For anyone who’s ever tried to write, make music or create anything, you’ll be familiar with your inner critic. It’s the voice that tells you to work when you’re procrastinating and then tells you you’re better off procrastinating when you do get to work. It’s the sickening feeling of dread that follows a realisation that what you thought was worthwhile is a waste of yours and everyone else’s time. Or, that your experiences of self-doubt are in fact only yours, that no one is that self-critical, that the inner critic doesn’t exist at all.
Someone who knows their inner critic all too well is jazz trumpeter and composer Yazz Ahmed. Instead of letting it hinder her work, though, she’s made it the thematic centre of her latest record, La Saboteuse. “The album is named after my inner destroyer, my anti-muse,” she explains, “it’s a negative voice that everyone has, that we all struggle with, and playing music for me is part of the battle in confronting these voices.” Yet, it is through accomplishing the very act this voice denies that Ahmed sees it conquered. “Giving her a name has made me able to shut that voice up,” she says, “the inner critic can hold me back but I’ve learnt how to put that to one side and just let the creativity flow.”
The creativity certainly flows on La Saboteuse, Ahmed’s second LP following 2011’s Finding My Way Home. Born and raised in Bahrain before moving to London at the age of nine, Ahmed fuses Arabic music with British jazz, finding points of similarity amongst the rhythmic charge of Middle Eastern percussion on tracks like ‘Jamil Jamal’ or through the emotive bass clarinet and Arabic scales present on the Shabaka Hutchings-featuring title track.
Read the feature in Clash Magazine.
[This piece was published on 06/04/18]