Chief Adjuah aka Christian Scott with the BMW XM

THE XMINDED.

An interview with Jazz musician Chief Xian aTunde Adjuah.

The XMinded.An interview with Jazz musician Chief Xian aTunde Adjuah.

Taking the spotlight for the latest BMW M campaign are Jazz musician Chief Adjuah a.k.a. Christian Scott and the first-ever BMW XM. The artist from New Orleans is connected to the first BMW XM as both are committed to shaping the future with the best of the past. Because this multi-instrumentalist creates music that goes beyond the usual genres and categories. As a musician, composer, and producer, he incorporates influences from modal jazz, hardbop, fusion, post-rock, electronics and hip-hop. But that's not all, he also takes classical musical instruments further than they’ve ever been before. With a very precise idea of musical communication and sound, shaped by his life story, he has already developed several fantastic hybrid instruments with the Adjuah Trumpet or the Adjuah Bow. Chief Adjuah himself provides the best headline for his impressive body of work: "As an artist, I always try to do things that haven't been done yet." We met him for an interview.

BMW XM: Fuel consumption in l/100km (combined): 1.6-1.5 (WLTP); Electric power consumption in kWh/100 km (combined): 30.1-28.9 (WLTP); CO2 emissions in g/km (combined): 36-33 (WLTP); Electric range in km: 82-88 (WLTP)

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"As an artist, I always try to do things that haven't been done yet."
Chief Adjuah

Christian, you grew up with music at an early age and studied jazz later on. At what point did you realise that this kind of music would play a special role in your life?

I think I realized that music would play a special role in my life when I observed that it helped people listen better. In my community and New Orleans, when folks are playing at the Preservation Hall and all these kinds of spaces – no matter what’s going on around it, people are locked in and they are listening. And the way that they listen is different: You can see them listening with a different kind of intention and a different kind of focus. Sometimes they listen with their bodies, sometimes we can see that movement. And in the listening, we see a much wider form of expression than we see on our day to day walk. And so, I think that’s when I realized that the music was for me. One, it certainly helps you communicate your experience effectively. What’s beautiful about instrumental music, what we like to call Stretch Music – which is a derivative of Blues and Jazz in a 21st century correlative to those sound – is the sound of listening. When you learn to express yourself in this way, sometimes you can communicate things about your humanity to folks that may not be familiar with you. It doesn’t matter what background you’re from, or where you come from, what you believe in or any of these things. The music has the ability to cut right through all of that and go to your core and to communicate our humanity to anyone that’s in the space. So, they have the ability to experience that. I think I was maybe around ten or eleven years old when I realized that it was the listening that turned me on the most.

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As just mentioned, you often refer to your music as Stretch Music - one of your albums also bears this name. What distinguishes this concept?

Stretch Music is really more the approach that we have to our living than just a musical concept or purview. Stretch Music is an approach to sound that recognizes the value of all different cultural groups in music and all different people in music. It’s a sound that says, no matter where you come from or what you believe, you are a part of the human family and therefore the things that you believe and see and want to opine on are valued and should be weighed and should be part of the larger conversation. The music is really built around listening, being it’s the primary conduit for communication and is really a 21st century reboot of blues music and jazz. I don’t like the word ‘jazz’ but of course, it is a second century corollary to those same styles that is routed in those energies. But I think that one thing that differentiates it, other than its phonic architecture elements, is its willingness to embrace possibility and explore with the intention of grabbing things that come from other cultural purviews and then trying to superimpose those things into a blues context as a means of finding greater understanding for the human family.

 

Your artist name Chief Xian aTunde Adjuah is a throwback to your family's West African roots. Is the key to something new to be aware of your origins?

The name is really more of a title. I am a chieftain. I lead a tribe called Xodokan. This is one of the houses of Maroons in southeast Louisiana, mainly in New Orleans. I come from a West African stylized chieftain that has existed in Louisiana along with these people since the 17th century. Sometimes this cultural group is referred to as black Indians, but the term that we use is Maroon. I am a person that has been born into one of the first houses in this culture. Me completing my name and once I became Chief and assumed that title, was a very important marker and moment, not only for me as an individual, but also for many members and my culture and our nation. I started to shift and see the utility and shedding the old world and antiquated names of the past centuries.

