Poetic Pilgrimage are an exciting up-and-coming female Hip Hop and Spoken Word duo set to take the world by storm with their fresh sound, intelligent lyrics and courageous characters. They are a rare act, being one of the few Muslim female outfits around and are unafraid to express themselves through the art of rhyme, covering personal, socio-political, uplifting and insightful themes. Muneera Rashida and Sukina Abdul Noor were both born in Bristol to Jamaican parents, and have been performing together as Poetic Pilgrimage for 6 years. The early part of their career saw them as favourites on the London poetry circuit where they performed alongside some of the biggest names often to standing ovations and they have become forerunners in the UK Muslim Hip Hop scene.
HipHopInformant: How long have you been involved with Hip-Hop?
Poetic Pilgrimage: Sukina: Poetic Pilgrimage have been together for 7 years now, prior to that I used to write Poetry and sing, Muneera used to be a Hip Hop DJ from the age of 15 on various pirate radio stations in Bristol where we are from originally.
HipHopInformant: Where are you from and does that give you some inspiration?
Poetic Pilgrimage: Sukina: We are original from a city called Bristol but we now reside in London, I don’t think being from Bristol is our main source of inspiration or even living in London. We live in world which is now referred to as a Global Village; we have access to so much information making the world bigger than our back gardens. I think we are heavily influenced by injustice around the world from here in the UK to people in Palestine, from the victims of war in Congo to the rape victims in Uganda it is all part of the make-up of Poetic Pilgrimage. In addition we are regular girls, with regular issues, regular insecurities so music is our healing and through our growth and we hope people gain inspiration from that. Being Muslims means we have a very spiritual eye and feel obligated to speak up about things that the media may cover up. In addition the representation of women in Hip Hop is far from respectable so someone has to provide a balance.
HipHopInformant: You just finished your US and European tour how was that?
Poetic Pilgrimage: Muneera: We enjoyed it very much. A Big part of it was obviously the tour and going to showcase our talent and our perspective in other parts of the world, but we also went to the US very much as students who wanted to learn. We picked up a lot regarding different styles and also learnt from being in the company of so many people who lived the art full time. The tour was probably one of the peaks of our career, We began at SXSW festival in Texas and were the only UK act on the official Hip Hop night which was scary but an incredible blessing, in addition we also performed at the Trinity International Hip Hop Festival in Connecticut and were the first British act to grace that stage too, which was Dope. We performed in NY, Washington DC, Chicago, Boston and more from Colleges to Fundraisers and everything in between and we were well received, much respect to Nomadic Wax for making that a reality for us, the learning experience more than anything was incredible.
Sukina: Our European tour was great too, one thing I learned from the US tour is the importance of having a fan base at home and I realised that British artists don't often see themselves as part of Europe, but we love the European scene, we've been to Sweden and Norway before so it’s always a pleasure to return, Germany was a new experience we were a bit unsure how we would be received in a society that is not renowned for its tolerance to people of colour or Islam, but the people at the shows were great, we look forward to returning in the summer because the only let down of the tour was the weather.
HipHopInformant: How do you feel about the Hip-Hop Industry at the moment and how would you describe/define REAL Hip-Hop?
Poetic Pilgrimage: Sukina: There was a time when I had a lot of anger towards the direction of the industry and in a way that anger used to fuel me which meant the place that my inspiration was coming from wasn’t pure. The way I see it now is that an element of Hip Hop culture has become Pop music, people want to get paid and Hip Pop has become another way out of a helpless situation. Eventually however the masses wake up and realise that the music they have been fed wasn’t nourishing them if anything it is numbing them to reality and when they wake up they’ll seek real artists and inshallah we’ll be there to give them a dosage of reality. I’m not sure if I’m in a position to define real Hip Hop as it means something specific to specific people but Hip Hop definitely isn’t exploitative, fabricated, plastic and tacky. It’s a lyrical art form.
HipHopInformant: You met some great artists like Kn’aan how was that?
Poetic Pilgrimage: Sukina: Meeting K’naan for me was a dream come true, we met him at the time his album had just dropped and I was crazy about his music, his content, his perspective and his concern for his country. When we found out we were going to be on the same bill as him I was so excited and happy. Meeting him was a blessing and he actually knew of us and we had a little chat and it was nice. During our US tour we also bumped into Talib Kweli in the airport in Chicago waiting for our delayed plane and we had opened for him in Norway the year before so were unsure if he was going to remember us but him and his crew did and even said they checked our music out on the internet and thought we were dope, which was dope. We also met an all time icon of ours a spoken word poet called Ursula Rucker who featured on various Roots albums, she came out to see a show we performed at organised by Black Lily and she liked it and said we were “Dope and Adorable” which was the quote of the year for us.
