- Brother Dash
Infobox musical artist
Name = Brother Dash
Img_capt = Photo Credit: Brother Dash
Background = Poet
Birth_name = Dasham K Brookins
December 3, 1971
Origin = flagicon|USA
New York City
Years_active = 2003-Present
Label = Meem Music
URL = [http://www.muslimpoet.com MuslimPoet.com]
About Brother Dash
Born Dasham K. Brookins, Brother Dash is a spoken word poet from the United States. He is one of the most well known of performance poets in the Islamic Entertainment industry. Recently the subject of a BBC Radio 4 feature documentary on Muslim poets entitled [http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/sing_your_own_psalms/pip/ghlsk/ Sing Your Own Psalms] ,Brother Dash has performed for over 50,000 people at both the 2005 and 2006 Global Peace and Unity Concert in London, England [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GnDsM1rqG9k Video Link] (source: Islamic Channel TV [http://theglobalunity.com] and London Metropolitan Police official crowd estimates) He has performed for over 10,000 at ExpoIslamia at the Manchester News Arena in Manchester, England (August 18th 2006). He has also performed for over 10,000 at North America's largest Islamic conference [http://www.isna.net ISNA] where over 30,000 Muslims converge every Labor Day weekend in Chicago, IL at the Rosemont Convention Center. In 2007 Brother Dash performed at the National Conference of the largest Muslim Student's Association in America (MSA-National) in Chicago, IL. He has been featured on Islam Channel TV, Al Arabiya Television, Bridges TV, Islamica Magazine, PBS affiliate NJN network in New Jersey, USA and mainstream New Jersey newspaper The Star Ledger in Spring 2006. His television appearances alone have been shown in over 2 million households worldwide (Bridges TV, Al-Arabiya TV, Islam Channel TV). Several of his videos can be found on YouTube [http://www.youtube.com] by searching Brother Dash.
Early Life and Influences
Brother Dash is an American convert to Islam whose poetry is influenced by not only his religion but the life experience of an African-American "child of the 80's" from Brooklyn, NY. He was born Dasham K. Brookins on December 3rd, 1971 in Brooklyn, NY. At a young age Dash showed a keen interest in reading and writing including a unique interest in reading daily newspapers at the age of 7. Dash wrote his first poem after the tragic death of a childhood friend when he was only 8 years old. Oddly, however, Dash did not write another poem until he was a teenager and then there was another 7 year absence of writing poetry. He only became a consistent poet when he went to college at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ. "My focus was on being an actor in theatre and movies. Poetry was more of a hobby at the time. My creative pursuits were in acting" explains Dash. It was during college that Dash started to actually perform some of his poetry in front of live audiences frequenting coffehouses, cafes and poetry venues. Most of Dash's poetry at this time was socio-political in nature and he had not yet developed any spiritual themes.
Spiritually Brother Dash was always a fervent believer in God even as a young child. Though he did not come from an overly religious family Dash comes from a Christian background with most of his family being of various Protestant denominations. As a young child he would occasionally attend church and even as a teenager there was a time when he would go to Church more regularly. The only exception to this Christian background was that of his Father. At the time of Dash's birth his Father was a member of the Nation of Islam offshoot known as The
Five Percenters. This is why his birth name, Dasham, sounds "Islamic". In fact growing up people would often ask Dash if he was Muslim because his name sounded Arabic. While he was not Muslim the fact that this would be a consistent question always kept Islam in Dash's life even on a very surface "Are you Muslim?" level. Some might say that even from birth there was "no getting away from Islam" for him. And sure enough Brother Dash did in fact become Muslim when he took the "Shahada" or testification of faith at a local mosque in New Jersey in front of several congregates in the mid 1990's. Brother Dash's sister also took Shahada a few years after he did.
Artistically Brother Dash grew up with a combination of both literary and musical influences. He credits writers from
William Shakespeareto Edgar Allan Poeto Langston Hughes, Amiri Baraka, Sonia Sanchezand Nikki Giovannias authors and performance poets whose works helped shape his poetry. He credits spoken word pioneers such as The Last Poetsand Gil Scott-Herron with providing certain stylistic and structural influences. But most importantly however, as with most youth after the rise of pop culture, Brother Dash's greatest influence has come from music. "All of the poetry that I actually perform comes to me in the form of a rhythm. In my head it's music with the words being the notes if that makes any sense" says Dash. "Much of the poetry that is meant really just for me often does not come to me as music strangely enough. If you listen to this album and the first EP I did back in 2005 there are actually a couple of poems that you can tell are different from the others in terms of cadence and energy...that's because they were not truly meant as performance pieces. I kind of just wrote what I felt but felt the message was important to share" adds Dash. Hip-Hop has given Dash much of the cadence, flow, and energy in his poetry. He was especially influenced by artists such as Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five, Run DMC, Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest, LL Cool J, Rakim, and many others. While not a rapper, and Dash is adamant about not being a rapper...Brother Dash's Spoken Word performances clearly do borrow from his love Hip-Hop and other musical genres such as funk and jazz. If you listen carefully you can sometimes hear drum riffs, a bass player "pop" on a string, or even a great horn player "blare" in Dash's delivery.