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Chief Adjuah with the BMW XM
Chief Adjuah with the BMW XM

What do you think, how important is courage on this journey and in your music?

Other than listening, I would say in terms of our musical purview and just the way we try to live our lives, I would put courage as the second pillar. On a musical level, obviously, courage is the requisite just because musically, what we're doing is so daring, you know, but so much of it is also wrapped in this idea that what we’re doing in this generation is only priming the canvas for another generation to be over to come in to take that baton on and to move the world into a better place. On a personal level, courage may actually be the primary and sort of first energy that I think is really important in terms of our day to day walk. As well as the creation of courage. As a chieftain in my culture, this has had to be a very important pillar for our lives. And the Americas are just the reality of what this space has held for people that come from seemingly disparate cultural groups, that are not recognized or seen as the normative person or cultural group in America. It does require a lot of courage to wake up every day and to know that you are potentially navigating a space that is completely unwelcoming for you. So, it requires courage to relate to each other in this environment trying to find a better way. So, it’s a secondary agent in the music but it is the primary agent in terms of what it is required of me as a chieftain and to walk as a black man in America.

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The musician and producer Randy Jackson once said about you that it is precisely your way of pushing the boundaries of what is possible that makes up your art and at the same time what people love about your music. How important is it, in art as well as in life in general, to constantly question and reinterpret familiar and well-known norms, to change the game?

It’s paramount. The energy behind what it is that we are building is not purely musical. It’s all of these things we’ve brought to the lives we are living. If I lived a life that did not require me to actually question things and challenge ideas, then the music wouldn’t sound the way it does and maybe there would be no utility in doing it. But the life that we live in our environment and in the world – this is not a negative, this is a beautiful thing – but it requires that we challenge the past, it requires that we challenge and establish norms, it requires that we challenge these things to make the world better. And for that reason, it requires me to – in my work – also try to draw on some of the things that I go through daily and that we go through as human beings daily. We learned some great practice in this cultural music like Charly Parker (US jazz musician who is considered one of the creators of bebop; ed.), that if you haven’t lived it, chances are you can’t play it.

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"Life requires courage. And also that we question the past, re-evaluate things."
Chief Adjuah

You studied at Berklee college of music. From your point of view, how helpful was it to have studied jazz in all its versatility to ultimately reinvent it?

The time at Berklee College of music was beyond amazing! I can’t describe how invigorating and exciting that space was for me. Because I grew up in an environment in New Orleans where you learn the music and canon and history is taken incredibly seriously as forms, that now we call Jazz and Blues or Rhythm & Blues and Rock ‘n’ Roll. And those forms were born in New Orleans. So, coming from that background and also coming from the Maroon background, which is a seed of all of those forms, that I mentioned. So, the music that comes out of the Maroon tradition to the music that seeded what you hear as the Blues in Louisiana or Jazz in Louisiana or eventually Rock ’n’ Roll in Louisiana – all of the synergy that we can name and think of musically, we can find corollaries to them in that music that starts much earlier than the 1890s. But once I got to Berklee, I was in a space where they were focusing and concentrating on all of the things that happened, after the music was seeded. So, it was a fascinating reality to be in, especially as a student.

But my childhood was spent learning the roots of these things and how all of the components were encultured, were connected. But it was not a deep dig in terms of what was going on in the modern moment of the music, what was happening in the modern version of Rock ‘n’ Roll or what bands like Nine Inch Nails or Radiohead were doing to the music. Whereas at Berklee that’s the normative conversation: What’s going on in the popular music at that time and studying it. Listening to Nas and Jay-Z and artists like them. That type of modern music didn’t exist, having the same type of energy in New Orleans, but at Berklee I was in a classroom, where I could turn around and see someone that was born in Germany, who really loved east coast Hip-Hop music and wore like Fubu clothes, and next to him there was a kid who was born in Taiwan and came to the states to learn Jazz. And next to him there was somebody who was born in Bogota, Columbia, and he was really interested in trying to figure out to hybridize samba music with something like old Rock ’n’ Roll music or Alternative Rock. So, Berklee was really great, because it showed me that no matter where you come from and what culture you’re in, music has the ability to connect us in ways, that sometimes words fail to do. Being a party to that and being able to learn in a setting that, had that much verve and excitement around, how to effectively communicate music across generations, is something that I am beyond grateful for.

