Gonja Sufi

"I love where I live man, and I believe in humanity"
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How do they find these people? Warp Record's Steve Beckett's clearly been surfing about full of mushrooms in the spirit world to find and befriend Gonja Sufi, aka Sumach Ecks, a wild soul most often found piercing the night sky of the Mojave Desert with his shamanic rumbles and beat heavy prophecies.

'A Sufi and a Killer' is a 19 track excursion around the outer limits of vocal delivery that sees him not only balance his spirit but also up the ante in the delivering one of the most leftfield recordings in years.

Riddled with conflicting tones and textures its an album that's at once gruff, soaring, elemental and at points unclassifiable, 'A Sufi and a Killer' is a fascinating sonic document that's as complex as the mysterious man behind it all.

Clash caught Sumach on the phone to discuss hearing colour, obliteration of the soul and why Americans are probably the least free people we know.

Clash: Where did your name 'Gonja Sufi' come from? It sounds quite spiritual..
“I started studying, getting into Islam, and of course smoking a lot of dope, and it was kind of a balance, one or the other, and actually it was a group, it was me and my boy – he ended up getting locked up - he’s doing life, so I went with it. Sufi stands for Islam mystic, dealing with mystic on any level, dealing with the invisible rather than the visible, and herb being a natural element of the earth that helps you tune into that frequency, so they both help each other.”

Clash: And the album is called A Sufi and A Killer, so how are the two elements defined on the album?
“It’s two different sides to me. I can’t be too passive, ‘cause then I’ll end up getting ran over or taken advantage of, and I don’t want to end up becoming too aggressive either – or too passive...so it represents the balance in me. The Gaslamp Killer’s doing a lot of the production as well – two opposites.”

Clash: Do you find that you need to creative outlet to balance your life?
“Yeah of course man. You deal with so much shit in your life that you’ve gotta find a way to channel it. I’m not gonna go around with a gun and start killing people, but I can get at people through the music, I can heal them, and at the same time, if I see devils I can kill the devils, through my words that are the bullets. For me it’s the most powerful thing on earth, you can heal people, and you can free people from their own disease, their own despair and ignorance. If it wasn’t for the music I’d probably be doing all that other shit I’m talking about.”

Clash: When did you start using music to balance you out?
“Early nineties. I’m 32 now.”

Gonja Sufi - Kowboyz And Indians



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Clash: You’ve got a massive range of vocal styles on the album.
“On my other albums I’m doing the same shit – some songs I’m screaming, some songs I’m using a real deep voice, some I’m using a soft voice. It all depends on the mood – it’s nothing really new – I just put it all together on one album. I’ve been doing all that shit for a while.”

Clash: I was reading how your strange vocals come from your yoga, and how you project your voice from further inside you? When did you get into that?
“I started getting into Hatha yoga in 2005, early 2006. I started teaching a lot, so I had to learn how to project from my stomach, from my feet. Just doing Pranayama, certain breath exercises, I’d come back and record after teaching. My voice would be shot and thrown out. I’d usually go straight from teaching yoga into the studio or vice versa, sometimes I’d be recording in the studio, and I’d finish and drive down to the yoga studio and take that same energy into the room, you know.”

Clash: Do you think enough artists get as involved in their spirit in production?
“Not really man. Not as much as back in the day. Less now than ever because of the computer man, because it’s so easy to become a rap artist, or a rock star, that people haven’t even tapped into the spirit, or haven’t struggled. They go to the internet and have access to everything – they don’t have to go digging, like we had to – digging for wax.
With the spirit, it’s going to end up back there, eventually – you look at everything that’s going on with the earth and shit, everyone’s going to end up back there. But for the most part, from 2000 on, there hasn’t been too much music that’s spiritually based – not in the US.”

Clash: It’s all quite business like. It’s rare that you speak to a musician for which music is a necessity, they’re just joining the dots to get to a place. What was the most challenging part of making the album?
“Trying to make sure that the colour that I painted it is put out the colour that I painted it, exactly not a different shade, and making sure that the people that are putting it out are happy with the colour. And finding a way of being content that it’s going to go out worldwide, although it may be a little off compared to how I really wanted it, just because of the rush.”

