SXSW Music Spotlight: Kareem Ali
House music producer is crafting sober dance parties and beats kids can brush their teeth to
Kareem Ali is kind of wholesome. He’s a Phoenix-based house music producer who believes in enjoying the music sober, and he’s released it on his Cosmo Flux label at a breakneck pace since 2017, with no signs of slowing.
Though the past few years saw his profile rise like a flare in electronic music, Ali trained in jazz as a trumpet player. He played in Brooklyn bars a bit and then, during his stint in college, a good friend turned him on to electronic music. Ali learned the roots of house from Black producers from New York and Chicago, and having been raised by a Nation of Islam-devoted father, he applied his afrofuturist vision to the Black-empowered music he produced. Community remains a focus.
When I ask about his idea to host sober dance events with music geared to BIPOC youth, he perks up and says he wants the events to be “something kids can come to.” He tells me how one of his next projects is “an album called House Music for Children. House music geared towards children, brushing your teeth and stuff like that. No one’s really done that before.” What would it sound like? “Very video-gamey,” he says. “Kids love xylophone sounds ... any type of bell sound.” Another project is his next album, which he’s just decided is about redemption.
At SXSW, Ali hopes to network with film and TV people, but adds that his ideal future is headlining live shows. A Kareem Ali live set includes elements of jazz, hip-hop, drum and bass, and trip-hop, created on many pieces of external hardware, a lot like his 2021 Boiler Room. How does he update his own production techniques? Friends who studied music engineering in college are a major resource, as is YouTube. He adds, “I’ve just scratched the surface.”
Wednesday, March 16, TBA, Sellers