ANX: A Nasheed Artist with a Twist


By: Hyacinth Mascarenhas

As an up-and-coming nasheed artist, Alman Chand Nusrat (aka ANX) has an interesting take on combining modern music and sound with poetic language and imagery inspired by faith.

Born in Bridgeport, CT and raised in Stratford, CT, Nusrat aims to enter the nasheed scene and make it appealing to today’s youth. His debut album, “Seconds 2 Sunset: Vol. 1,” was released earlier last month and produced by LA based producer DJ Anas Canon. It also features an array of guest artists including Naeem Muhammad, singer for DC-based Muslim Hip Hop group Native Deen, and spoken word artists Baraka Blue and Amir Sulaiman.

Nusrat is currently a student at the University of Connecticut. We got a chance to speak with him.

Elan: How and why did you decide to get into the music industry?

Alman Chand Nusrat: I was always involved in the arts; as far back as I can remember. My sister often recalls how she was there when I made my first drawing as a toddler. It was a picture of fireworks. As I got older, my longing to be artistic and express myself was never limited. My parents, may God’s mercy be upon them both, always supported me.

When I was 12, I became interested in writing. The songs were initially imitations of songs by Maroon 5 which was gaining popularity at the time. Soon after, I felt connected to Linkin Park. Their use of poetic lyrics and metaphors stood out to me. To this day, I feel it was the emotional connection made from their lyrics that pushed me to write my own.

During that same year, my sister had introduced me to Cat Stevens aka Yusuf Islam. I was introduced to his voice through nasheeds initially and then it hit me. I was consumed by the idea that it was possible and relevant to write lyrics written in the style of Linkin Park but with the backdrop of faith. I started to do this and when I was 14, I managed to record a compilation of songs out of my home studio (a computer and a desktop mic). The compilation was called “The Opening” and I sold dozens of copies to people around Connecticut. Soon afterwards, I had the vision of producing a polished professional album by the name of “Seconds to Sunset.”

Elan: Why did you decide to become a nasheed artist specifically?

ANX:  I became a nasheed artist to bring something new to the industry. The truth is that the average Muslim youth in the western world isn’t going to listen to vulgar music one day and voice only spiritual hymns the next. They are disconnected. There are disconnects due to languages, values, mentalities, and other factors. My vision was to enter the nasheed scene to make it appeal to the youth of today.

We have youth who have gone through so many trials. Children have been abused, physically, sexually; there are drug issues, peer pressure problems, a longing to assimilate, pornography addiction, low self esteem, and a pool of other issues. Many of these issues aren’t limited to the youth but can be seen in adults of varying ages. By creating work that identifies with these individuals, the hope lies in spreading the message that they are not alone. And that faith can give them the strength and courage they need to change and live through everyday life.

With poetic language and images inspired by faith and real emotions, people can identify with art and spirituality. Their hearts are awakened. There is a very deep message behind all of my work. The message being in part, that creativity is what allows us to become all that we can be. The cleansing of the heart is synonymous with the cleansing of the soul and in order to do both, we must reflect. Think about ourselves, our trials as well as others, and their trials. These are all concepts that can be revisited in song, art, and poetry and have been throughout history.

Elan: The X is your name, according to mathematics, is an unknown variable. Why do you want to associate your identity with it and “become part of the mystery?”

ANX: Attaching the unknown X to my artist name makes me a part of the mystery. I believe that though I sing and write primarily about faith, there are many topics and emotions that fall under that domain. I cannot define it at any given moment. The X to me is a melting pot of the human experience and I am living that human experience. I do not know everything, nor am i a great example or understand everything. I’m just playing my role as a human, creating works that other humans can identify with. It is through my creative and reflective journey that I hope to find the meaning of myself, my life, and those around me. I hope to find meaning to all those things which humans long to find meaning for.

Elan: Tell us a little bit about your upcoming Seconds to Sunset trilogy and its production process. What message(s) do you hope to convey to your listeners?

ANX: The Seconds to Sunset trilogy is a collection of three compilations. The first is primarily composed of songs, it is called “Seconds to Sunset: Volume One,” the second part is primarily a simple spoken word and poetry album called “Reflections of a Rebel,” the third part is like the first, mostly songs. It is called “Seconds to Sunset: Volume Two.”

The three albums exist because they contain works that have been created since I was 14. They could not all fit on one CD so I had to break them up. They are my most meaningful pieces. Once again, the hope that comes with releasing these works is that people realize the importance of creativity. If everyone’s natural talents were nurtured, I feel we would be a better society. I pray that this album and all those who worked on it inspire people to do what they love. I also hope that the albums bring something completely new to the world of Islamic devotional music.

Elan: Poetry and spoken word are a big part of your second album. Why do you think it is important to music especially today?

ANX:  I always try to find the best words, the most imaginative metaphors to relay an emotion to a listener or reader. Upon hearing the albums, you’ll notice I take breaks from the music and just talk (in the spoken word pieces), this is not just to set a particular mood, but to bring back the heavy effects of human interaction through spoken language. People do not just cry whilst listening to moving music, but they can also cry simply by listening to a heartbreaking story. There is wisdom behind that. That is why I often delve into both realms of artistry; I believe it makes the overall messages more powerful.

Elan: The Seconds to Sunset trilogy also features Baraka Blue, Tyson Amir, Amir Sulaiman and Naeem Muhammad. What distinctive features did they bring to the album?

ANX: Every artist has their unique take on the human experience; their own world view, their own artistic view. By reaching out to other well established artists, I succeeded in creating a more diverse album. The more variety you have, the more potential you have to reach the chambers of some strangers heart. That is why Baraka Blue, Naeem Muhammad, Tyson Amir, and Amir Sulaiman all play extremely important roles in the Seconds to Sunset trilogy.

Elan: What are your thoughts on the music industry today in the Middle East? What unique features do you think you can contribute to the industry?

ANX: To be honest, I think the ‘Nasheed industry’ or whatever you may call it is dry. I think there are some artists here and there who are trying to change the game up, bringing in new styles and creative visions, but they lack the means to reach greater production resources and/or audiences. I think it’s our duty as a community to assess these works and provide our input wherever needed. However, we must also keep an open mind and seek to develop these new visions that artists have.

I think the point of devotional music now shouldn’t just be teaching us about concepts of God or praying, but also about the human experience and the roads we walk towards God. You can always tell a person what time morning prayer is, but it doesn’t mean they’ll get up to pray. Similarly, you can talk about how great God is in your works, but it doesn’t mean it’s always going to inspire someone to become a better person. But if you somehow strike a chord with emotions and relate to that listeners spiritual condition, you will definitely reach them in one way or another.

Reflections of a Rebel, the second album in the Seconds to Sunset trilogy, is a spoken word album that will release late summer 2013.

*Photographer: Steven Rimlinger



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