Yusuf Yoshi Misdaq’s 5th studio album, recorded in Hawai’i, 2016-17
Album liner notes (photography, lyrics, album info) available here (.pdf, 900 kb).
Album artwork & photography by Miriam Tölke
100% of the album sales for the first 3 months went directly to Rohingya refugee emergency crisis appeals by both UNHCR & the Hajjah Naziha Charitable Organization, over $100 was sent in total.
I came to Hawaii in the Spring of 2015. I was dealing with a very difficult loss. For the first time in all my travels, I brought no musical instruments of any kind with me. I had left behind or sold everything, thinking that I had finally reached the end of my journey. I felt I was coming to the Island to die. I even wrote my will for the first time. I’m not sure why. I was sad, and I no longer gave a damn about whether anyone cared to listen to my music. I felt like Morgan Freeman’s character in the Shawshank Redemption when he was too old and tired to continue trying to explain himself to the parole board.
I gave up, and gave myself to the water.
7 whole months went by, salt water every day, being held by the warmth and kissed by the breezes. Life in a wonderful place. Without any warning, one day, music began again. It was a late afternoon, I had fallen asleep, and in the space of 45 minutes, had an extremely sensual, powerful and symbolic dream. I woke up calmly. The gentle sun was still warm on my skin. In a trance, I took my pen and wrote out as much of what I had seen / as much as I remembered as I possibly could. The whole time I wrote, there was one enchanted phrase which kept repeating itself, spinning and rotating around my head like a strange sphere; it was a phrase far too memorable for me to forget. After writing down all the details I could remember, I finally wrote the phrase out at the top of the paper in large letters, underlining it… Misted Almond Legacy.
The first half of the album was recorded in this same home studio, high in the mountains of Manoa where the quiet serenity and views of downtown Honolulu and the Pacific had first kissed me with inspiration. It was an affluent, peaceful suburb. The lack of shielding in the old house’s electric sockets meant that my microphone (housed in a walk-in closet) was picking up radio signals whenever I recorded, these could be heard in the songs (in particular tracks 1 & 4). I didn’t like this at all, but the force of the songs that I had began recording were so strong that I just carried on. In order to finish the second part of the album, however, it soon became apparent that I needed to move. I did not want to move, to be quite blunt. I was moved by a force larger than my will. I went down (quite literally) into the city, and found myself in a rougher part of the lovely neighborhood of Makiki, where I took a small studio apartment. It had hard wood floors and a shoji blind with misted glass, separating my bed from the music studio. I slept on the floor and under my mattress, there was a straw mat.
Each day, in this noisy suburb, new songs would come to me, just as easily as water from a tap/eye. It was much the same feeling as when I had first started making beats in the late-90’s. I was amazed at what was coming from me, the sounds that came from my throat, the melodies and words that I wrote. Each night I slept, and each night the vibe was, “I wonder what I’ll make tomorrow?”. I let my self free, and accepted nothing but the most sincere moments of recorded sound. I slept with my windows open, despite the loud noise of cars or the garbage trucks, or various passers by. After some time, birds began coming each morning, sitting outside my door, whether or not I had left food for them. I began to sleep with the door open. Sometimes the birds would hop in and stay for a while on the wooden floor. There was one bird in particular.
One morning, shortly after the sunrise, a voice shrieked out from just outside my apartment. A man, perhaps mistaking me for someone else, screamed up to my window, “Coward!” with pure hatred in his voice. He repeated it once or twice, and then stumbled away. Despite the obvious explanations (i.e. that he was either drunk, high, or mistaken, for I had never seen him before), I felt as though he had been sent, by the same force that was moving me to make these songs, the same force that had moved me to this apartment, even to Hawaii itself. And so I took the mans accusation as a sign, I said it was true, and pushed myself even harder to make my work truer, braver, more real, until the point where it felt like there was no more honesty I could possibly wring out from my heart. I should also say that some of the songs were fun, too.
As the album began to take shape, I invited people to the studio. Some of them sat for me in the evenings and I painted them as they listened. Others, I cooked for. One wanted to learn how to make music. Many people came to watch me meditate, and some of them would join. I kept my door open. Nobody left without a gift. When they came, they seemed to instantly feel the atmosphere that was created by the music I was making there. I did not know it was real until I saw it on their faces. Everyone was happy there, sitting on the floor, being still with the candles, being true.
One day I took a walk on a Sunday morning. On my way home I cut through a local park on King St. and began making myself dizzy as I weaved between the trees. I started to sing how they were so beautiful, in a strange voice. I went home and completed the final song on the album. As with some of the others, I finished it very quickly. A week or so later, when I was mixing down the album for the final time, before the people came and took everything, I began to feel tearful in the gratitude that I felt, the honour of being the musician who received these songs, the honour of being the one who was chosen to make this strange jewel, this album. Although this project could have continued being created forever, and although the great songs did not stop pouring out of me (they still haven’t, in fact) – I knew it was time to pause, put a wrapper or a bow on it, and share it with the people I love, the folk of this world. I’m giving it up now, it’s yours.
– Yusuf ‘Yoshi’ Misdaq, October 2017, Maryland.