“The first Folk singer I was introduced to was Joni Mitchell,” says Mustafa Ahmed, a poet turned emerging Folk singer himself. “But Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan – they were anodizing the White experience. But in hearing them, there was kind of a melancholy or sadness; something I didn’t hear in the songs that were representing the nuances of my life.” And it is those nuances that inspired Mustafa, who only uses his first name professionally, to put pen to paper and voice to “tape” to explain those experiences in a way that makes him one of the most compelling and promising artists releasing music today.
The songs on Mustafa’s Young Turks debut, When Smoke Rises, reflect the experiences and values developed by growing up in Toronto’s Regent Park community, which at the time was a mostly low-income neighborhood with minorities making up a large part of the demographic. This environment led to him fighting a lot of the time while growing up, only to watch his peers experience the violence and death endemic of that environment, compelling him to share his stories through poetry. This is most evident on the songs “Stay Alive,” which implores those close to him to steer away from that violence lest they lose their lives and he loses friends, and “Air Forces” where Mustafa pledges his loyalty to those same people, with the hope those emotions can carry them through the darkness.
Mustafa’s poetry has brought him many accolades, including a position as a member of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Youth Advisory Council and a stint as the Pan American Games Poet Laureate, as well as the chance to add his lyrical talents to work by artists such as Majid Jordan, The Weeknd and Khalid. Now, with the release of When Smoke Rises, Mustafa’s work will stand on its own and put the spotlight on the poet, as evidenced by early support from Indie 102.3, Radio Milwaukee, Music Choice and KAXE.