| January 2019 Mover |
Navid Najafi at The Sipping Room HNL.
On January 4, 2019, Na Hoku Hanohano award winning artist Navid Najafi aka “Illnomadic" from the Super Groupers and I got together at the Atlas test kitchen in Honolulu and chatted over hot Thai tea and kamote dahl about music, where he grew, his perspective, and being Illnomadic. I began seeing Navid more often a few years ago and at some sessions we were both invited to; one time with Aceyalone and a fellow Pinay from Los Angeles, J-Natural, and the other time was with Abstract Rude at Blue Planet Studios with Jules Washington. I was in a state of shock, still newly processing my father's death only two weeks prior when I remember Abstract Rude schooling me on how “we walk, and sing, and sing all the time…” basically giving me some tough love through my grief and encouraging me to push through it. I remember turning inward and learning how to use the program Reason to make beats later that year. Whenever we would cross paths, one thing was true; Navid was always encouraging, strong and positive to be around. I recall conversations at the club and chatting with Navid in the back of Next Door, about our Dads, what 1984 was like upon arriving in the US, and why 8 years old was so significant. The interview was everything I had hoped for; a chance to hear his story with no distractions over some tea and grub. It was cool to connect with someone who shared some parallels, coming from a different country, moving to the US due to the political climate, and having an accent.
Navid was born in Iran in the summer of 1978, and when he was 8 years old, he and his family moved to New York. Some of his earliest memories of tea was in a baby bottle; that’s Persian tea in a baby bottle. I mean, that’s black tea in a baby bottle to soothe a crying baby in the middle of the night. He shared the art of eating a tea cookie, dunking it in his tea for the right amount of time to get a perfect bite; not too dry, not too soggy. He also saw tea as medicine growing up and recalled soothing eye problems with a bag of tea. Hot tea was made in a glass jar so you can inspect the color of the tea. When you go to people’s homes, the way they make tea is telling, depending on whether the tea is too light, too dark, or just right. He explains, “You dunk your sugar cube and place it between your teeth and take a sip of tea… So bad for your teeth, but it is how people drink tea in Iran.”
As we went through the topics, it was interesting to learn that both our parents moved us around the time of the people’s revolution our own countries; and besides my own siblings, I had not been able to share that same story with any of my friends. The best part, however, is how Navid has been able to forward with an energy of humility, resilience, confidence, intuition, courage and creativity through his experiences, carrying a modern, debonair grace as he shares this light with our community, and our youth through the Soundshop hip hop education program at the Honolulu Museum of Art and Doris Duke Theater, who recently held a workshop for our outer-island youth on Moloka'i (See "Events" tab for more info). Having been part of some Soundshop workshops, it is clear that there is something to be said about the importance of empowering our youth by showing them the tools within to succeed, offering ways to help uncover their gems as a way to respond to their everyday struggles in a more creative way. Moreover, we talked about how music, specifically hip hop, can positively influence the brain and how we think.
I raised the question about his relationship to plant medicine, tea, and how they have helped him find his own medicine; utilizing his voice through hip hop. I witnessed an opportunity for healing through our conversation over tea. A lot of things came up as I was being lead through his experience and listened to his story. 1979 was the year of Iranian Revolution; the overthrow of the Shah of Iran and the subsequent takeover by islamic fundamentalist dictators. In 1980, he recalled women having to cover their heads. There were memories of the attack and the beginning of jihad or religious war. While children in America were experiencing the birth of hip hop in 1984, Navid recalls young boys between the ages of 10-12 getting drafted into the military along with elderly men and being used as “human waves,” being on the front lines and taking bullets.
Our conversation stirred up a lot, as 1984 was very significant for me as well. Where I was in Manila, Philippines, I remembered yellow ribbons around trees signifying the coming home of former senator, Ninoy Aquino, who had this long standing battle with then President and dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Quickly it was the image of Ninoy Aquino getting escorted by military police from the airplane and getting shot on the tarmac in all white clothing as he laid there in a pool of blood. I had just experienced my first political demonstration upon turning 8 years old, when I drove out with my 12 year old sister to a rally. Sharing our own national traumas sort of created this understanding between brother Navid and I; which I treasure greatly.
2004 was the year his father passed and the personal work he had been doing has helped him learn to let go of sadness, soften hardened points, and likened it to releasing a knot in the muscle. He shared his first experience with a shaman and how it ties to music, sharing, asking the medicine to assist you in whatever you asked of it. This was instrumental in shifting his perspective and processing what he had experienced as a child. The realization of finding your medicine changes who you are and allows a shift by revisiting trauma from an experienced being; the shift from self to seeing the bigger picture and how we relate to everyone around us. In 2014, Navid took part in a meditation retreat where significant groundwork was laid out to help expand the consciousness and how it may have even helped to clear the childhood trauma with clarity, a more mature lense and overstanding. We discussed the importance of being a creator and problem solver, turning negative experiences into positives no matter what is happening around you. Tending to the field, balance, discipline, practice and cultivation have been essential to his growth, as well as tuning into the Source, which he believes everyone has access to. According to Navid, once you come to your own realization, you cannot unsee it; you are forever changed.
Through his work, there is a steady theme of embracing changes, avoiding division and spreading compassion, along with the importance of utilizing our gifts and talents to communicate and assist in the betterment of humanity. His greatest nudge has been hip hop and using his voice. As co-facilitators, we spoke about the importance of art/music education and meeting our youth with a language that they can grasp, and a sense of authenticity. We agreed on the topic of being unapologetic, yet compassionate, and his greatest lesson; to be authentic, true to his word, follow through, educate and become a bridge in all that he aspires to do.
So what is next for the Illnomadic Navid Najafi? For the next year, it’s about more collaborations, the Super Groupers, most recently, a track he released with a friend he met at a meditation retreat entitled The Gift under Inner Revival (Illnomadic and DWP), and since English is his second language, he decided to name his upcoming solo project Second Language, to be released on March 21st, which is on Norooz or Persian New Year. Peep the latest single, The Gift, on the Atlas main page where links to the various music platforms can be found. Find more information about what is happening through the Soundshop program by clicking on the "Community/Education" tab at the bottom of the Atlas website.
Also, be sure to catch Navid with the Super Groupers as we all set the stage for Shabazz Palaces on Friday, February 15, 2019 (6-10PM) at the Honolulu Museum and Doris Duke Theater. More information about the show is available on the "Events" tab; also found on the website's footer. Seating is limited for the Shabazz Palaces showcase, so be sure to purchase your tickets soon.