Clash: Your first track which is in brackets - (Bharatanatyam) – whats the story behind that?
“Well it’s just kind of an introduction … it’s more of a homage to what’s come before me, the Kundalini and those that have come before – it’s more paying homage to the ancestors before. That’s in their name, the spirit dance. It’s in parentheses because it’s not really a song.”

Clash: For people who are reading this that haven’t heard it – what are you saying on it? What about on 'Sheep' for example?
“That’s a song about ego. If you’re in a room, and there’s two lions in a room, and they both go at each other’s throat and kill each other. The only way to get past the ego is to become the sheep in the room, and take the low seat, ‘cause everyone’s competing for the high seat.
If you take the low seat, you’re guaranteed a seat forever. Even if you’re a lion, or a wolf, you have to sometimes become the sheep in order to survive, because I don’t want to have to take out my partner. So I’ll take the low seat, and these cats may not even notice that I’m there, take me for a little sheep, that the lion isn’t worried about – he wants to be king of the jungle. So it’s kind of of about killing the ego, and submitting to a higher self, and allowing someone that’s all about ego, to do what they need to do.”

Clash: You have a track called Suzie Q, who was she?
“Suzie Q is about driving down the 101, passing Hollywood, and about everybody’s dreams - how they want to live this Hollywood life, how everyone rolls out the convertible, they get on the cell phone, and try and pretend like they’re somebody that they’re not. That’s what that song’s about, about a girl driving around, trying to floss, and live this lifestyle, and take on a personality and a lifestyle that’s not even real. It’s about a girl killing herself on the road ‘cause she’s on the cell phone.”

Clash: Dark! … Ok what about 'I’ve Given'?
“That’s a song about giving everything I had but they still want more, you know? And not getting anything in return. To learn to be content with the idea of giving, and not expecting anything in return.”

Clash: And finally tell us about the last track 'Made'?
“That’s probably my favourite on the track. That’s about the contentment of actually making it, of attaining my goal and my vision, from that point on being able to now ‘I made it,and I made the way I want it, and I didn’t compromise and do it the way they said I had to’ And all that fucking hard work paid off. That’s the song – it’s a glory moment, the made day, it’s like me jumping out of a plane, and saying ‘fuck it I’m gonna fly - I don’t have a parachute, but fucki it I’m gonna learn ‘cause I’m not gonna go the way I want me to, I’m not gonna conform and I’m gonna learn how to fly.”

Clash: Was your material before this release more conventional?
“No it was dirtier – still the same. Still the same sound but more aggressive. More rap. I’ve put out four albums before this, and two or three of them had some songs were I’m just singing, but the rest of it was experimental, underground chant shit. I was listening to a lot of Tricky back then, so a lot of that stuff rubs off.”

Clash: Would you say that your sound of 'A Sufi and A Killer' has got broader or more refined?
“Both. I’ve been able to cover a wider spectrum of all my emotions, and with each song I’m trying to define the colours, I’m trying to hit all these colours and I’m able to hit them more than I was in the past. The colours have always been in me, but if I want to project green, then I’m able to define green. Now it’s broader, and I’m going outside of just black through white. Now I’m going with some ultraviolet shit. I’m looking to get more definition into the colours that I’m projecting.”

Clash: Do you always refer to your music in colour terms – have you abandoned any form of traditional song terminology?
“I’ve always worked like that – It’s light waves and sound waves – it’s energy and it’s invisible. It’s the connection between earth and the heavens. It’s the realest shit I know.”

Clash: So the new album is self-produced?
“Well most of it. I got a couple of beats from Mainframe , probably one Gaslamp Killer one, but the rest is pretty much my shit – me and my friend AGDM.”

Clash: He’s quite a famous hip hop studio whizz isn’t he?
“He’s a mixer – he doesn’t get s lot of credit - but he’s pretty major yeah – he’s worked with Dilla, Bhatin and Guilty Simpson, he’s a drummer in my band too.”

Clash: You spend a lot of time in California's Mojave Desert?
“Yeah I’m still here. I go from there, to Joshua Tree (National Park in the Mojave Desert) to San Diego.”

Clash: What’s life like in the desert?
“I like it man – you’ve got the open air, the stars, the mountains not too much water – but it’s quiet, there’s a heavy wind that comes in at night. The desert’s been good for me. I’m an ocean fanatic, I love the ocean more than anything, and the desert kind of makes me work towards the ocean. A lot of my friends are from LA and they’ve never ever been in the fucking ocean. I drive from here to go to Malibu for the surf breaks, four or five hours and they’re only 40 minutes away and they ain’t even been there. When I was in California [think in the Mojave he still is] I was in the Ocean a lot but I was kind of spoilt. Now that I’m out here I work harder to get to it.”

