You might soon know the name Naïmah Muhammad.
Coming up, Muhammad,who performs under the moniker Naïmah, cut her teeth near the intersection of 10th and U streets, where go-go and jazz once flourished. Now, Muhammad can be seen performing at venues across town.
She describes her sound as alternative pop with indie folk elements. But don’t expect the soft guitar melodies of beard-y hipster bands. Instead, Muhammad’s voice is often backed by big drum beats and dreamy synth tracks composed by the artist herself.
“I never foresaw myself being the actual singer of my songs,” Muhammad said. “I just thought I was going to write, make a very specific image for someone else and have them fulfill it.”
Muhammad is a recent graduate of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where she studied communication and songwriting.
“As soon as I got back home, I fell back in love with D.C. and the East Coast,” she said,
Muhammad said she’s caught in a “balancing act” between the D.C. and New York City. She spends Monday through Thursday in the District, doing public programming for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History before heading to New York on the weekends to record an album.
The weekly commute, she said, can take its toll.
“I’m doing this on my own, and it’s tough but it’s worth it,” she said. “I’ve seen contracts that wouldn’t be good for me as a songwriter and as an artist, so I’m just being patient, keeping up my work ethic and hoping for the best.”
The album isn’t the only thing Muhammad has in the works. She’s released a handful singles with another, called “Set It Off,” on the way.
“I’ve been developing my live performance, I have songs I can work on for a new project and it just feels like the right time,” she said. “This has been a great way to share my music with people, make connections and create a little buzz about what I’m working on.”
Ideally, Muhammad said, her goal is scoring soundtracks for film and television with her original work. Think Lana Del Ray’s album for “The Great Gatsby.”
“When I write, I write very visually,” she explained. “Every little song is kind of a story already, and I can see something happening as I’m writing it.”
Muhammad said she plans to continue recording, performing and working her way through life in D.C. and New York until her career goals start becoming reality. And right now, she’s more than happy to do it.
“I’m still an everyday person making music that I hope connects with someone else,” she said. “Everything is really about the people you meet along the way because you can’t do it alone.”
Photo courtesy of Naïmah Muhammad
Crock ‘n’ roll: Roughly 20 local bands will trade instruments for ladles in a new chili cookbook.
The forthcoming DC Rock ‘N’ Roll Chili Cookbook will feature chili and chili-esque recipes from local musicians. All proceeds from its sale will go toward benefiting Bread for the City, a nonprofit that provides food, clothing, medical care and social services to at-need District residents.
Mogavero said the idea for the cookbook arose during a conversation with Sam Sherwood of indie rock band Mittenfields.
“The idea started, as many wonderful things do, over whiskey and beers at Showtime,” Mogavero said. “I was talking with Sam Sherwood about the Jack White guacamole recipe and that evolved into a conversation about our guacamole recipes and eventually our chili recipes.”
Mogavero said it wasn’t hard to get other bands and musicians to contribute recipes. To date, he’s already gathered submissions from Booby Trap, BRNDA, Granny & The Boys, Head-Roc, Hemlines, Incredible Change, journalist Kriston Capps, Mittenfields, Miyazaki, Nice Breeze, Not Bored, Pat Walsh, Plums, Polyon, Puff Pieces, Sara Curtin, Technicians and Tereu Tereu.
Though many groups contributed classic meat-and-beans chili recipes, Mogavero said there are plenty of vegetarian and vegan recipes as well as some recipes for things to eat with your chili. Feminist punk band Hemlines named its recipe “Dana-Friendly Veggie Chili” after its vegetarian bassist Dana Liebelson. Folk-pop musician Sara Curtin contributed a recipe for beet soup and semi-anonymous Fort Reno Rumors will also contribute to the list, Mogavero added.
Isn’t chili mostly the same no matter how it’s made? Not really, Mogavero said.
“Incredible Change has a recipe that sounds pretty promising involving McClure’s Pickles and black beans, so I’m eager to try that,” he said. “I haven’t tried Granny and The Boys’ recipe because I feared that it would give me a heart attack; it has like 80 different kinds of meat in it.”
The cookbook, which is available for pre-order and due out in November, will come with a download code for a compilation album featuring all the musicians whose recipes are in the book. Jack on Fire and BRNDA have recorded new songs for the release, and Sara Curtin’s song “Summer” will also be on the list.
Many of the bands also added some non-tangible ingredients into the recipes themselves. Jack on Fire’s chili recipe, for example, calls for a Stooges album to be playing while you cook and stir.
“A lot of the recipes are over-the-top and silly,” Mogavero said.
Music fans will get a chance to taste some of the recipes before they buy the book at a kickoff event Nov. 8 at 4-7 p.m. at Showtime Lounge in Bloomingdale (113 Rhode Island Ave. NW). Mogavero is still hammering out the details for the event, but says he expects some intense competition between the bands to crop up.
“I imagine that everyone is saving their trash talk for Showtime and that a full-on Animal House-style food fight will go on,” he joked. “Probably a few people will be hospitalized with chili-related injuries.”
Photo courtesy of Brendan Polmer/ Tereu Tereu
This weekend (October 5-7) is DC’s Sweet Tea Pumpkin Pie Festival, a homegrown music event that showcases more than 200 bands at 13 venues throughout the city.
The festival is technically free, but purchasing wristbands for the weekend (prices range from $1 to $10) helps to support local and out-of-town musicians.
This fall’s festival is the third Sweet Tea Pumpkin Pie happening, following last year’s two successful festivals organized by District resident, Dave Mann.
More information on participating musicians, venues and the weekend schedule is available on the Sweet Tea Pumpkin Pie Music Festival website.
OnStage DC is popping up in the neighborhood on Saturday, August 11 with a pop-up music and fashion event, featuring local musicians and artists.
The creative evening, titled “Celebrating You,” will take place in the courtyard of the M.A. Winter Building (1436 U Street NW) between 4 and 8 pm. The event is free and open to the public – plus there will be open mic time for introductions by area businesses, community workers and artists.
For more information on Celebrating You, or for information on sponsoring at table display at the event, visit the OnStage DC website.
Tom Goss is a gay singer-songwriter who lives in D.C. If you were at the 17th Street Festival last September, you might have caught his performance. A native of Wisconsin, he moved to the area in 2004 to enter Catholic seminary. He later abandoned his quest to become a priest and began performing in local coffee houses in 2006.
Goss is also still program manager at Charlie’s Place, an organization that works with the homeless; it is based at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church at 1830 Connecticut Avenue NW.
Today, he is a successful musician with two full-length CDs, two LPs, a live DVD and four music videos. Next month his latest CD, “Turn It Around,” releases, which will be followed by a 10-week, 50-city tour. For more information about Tom and his music, visit his website.
Borderstan: How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it before?
Goss: I describe my music as Acoustic pop. Lots of folks call it singer-songwriter but I try to really focus on writing pop songs more in the vain of The Beatles rather than folk songs. People often compare me to Jason Mraz, Jack Johnson, David Gray or Dave Matthews.