HipHopInformant: Does your music have a message, if so what is that message?
Poetic Pilgrimage: Muneera: Within our music, Hip Hop and Poetry you will hear many messages and there are many subject matters that we try to cover. But I guess the general themes are themes that we as human beings should all hold dear, such as Freedom and Justice. We try to articulate the voice of those who rarely get heard. The voice of the voiceless. At the moment we have an EP out called Freedom Times which is completely laced with the idea of being free. Not just physically but also mentally and emotional. As corny as that may sound, sometimes we build the biggest prisons for ourselves. We also hold dear ideas such as Love and Peace, which again everyone can relate to.
HipHopInformant: How would you describe the way you rhyme?
Poetic Pilgrimage: Muneera: Being artist we are always trying to perfect our craft, so you may hear us going in and out of different styles, but with all we do one thing that is consistent is that we always rhyme from the heart. We are passionate girls.
HipHopInformant: Are there any artists that influence you and your music?
Poetic Pilgrimage: Sukina: The list would go on for days, We are Jamaican so obviously Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Dennis Brown, The Abbysinnians, we are big fans of West African music so love Toumani Diabete, Oumou Sangare, Youssou N’Dour, we love the progressive Hip Hop soul movement at the moment so people like Madlib, Stacey Epps, Muhsinah and Georgia Anne Muldrow, within Hip Hop people like Mos Def, Talib Kweli, K’naan, Lupe Fiasco, The Roots, Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, Common, Mohammed Yahya, Hassan Salaam to name but a few.
HipHopInformant: Can you tell the HipHopInformant and the Advocates of REAL Hip-Hop about the monthly Rebel Muzik event that you organise.
Poetic Pilgrimage: Muneera: Rebel Muzik is a monthly night of insightful Hip Hop, provocative Spoken Word and uplifting soul. Each month we have the freshest artist and activist expressing themselves their art. We always try and get people from different faiths and different scenes to share the same platform. It is a positive and beautiful night, if you’re in London on the first Thursday of the month come and join us.
HipHopInformant: Your free download Star Women has been released, can you tell readers what to expect?
Poetic Pilgrimage: We have recently released a 9 track free download as a prelude to our new Mixtape Star Women which will be released in January 2010. The Star Women project is based on the idea that within each of us the ability to shine brighter than the stars, it’s about upliftment and empowerment and it comes at a stage that we have reached in our career where we feel like we have to unapologetically be us without fear of fitting into an industry idea. As two Muslim women in hijaab we are like unexpected guests at a dinner party when we arrive at some Hip Hop events but we have to continue and perform our hearts out because Hip Hop is just as much a part of my life as it is to the next guy. Star Women is about accessing that energy that gives you the strength to achieve against all odds. The Star Women Mixtape will feature people from the UK and US and will be very fresh but you can download the prelude at www.starwomenmixtape.com.
HipHopInformant: Where did the name Poetic Pilgrimage come from?
Poetic Pilgrimage: Poetic refers to words used in a beautiful or artistic and descriptive manner to express something. Pilgrimage refers to a journey. In various spiritual disciplines Pilgrimage is mentioned. So for us Poetic Pilgrimage is A Journey using words to a better place, we try to get closer to God with our words. Our musical journey has been very much that of self discovery. Using words we also try to take the audience on a journey.HipHopInformant: Finally what does the future hold for Poetic Pilgrimage?
Poetic Pilgrimage: Well early 2010 we hope to release our Mixtape, in the summer we hope to release our first ever album released on Californian based label Remarkable Current. We hope to put out a few music videos and do lots of travelling ,we are working on a tour in Sweden as well a show in California too, but everything is in God’s hands and things only happen by his will.
HipHopInformant: Any Shout Outs?
Poetic Pilgrimage: Rebel Muzik, Mohammed Yahya, Masikah, Jrn Sas Muslim Belal, Warsan Shire, Nomadic Wax, Anas Canon, Remarkable Current crew, Mecca 2 Medina – All our fans and supporters.Also please download our free Mixtape NOW! www.starwomenmixtape.com