Clash: When did you move out there? And what were the reasons?
“2005. Cheap rent. I’m getting ready to move now, and I just think that the environment brings something out of me.”

Clash: Does this album reflect the environment that you wrote it in?
“The only songs I didn’t write in the desert would be Holidays, Candylane, Duet. You can kind of hear the difference you know?”

Clash: There seem to be some bits when there’s unrestrained chanting, and then there are others where there’s more of an edge, where you’re delivering more of an urban thing; more of a conventional message. What did you learn most about yourself in making the album?
“That I have to be patient with myself, be honest with myself and others around me. Pushing myself beyond myself – anything’s possible. That I can fall down, and get up with more strength than when I fell down. Part of this whole process is falling down. You have to learn how to crash off the wave, like learning how to surf, you have to know how to fall first in order to ride the wave. If the wave holds me down, learn to be calm under pressure, and eventually I’m going to be able to come up in the air, be able to breathe again and catch another wave. Basically be patient, have faith, and learn how to ride the wave.”

Clash: Have you ever nearly obliterated yourself getting to the point where you can comprehend your spirit?
“Yes. You give so much to everyone all day that at the end of the day you’ve got nothing left for your fucking self. You know I look in the mirror and I’m like, I don’t even recognize who I am anymore. You can lose yourself during that time, but that’s part of the process. You get to that level, and then you plateau and get bored in that space, so then other stuff comes along to take you to a higher level, and it feels like you’ve fallen off that first level, but you’ve just become numb to that frequency, and you’re just like ‘I need something more man.’”

“Nature threw some stuff at me that I’ve only processed now, like I’ve regressed or something, but there’s no sense in redoing all that I just did. I’m glad that it’s coming out, and that I can forget about it and leave it behind.”

“For the new stuff I have to stay open, and creative and not have a parameter to fit in, even though right now I’ve set myself up for parameters for the next album. So people have to not expect shit from me man. Don’t expect shit even close to that stuff, it may be exactly the same, it may be completely off, I don’t fucking know.”

Gonja Sufi - Sheep



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Clash: Your album has some shamanic sounding stuff on it where you’re way off on your own, and then some hip hop heritage and rap on it, which is obviously completely constructed by humans living together.
“Well I spend a lot of time with my family, my kids, so that’s the core of me – that keeps me grounded. But...I wanna fucking fly. I spend a lot of time isolated. In four rooms. I write on the walls north, west, east, south and I project up into the fucking sky, and I’m flying and shit, that’s where my spiriy is at, and the only thing that’s bringing me back to earth is my little kids.

"As far as the outside world, I try and stay inside, I try and stay inside, and when I’m outside, I’m out with my family. When I walk by myself I have to deal with a lot of bullshit, enough to make me not want to go out. But when I’m with my kids, then they’re ice breakers, and people don’t focus on me, they focus on my kids, and they see who I am, through my kids. But...I’m all about fucking flying man, hitting mars, and other planets with this shit.”

Clash: What happens when you go out – do get grief from other members of society?
“You just get motherfuckers that are scared. You just start a normal conversation...Well it doesn’t happen the whole time, but American people are scared to death of a black man with a beard and dreadlocks and a scowl in the middle of his fucking face. They’ll move over, they’ll bring their kids closer, and they don’t even know that I’ll save their fucking life. And they’re acting like I’ll take their fucking life.”

“I’m a real sensitive dude, and I could be all numb and say ‘fuck all that’ My wife will tell you – I come home and say ‘fuck all them, I’m through’ but I do give a shit. When I see people and they’re real stand-offish and defensive, I try and round that corner and put up a mirror and say – ‘Look at yourself.’ That’s all I am is a fucking mirror – if you treat me like this – because of the way that I look, then who the fuck are you to me? I can become what you think I am, but that’s not me.’

