In January 2022, Yousef Hilmy, founder of CA-based jazz label Minaret Records, launched Minaret Radio on the Blast Radio airwaves as an additional channel to reach fans, and spotlight the label’s growing roster. “Minaret Radio will be super dot-connecting and allow us to tell more about our story and the way that everything/everyone in this space magically overlaps,” Minaret Records wrote on Instagram. So far, each installment has given listeners greater insight into the people behind the music by painting a vivid image of the community a fully-realized record label can hope to achieve.
Hosted by Hilmy, each episode maintains a casual and conversational tone reflective of the inclusive vibe that Minaret has worked hard to cultivate. The inaugural episode featured mixes from Hilmy that highlighted Minaret’s roster and catalog of releases since Hilmy founded the label in 2019, as well as selections from the broader ecosystem of jazz and related genres. In addition to a wide array of diverse mixes, episodes also feature extensive interviews with Minaret artists that go deep on topics like craft and collaboration, while paying special attention to the growth and transformation happening individually with each artist, and collectively across the label as a whole.
In episode 2, Hilmy and Los Angeles-based guitarist, producer, and longtime friend and collaborator takoda went deep on challenges of developing a personal style, engaging with one’s musical education, and circumventing the difficulties of playing together during a global pandemic. Fresh off the release of Die in the Process with San Antonio producer 40hands, takoda discussed trying to not let COVID discouragement set in, and kept the conversation focused on how to adapt and continue moving forward despite the obstacles.
The pair weighed survival tactics: from learning to jam through Zoom, to sharing project files to develop tracks, to keeping their techniques katana-sharp, isolation can have its workarounds. But the candor between the two friends was most palpable as they opened up about strategies to remedy the emotional toll of COVID isolation. “Check in with the homies: it’s not corny to tell someone you love them, or to be safe,” the pair agreed with a solemn warmth, before takoda shared a special mix he’d selected for those listening in.
Episode 3 saw Hilmy share the mic with saxophonist Nicole McCabe and bassist Logan Kane, who together record as the jazz-club duo Dolphin Hyperspace. The show centered on how the pair’s meeting online led to a fruitful collaboration in real life. Like two species that co-evolve, the organic chemistry that McCabe and Kane share has encouraged the pair to learn from and grow toward each other’s style.
After meeting online, they traded tracks and stems back and forth as they coalesced around a sound that yielded a series of projects, including Dolphin Hyperspace’s Mini Giraffe LP, released on Minaret in 2021. Additionally, the show celebrated the release of Dolphin Hyperspace’s new single, “Buster Boy,” inspired by the pair’s beloved dog. Once again, Hilmy was curious about how the duo had been carrying on, whether they’d been practicing, and what they saw on the horizon.
In fact, Hilmy’s conversations with friends and fellow Minaret artists are frequently centered on ideas of growth, moving toward a better future, and how to make more powerful and liberative art that nourishes the intangible bounds of humanity’s yearnings. Lately, the Minaret community’s efforts has continued to pay off: between pop-up combo performances cognizant of public health, bicoastal shows, new records by Chiquita Magic and Medellin Collection, Dolphin Hyperspace’s aforementioned new single, and the success of Minaret Radio, the label has been making some serious waves. Since Minaret's founding in 2019, this is the first time Hilmy has started thinking in terms of 5-year increments.
“Different arrangements are possible.
Keep thinking outside the box. Keep doing the most with bills, try to just form like Voltron to do shit because I think that’s the best way: everybody working together and cutting through the bullshit, and being close to the source of why we do this which is about connecting with people and providing people with tools and roadmaps to deal with their lives and their emotions.
That’s what music is.”
Symbolized from the Arabic منارة – “a source of light, direction, overlapping calls, or to serve as a spiritual reminder, or a house of sound” – Hilmy envisioned an imprint that could both foment and incubate the sounds he saw emerging around him. Percolating in a community of like-minded producers, instrumentalists, and beatmakers, Hilmy knew he was witnessing an evolution in jazz, as a new generation of innovators was digging in and synthesizing everything that came before.
In a few short years, Hilmy’s vision has started to resemble the beacon-like qualities of its inspiration, as Minaret continues to guide heads from across the genrescape toward a safe harbor for unfettered, free expression. When Hilmy founded Minaret Records, the label started out as a feeling. But over time, it has become a highly collaborative community deeply invested in the care and success of the work as a collective, as well as an avenue for people to better understand their own emotions.
“Big love to all the artists in the Minaret family, for real. It’s dope to just be working together and pushing forward the way that we do,” Hilmy said during his conversation with takoda in episode 2.
“If we don’t do it, no one will.”
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