch and we’ve always been treated well by the staff. Rarely do we encounter a staff that maintains as much respect for locals as they do for national acts. Beyond its history, Double Door was the first venue we played in as Bassel and The Supernaturals.
“The venue has been such an important part of Wicker Park for over 20 years, and it’s a symbol for the indie movement that put the neighborhood on the map. Losing the location feels like a nail in the coffin for many that have been frustrated with the changes happening in Wicker Park over the last 5 to 10 years.”
The band is definitely looking forward to releasing more music down the road.
“We’re really drilling into our funky backbone,” says Almadani. “I’m looking forward to some energetic music. Funky protest music that creates change. With the climate that’s there I want to activate our base and get people engaged on a deep level.”
Joshua Miller is a freelance writer.