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Detroit Music TV

3000 E Grand Blvd
Ste. 205
Detroit, Michigan 48202

Nadir Omowale

By MJ Galbraith
September 27, 2013

Nadir Omowale's recording studio and rehearsal space is nestled in a nondescript building on Grand Boulevard west of New Center. You wouldn't know it from looking at it, but inside houses some of the most important techno artifacts and memorabilia in the world. Rare record pressings hang on the same wall as the original machines Detroit's architects of techno used to create a whole new genre of music. There's a by-appointment-only record store underground, too.
The fact that Nadir's musical operation is based here may strike some as odd, seeing as Nadir - a songwriter, bassist, and bandleader among other things - describes his own music as a fusion of soul, funk, and rock. After all, what does electronic music and live music have in common?
But Nadir doesn't see it that way and, he says, neither should the rest of Detroit.
"We do so many different things here and now people are meeting, they're cross-pollinating," says Nadir. "One of the things I really think Detroit hasn't been as good at in the past that we need to develop more is more of the intermingling of all of these different artists from all these different genres."
Sometimes it takes an outsider to come and identify such a thing. Nadir, a Tennessee native, moved to Detroit in 1999 and quickly established himself as one of the area's premier funk artists, being a regular on the festival circuit and a winner of several Detroit Music Awards. And now that he's achieved so much with his own music, he's turning his attention on the Detroit music scene as a whole.
Nadir is co-founder of DetroitMusic.TV, an ever-expanding website that hosts the area's best music videos. From Detroit's biggest superstars to its talented bar bands, Nadir says the emphasis is on audio and visual quality, not popularity or genre. He wants to see Detroit move into the arena of music-centric towns like New Orleans and Nashville, where people from all over the world not only come to look at a museum, but come to spend a weekend out on the town and take in live music.
"Detroit has always produced and manufactured music. That's the thing," says Nadir. "We've always manufactured music and exported it. So what we have to do is get more into keeping some of that music here as opposed to—I guess the best analogy because I'm coming up with this off the top of my head so it might sound a little weird—it's like we've musically colonized [the world]. Because we have all of these fantastic natural resources that we export to all of these other places all over the world. If you go anywhere in the world and talk to them about Detroit, they talk to you about cars and music. That's what they talk about. Detroit techno. Detroit jazz. John Lee Hooker. Motown. Those are the things they talk about. So we're exporting all of this stuff but we're not using that same music to nurture the populace here."
Nadir was an inaugural member of the Detroit Entertainment Commission, a group founded by former city council member Kwame Kenyatta. The commission was formed to identify ways to achieve just what Nadir talks about.
Nadir also formed Distorted Soul, a record label based in the city with a reach that stretches from here across Europe. The record label is yet another aspect of Nadir's plan to nurture Detroit's music economy. Independent record labels, Nadir says, are one of the things that Detroit has always done better than other cities.
"Berry Gordy [of Motown] had already established that you do it independently, you do it yourself, you keep that independent spirit and you move forward," says Nadir. "And so there were a lot of independent rock labels and there was Westbound Records putting out Funkadelic and the Ohio Players. All of these other groups that came up doing their own thing and being innovators and not necessarily doing what is the 'in thing' on the radio. Detroit has always been ahead of that."
Through his label and his studio, his own gigs and DetroitMusic.TV, Nadir has entrenched himself in Detroit's music scene. His is a call across genres, for everyone from city leaders to open mic hosts to learn from each other and make Detroit a bigger and better live music destination. The talent is already here. Now it's time to organize.
"The fact of the matter is that we all have to work together to propel the city forward. Period. If you're positive-minded and want to work, come in and get to work. There's work to be done. There's not a lot of jobs, but there's a lot of work to do."

All photos by Doug Coombe.

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