Today Brother Dash's poetry is influenced even greater by another important aspect of his life...Islam. As mentioned earlier Brother Dash converted to Islam in the 1990s shortly after graduating college. He started a family and ceased writing and performing for several years. When Dash did pick up the pen/mic again he found that his "muse" was directing him towards speaking from a new "Islamic" voice. There was less emphasis on the socio-political content he was known for. More poems were being written on spirituality, the relationship of Muslims to each other, and inner conflicts on Islam and the "self". Today Brother Dash seems to have seamlessly combined all of his influences from the spiritual to the moral to the social to create a unique "sound" and style. Islamically Brother Dash has been heavily influenced by Western raised scholars such as Sheikh [http://www.sakeenah.org/ Abdullah Adhami] ,
Imam Zaid Shakir, Sheikh Hamza Yusufand Imam Siraj Wahhaj. These individuals helped to give Brother Dash a foundation in sound, well researched, traditional Islam but with the balance of understanding how modernity, one's own culture and Islam fit together. With this combination Brother Dash's poetry has found a home with Muslim audiences who are looking for a more sophisticated and nuanced understanding of how Islam relates to their lives and a home with Non-Muslim audiences that have grown weary of poetry and spoken word that doesn't address issues or doesn't sound "poetic" at all.
Album and Performances
In May 2007 Brother Dash released his new solo album "Poetically Speaking: Savory Spoken Word...Spiritually Served" on the [http://www.meemmusic.com Meem Music] record label. The album contains 12 spoken word poetry tracks in Dash's signature energetic and rhythmic style. The album is available on many retail websites including iTunes, Amazon.com, Nasheeds.com, Rumi Bookstore and Islamic Bookstore. In the Spring of 2008 Brother Dash left Meem Music for business reasons. Dash will be releasing future material as an independent artist. He is the founder of Brotherdash.com [http://www.brotherdash.com] and he also maintains a page on myspace/brotherdash [http://www.myspace.com/brotherdash] and can be found on facebook.
For most of 2008 Brother Dash significantly scaled back live performances for both family and creative reasons. "I needed to take a break to handle the more important priorities in my life. It has turned out to be not only beneficial for my family but also for me creatively and spiritually. I look forward to returning to the stage full time in 2009 with new material." In 2007 Dash completed his first ever tour. He went on a 6 city Eid Celebration tour of the UK with stops in London, Bradford, Manchester, Birmingham and Stoke-On-Trent for [http://www.deentrust.com Deen Trust] featuring several other acts. Brother Dash also performed and was the host for the Voices in Praise concert featuring
Sami Yusufand Native Deen, [http://vip.masyouthchicago.org/about.html MAS YOUTH CHICAGO] at the Rosemont Theater in Chicago, IL August 2007. Also once again Brother Dash performed at the largest gathering of Muslim in North America at this year's Muslim Students Association, and Muslim Youth of North America conference Labor Day Weekend in Chicago of 2007. And finally Brother Dash also performed for the [http://www.theeidfest.com 2nd Annual EidFest] celebration in New Jersey in October 2007 at Raritan Valley Community College.
For an extensive list of performances please visit Brotherdash.com [http://www.brotherdash.com]
Two New CDs for 2009
Brother Dash will be releasing both his 2nd and 3rd solo CDs in 2009. "I have some new material that I'd like to share and a new direction on the 3rd CD that I'm excited about." According to Brother Dash the first release for 2009 is almost finished and the name of the album will be announced to members of Brotherdash.com and his facebook page in late 2008. The second release for 2009 will include some "new elements" that Dash is truly excited about.
New Stage Show
"Most poets, including myself, have a fairly standard stage "show". You pretty much have a mic, your voice and at most a stool and a bottle of water. There's nothing wrong with that but I'm also looking to create a new stage experience that includes some other elements. This show will have a theme and be a bit more theatrical" says Brother Dash. Brother Dash will begin writing for the new stage 'experience' as he calls it later in 2008 also for a 2009 release.
As if not busy enough Brother Dash also plans to pen his first novella in 2009. "It's sort of a cross between a graphic novel and a novel but without the pictures" quips Dash. The novella may morph into a series that can eventually go into other media such as visual media. He also has several requests to contribute to other artists' albums and continues to do event hosting and event production "on the side" as he says. "Well I do have a full time job to maintain you know? I mean I'm a poet which isn't exactly the most lucrative of interests...still gotta pay the bills!" laughs Dash.
*"Poetically Speaking: Savory Spoken Word...Spiritually Served" (2007)
*"The MuslimPoet EP" (2005)
* "Rhyme and Reason", The Poets of Metaphorical Records (2003)
*" [http://www.khaleelmuhammad.com/2.html The Adventures of Hakim 2] " Khaleel Muhammad (2008)
*"Ilâhî" [http://www.suhailnajmi.com Suhail Najmi (2008)]
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