Get ready to Grow 

Zaki Ibrahim’s jazzed up hip hop with poetic lyrics comes to First Night celebrations

By Nicole Fitzgerald

What: First Night mainstage

Who: Zaki Ibrahim

When: Dec. 31

Where: Whistler Village

Zaki Ibrahim is one of many unique performers coming to the mainstage for New Year’s Eve and First Night in Whistler Village.

Music wasn’t Ibrahim’s first choice as a profession. Although always around music, growing up in the diversity of her post-apartheid-era hometown where lessons of Islam fed into discussions of Buddhism and Sufi philosophies, Ibrahim’s goal in life was to make change for the better. She wanted to be an on-the-ground catalyst for change, but instead she spends much of her time in the skies, touring her music, and lifting people to a brighter place within themselves through soulful music hovering between hip hop beats and free flowing jazz vocals.

The artist’s way was not how she envisioned changing the world. However, that’s what she does, one song at a time.

Pique Newsmagazine caught Ibrahim resting at home in Toronto before performing at a Doctors Without Borders benefit.

“Being able to do what you love is one thing, but if your first love is being able to make a difference, make a change, help out socially, then it’s an even greater thing; to be able to do what you love and make a difference at the same time, that is the goal,” she said.

“I wasn’t even considering being a full time musician. I truly felt my calling was working in the community on the ground, not being flown around and singing on stages. I’ve had to carefully and slowly ease into it. I’ve accepted that it is something I am going to be doing and love doing for a long time.”

Her song Grow is perfect listening for those days when the world needs to be shut behind a door.

“About losing sight,” she sings. “We could go through this as one. Go through it to the end, until then, we are only going to grow again.”

Lyrics move through the struggles and frustrations, and call on the need for patience with one’s self, one’s unsettled soul. The song reminds us there are others out there seeking betterment for themselves and their community. Ibrahim’s voice stirs things that you find in those quiet moments life grants you. She reaches into a real world where we all want to be and looks back on the life that needs to be climbed over to get there.

Her songs are naked with honesty, but softened in funky rhythms that unravel like upbeat conversations playing between voice and instrumentation.

Grow is one of two already released singles that will be showcased on her first full-length album, which will be launched in the New Year. She is working with Bob Egan, of Blue Rodeo fame, on the tracks.

Some people might not deem the steel pedal guitar an instrument of choice for hip hop, but Ibrahim said nothing could be more natural.

“I am really excited to work with him,” she said. “It’s one of my favourite things to do is to collaborate with something I am totally unfamiliar with… Steel guitar is going to be the new thing in hip hop. The two of us kept cracking up at the thought. Yeah, and don’t knock it.”

Her music is a direct reflection of the way she lives: spontaneous, open and unrolling intuitively with no creative restrictions.

The complex and unique result emerged in a fast climbing music career that has spanned four continents and many musical greats. The dual citizen has worked with a broad family of Canadian and South African musicians, composers and producers, including Juno Award winners Kemo (Rascalz) and DJ Serious (Quartertones) as well as Gigz, Darp Malone and DJ Nana. She also shared stages with the Gift of the Gab, Tumi and the Volume, K’naan, Pocket Dwellers, Saukrates and Bahamadia.

The cultural connector has shared her talents in workshops and performances at schools, prisons and in communities all over the globe. She also works with youth at risk and lent her voice to numerous causes.

“I really want to promote a greater understanding and tolerance,” she said. “It’s my upbringing. It’s the way I like to see the world.”

And every time she works with youth, the world just gets brighter and brighter.

“I am optimistic,” she said. “I do see the next generation being able to make a difference. More and more young people are realizing that the issues we are facing are not far off problems. They are realizing they are not separate from it. We have to realize we are all a part of it. Everything is a part of everything else.”

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