By Jelani Haynes for Brain Arts Organization
June 22, 2020
BAO is dedicated to uplifting and supporting the voices of Black content creators and we recognize the discussions of white supremacy and police brutality are essential and ongoing. Click here to check out our recent blog post, a toolkit of resources for supporting BIPOC creatives.
We believe art is essential to revolution, and are also dedicated to covering experimental music. Rah Zen has donated all of the proceeds from the first week Bandcamp purchases of In Rah Form Vol. 1 to ColorofChange.org Additionally, he matched that sale amount and also donated to BAMS Fest (Boston Art & Music Soul Festival). All sales of the project after the first week of are being donated to For The People Boston. We asked one of our board members, Jelani Haynes to give us his thoughts on Rah Zen's latest EP. Enjoy!
Music heals. In fact, producer and event curator, Rah Zen, founded the Nightworks beat showcase with the belief that “the beat will always save us,” a mantra inspired by experimental hip-hop duo, Shabazz Palace’s record “Gunbeat Falls.” Although, he acknowledges that “the beat” alone cannot shield us from the dangers of a global pandemic, or racial and social injustices, it is the beat that fuels Rah Zen’s persevering spirit and, now, has him In Rah Form.
On Friday, May 29th, Rah Zen released the In Rah Form Vol. 1 through Union Sound which he considers a sibling organization to Nightworks. Rah Zen’s close friend, fellow beatmaker, and Union Sound Founder, Loman, assisted with the release and promotion of the project.
Rah Zen explained that putting forth his latest effort required him “balance the internal urge to express my creative energy by allowing the beat to guide me. Tapping into that requires not forcing it, soaking up inspiration elsewhere, and treating my craft with respect and patience.”
The three-track project consists of beats with robust percussion that range from intense to chill, guaranteeing unending head-nods from listeners. In comparison to his previous full-length releases he says “[In Rah Form vol. 1] is much closer to Upon the Apex than Midnight Satori, but it’s less meditative and more stripped-down than both. I see Midnight Satori as my artistic awakening, Upon the Apex as my grounding, and In Rah Form as my forward momentum. I explored, learned, applied, honed my skills and now I’m playing with my new toolkit –– building upon my sonic identity.”
In Rah Form Vol. 1 cover art; designed by James Wells
Rah Zen’s music exudes brilliance, and his heart beats compassion and community consciousness. In Rah Form Vol. 1 was released on a day of nation-wide protests were sparked in response to the unlawful murder of George Floyd just days prior. Floyd, a 46 year old African-American man, died at the hands of Minneapolis police during an arrest made on May 25th, 2020. Arts activists across the country continue to leverage their platforms and elevate voices speaking out against the injustices that plague black lives.
In recognizing the power of his own platform Rah Zen has donated all of the proceeds from the first week Bandcamp purchases of In Rah Form Vol. 1 to ColorofChange.org Additionally, he matched that sale amount and also donated to BAMS Fest (Boston Art & Music Soul Festival). All sales of the project after the first week of are being donated to For The People Boston.
It is his objective, he says, “to support them effectively fighting racial injustice and building real power for Black communities –– so if you enjoy the album, consider buying it there instead of streaming.” Rah Zen not only aims to help uplift the community’s message of anti-racism, but also the visibility of up and coming beat makers.
As the Founder and Executive Director of the Nightworks live show series, Rah Zen works tirelessly to shine a spotlight on the growing beatmaking community in New England and across the country. Nominated for Boston Music Awards “Night of the Year,” the series is entering its third year of beat-centered, interactive showcasing. Nightworks even integrated with Loman and Union Sound for spinoff series called “& Friends” wherein they hosted monthly release parties for Boston beatmakers (and extended family).
Nightworks Logo, retrieved from their Facebook page
But Covid-19 has abruptly interrupted the frequency of Nightworks and similar events where music enthusiasts congregate. At the crossroad of art and social distancing, Rah Zen and other curators are forced to readjust engagement methods to stay connected with their supporters. When asked how he and the Nightworks team have adapted he says ”we’ve been staying active by having Instagram live conversations led by Kadeem with legends like Ski Beatz and Thelonious Martin, while also spotlighting our community members' releases and efforts. We’re working on a few virtual ideas, but a big part of Nightworks is the convergence of beats, visuals, rap, art, and local vendors, so we want to do something that includes all of those elements virtually. Rest assured, Nightworks will return in full effect whenever we can gather again.”
In the near future Rah Zen looks forward to collaborating with local emcees and readying his next full-length project. Most immediately listeners can look forward to In Rah Form Vol. 2 in June with each additional volume soon following thereafter.
Check out In Rah Form Vol. 1 on Bandcamp and other streaming platforms.