Imam Collective’s new EP Solitude, an atmospheric excursion into delicate sarod and guitar compositions.
Drawing influence from classical and folk music from Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Mali, Imam Collective fuse guitar and sarod into lengthy, dreamy folk-adjacent soundscapes. Guitarist and composer Imam Hamdani works with sarodist Manik Khan to deliver surprisingly robust performances within the confines of their two-person line-up, bearing Hamdani’s interests in low-fi and classical music at the forefront of their music.
“Up until the recording of Solitude my process of writing relied heavily on collaboration,” begins Hamdani. “I would take rough sketches or melodic ideas to my collaborators, and we would throw ideas until something would stick. However, due to lockdown and the reality of not knowing when I would be able to play with another musician in the same room again, I wanted to be able to play each part I wrote simultaneously on the guitar so I could experience the piece as a ‘whole’. This was a very new process of writing for me where (for the most part) each section and melodic theme was all written before I stepped into the studio, except the solos (long improvised sections). Improvisation is a very important element in my music, I always like to leave room for the present moment.”
“With Solitude I hope to showcase the power of the sarod through arrangements and compositions that are accessible to listeners with diverse music interests. The sarod is synonymous with classical music, keeping that in mind I wanted to maintain the integrity of the instrument and write parts that would lend themselves to the instrument, and allow Manik to freely express himself within a contemporary music structure/form”
As the first single and title track of the EP, Solitude aptly showcases Imam Collective’s atmospheric compositions. Slow plucking of chords backed by humming sarod create a feeling of weightlessness – pacing the listener in a manner that allows true appreciation of the interplay between guitar and sarod.
“I showed this melody to Manik the first time we ever played together and what ensued was a magical 60 minutes”, continues Hamdani. “We often talk about that jam because for me that’s what laid the seed for what we’ve accomplished today with this EP. I’ve named it Solitude because of what we’ve all experienced collectively the last few years. I had just moved cities right as the pandemic hit. I had moved into a studio apartment the week lockdown was announced and for the first time experienced what it felt to be truly isolated. Even if I wanted to see someone I couldn’t. However, that also afforded me the space to think and exercise my imagination free of the need to constantly ‘do’ something, which is how I’ve come to view solitude.”
As a reflection of life within the pandemic, Solitude is the product of much reflection from Imam Collective, resulting in a series of delicate tracks, murmuring with feeling. The pair manage to cover wide breadths of ground and emotion, bouncing of each-other’s stringwork to create something that’s both engaging while easy to listen to. For those eager to witness live performances, EPs release aims to run concurrent with a series of shows aimed at infusing new meaning and dimension to these songs. Hamdani hints at the possibility of an accompanying string section – making these shows a must see for lovers of slow, contemplative music.
Imam Collective’s new EP Solitude is out now on Worlds Within Worlds.