May 19 2010 12:00 AM

Nadir keeps funk grounded in reality


Get up. Get into it. Get involved.

Are you going to disobey James Brown? That would be unwise, according to Detroit neo-funk mainstay Nadir.

Nadir gives you funk for your grind and funk for your mind. He reaches into rock, hip hop, world beat and jazz, but keeps his feet planted in goldenage funk.

“James Brown saying ‘Get Involved’ is what our popular music is supposed to do,” Nadir said. “It’s supposed to encourage us and move us forward, not talk about buying a Bentley, Benz or Beamer — none of which is an American-made car, by the way.”

Nadir likes to keep it positive, but right now he can’t stop gnawing on a bone: rapper Lloyd Banks’ hit single, “Beamer, Benz or Bentley.”

Nadir’s cousin, who is in the Air Force, is about to be deployed in Iraq. Several friends of his have done multiple tours. One of Nadir’s latest tracks, “Guantanamo,” is a notso-gentle reminder the nation is still at war.

“How can you sit there and talk about my Beamer, Benz, or Bentley?” he
fumed. In his view, “keeping it real” has become an empty catchphrase.
“Gangsta rappers are talking about all this money they’ve got, and we
know everybody is broke.”

Don’t get him started on the recent “We Are the World” remake for Haiti earthquake relief.

“Put these guys in a room and let them write a new song!” he cried.

Nadir (full name Jonah Nadir Omowale) is out to prove that you don’t have to have a lobotomy to party.

“We’re there to move people,” he said. “I want action at my shows. But I also want you to go away thinking about things that are happening in the world.”

Since Nadir moved to Detroit from Tennessee in the late ‘90s, he’s gotten involved in a slew of projects fostering local culture. He’s a member of the Detroit Entertainment Commission and a co founder of 1440 Collective, a haven for Detroit artists.

“A lot of my work involves promoting the amazing talent we have in Detroit and Michigan,” he said. He considers Lansing’s new funk festival to be a big step in that direction. “It’s a great thing that Lansing understands how important funk is to the American musical landscape,” he said.

Nadir is also a freelance journalist (he wrote a profile of Detroit techno legend Carl Craig in the December issue of BLAC Detroit) and served as MTV’s Michigan contact for the 2008 “Choose or Lose” election coverage.

Along the way, he’s kept up a steady flow of distinctive neo-funk that has earned him 10 Detroit Music Awards.

In the music biz, funk isn’t big money, but Nadir puts it near the center in the American musical family tree.

“It’s descended from gospel, blues and jazz, and it’s a step-cousin of rock and roll,” he said. “It’s the godfather of hip hop, the mother of house music. It pulls these elements from all these other places, puts them together and forces you to dance to it.”

Ask any DJ, Nadir said, and they’ll tell you. “The quickest, easiest way to get the party started is to throw on some old funk records. No matter the age, people start dancing and it brings the party alive.”


8 p.m. Saturday, May 22 MI.Funk Grand River Avenue & Turner Street, Lansing Also performing Saturday:

Sun Messengers 2 p.m.; Global Village 4 p,m.; Valerie Barrymore &
Foundation of Funk 6 p.m.; Soul Xpress 10 p.m. $20 in advance; $25 at