"Americans are scared. They believe the media, the TV. There’s a quote going around here: “There are no problems, there are only solutions” and that’s the biggest crock of shit I ever heard. In order to get the solution, you’ve got to focus on the fucking problem man. You have to deal with the problem. You can’t act like this shit isn’t happening just ‘cause you’ve got a plasma TV, LCD sound-system, HD TV and then there’s an earthquake and people are under the rubble and you’re saying there isn’t a problem?”

“I understand the power of positive thinking, but there’s a reality that’s taking place, but thinking can only get you so far. My tone may not sound positive, but because of the state that I’m in but if I’m sat here saying ‘The Flood’s coming, The Flood’s coming’ and everyone’s like: ‘No just think positive, think positive’ and I build a boat, and the flood comes, and I save everybody’s life, then what was the positive thinking doing? Was it me building the boat and saving everybody’s life or everyone fucking drowning?”

“Right now the hardest part for me is dealing with a lot of people who have not struggled, do not give a fuck about the third world, and until that hits the ‘first world’ then people’ll realise that there’s a big ass elephant in the middle of the room.”

Clash: Do think Americans are really free at the moment?
“No not at all. I think everybody’s trapped in what they consider to be free. The freest ones to me are the ones that have grown food out of the earth and don’t have to pay the DMV and pay Uncle Sam in certain ways. You know making money from London and Uncle Sam wants a chunk of that shit. How the fuck is that free. There’s only so much freedom here.”

“It depends – there are certain people who have a bunch of money, and they can do what the fuck they want, so of course the world is beautiful to them so they’re free. But those motherfuckers end up in my yoga class broken down, fighting addictions, still not happy because their possessions have possessed them.”

Clash: I think that possessions are possessing, and that ‘homeland freedom’ is causing so many problems that people get stuck in stereotypes and you’re holding up a mirror to them, uncovering people’s fear. If you were to get the whole of the US’s attention to say three things what would they be?
“First of all, everything as far as money’s concerned, there’s a whole side of the planet that doesn’t have sewage or running water or electrical systems set up to keep food preserved. For every amount of millionaires and close to billionaires, we should be leaders of the green movement firstly.

"The US needs to stop acting like its working for the good of the world – the rest of the world knows we’re not. We need to bring to the third world the same luxuries that we have here. If we take a percentage of what we earn and give it to the third world to build sewage systems then our karma will be better.”

“Two is don't believe TV”

“Three: Focus on the children, that no one can leave prison until they have learnt a trade. How does the US government cut the budget for schools in half and then double the spending on prisons. What are poliicians’ intentions? I don’t believe in anything the government’s pumping me man, I teach my kids everything they need to know before they get to school. I don’t get them vaccinated, I don’t let them put needles in my kids’ arms. And when I look at the news, I would tell motherfuckers in America to look at the BBC news, look at the news from Japan, from Europe, from the Middle East, and then you’ll find out what’s going on in the US.”

Clash: What are the main lessons you'd like to teach your three children.
“First of all – trust your intuition and your heart. And to fear nobody, if there’s anything they fear, go straight in and conquer all your fears, treat everybody the same and they way they want to be treated, to believe in themselves and help others believe in themselves.”

Clash: What’s the greatest gift that you’ve been given?
“Other than just living? My ability to feel, to feel people’s pain and shit, and my own pain and to be around the people around me my support. I’d say my biggest gift has been, other than my family life, my ability to feel, whatever it is, to feel their emotions, beyond what their eyes are telling me, and look into people’s hearts.”

Clash: If your music could make people do anything, what would it be?
“To listen to their heart man, to shut the fuck up, to be still and try to listen to god yo, to try and find a higher purpose other than themselves.”

Clash: Do you mean conventional God?
“Whatever people put other than themselves. The cosmic, the universe. If I could put other people first, then we’d be in a much better situation. That’s what all this music is about - putting other people first. Some of it is me pissed off, but it’s generally about putting other people first. If you do that, then you’ll be surprised where you end up in their life.”

Clash: Would you like to impart any final words to the people of earth?
“I love where I live man, and I believe in humanity, and I believe that we have more shit on common than we have differences, that if we could focus on that shit we could be in a different situation. I love America, I love the world, but people have to start communicating more, and not allow the television, the media, to dictate our relationships between each other man. Motherfuckers need to get a passport and go check out the spot that they afraid of and go and see it for themselves. Put some stamps on the passport.”


Listen to Gonja Sufi's new album 'A Sufi And A Killer' by clicking HERE.

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