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Is there something specific, you get your inspiration from?

That’s a really difficult question and really easy one at the same time. Because it’s a really lived-in inspiration. I try my best to pay attention to my surroundings and the people that are my familiar and folks that are acquaintances or relatives and their lifetime and experiences. And I try to be very open and fully connective to people and try to effectively communicate my experience, so that there will be creative space, they will also feel comfortable and fully communicate their experiences. Taking those kinds of moments and using those things as inspiration. The lived-in moment. To me, I never wanted to be the type of person that, when you met me in my normal day to day life versus when I’m making a record or versus when I’m walking onto a stage and performing. The idea is, that the person that you meet, and you walk with every day, that is person that you’re getting to know, is the exact same person that encroaches on and walks onto that stage. I hope that that’s the experience that most people have of me. So, the inspiration is a lived-in inspiration and is just one thing that comes from trying to be present and deeply connective to the other people, that I am fortunate enough to have walked in time with.

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"I want to also build inspiration for this generation and coming generation."
Chief Adjuah

In addition to your work as a musician , you have also developed several instruments yourself. What kind of instruments are these and do you think there is a parallel or a connection between them and the development of the BMW XM?

I see huge connections. I think that it is imperative in this generation, that we challenge preceding ideas and we come up with new approaches to building a way to effectively communicate personally. But to also build inspiration for this generation and coming generation. So, part of the reason, this was such a fun project to embark on, was just the relationship to contributing new things.

In the spot, you see that the instrument that I’m playing and that I’m holding, has a very unique design and shape. This trumpet is a creation of mine, and it is called Adjuah Trumpet. It is an instrument, that was created by hybridizing things that come from the flugelhorn, the cornet, and the trumpet. It has aspects of all three of these primary agents in music that we’ve heard for the last few hundred years, that many people believe already have a perfect design. When I first started to ideate and conceptualize what I wanted to do with these instruments and try to find partners to do it, many of the responses were like “why do you want to change the trumpet, the design is already perfect.” But from my experience, the trumpet was a beyond limited instrument. I wanted to take elements of those three instruments, that I thought were the best and the ones that helped me communicate the most dynamic an effective communication and to house them in one instrument.

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Besides the trumpet, there are a few other instruments that I have created. The most recent one is called the Adjuah Bow or Chief Adjuahs Bow. Unlike the Adjuah Trumpet, however, the Adjuah Bow has a completely different intention, why it was built. It wasn’t about me, trying to find the perfect sound by hybridizing multiple instruments. It was actually really more about me, trying to figure out how to hybridize instruments that came from the original canon of where the Blues were seeded, by creating a 21st century conduit and corollary to those instruments, that helped younger people tap into their own ancestral memory and recall in terms of their ability to be able to play the instrument. So, with the Bow, I had to find the types of instruments that existed in the early Blues and the early Maroon communities and to see and excavate what specific instruments had the largest history. And what I found was, that there were many corollaries. The main and most fascinating one that I found was an instrument that is called the Ngoni – a West African string instrument made of wood or calabash. This particular instrument was and still is played by the hunters and many different tribal spaces in Mali. The other instrument that was important for incorporate, because of the types of things, I wanted to do with the Adjuah Bow, is called the Kora. Also, a West African instrument with typically 21 strings, that combines features of the lute and the harp. What I realized was, that when I take these instruments into spaces, that had young children in them, the way that they related to them, was amazing. And how quickly they were able to put together rhythms, was staggering. What I also realized in this process, was that the roots of the Blues, which is really the truth of all the music that grew in the 20th century, comes directly out of the harmonic fervour and movement and these kinds of instruments and that kind of music. I can hear in this moment, in creative improvised music, in Rock ‘n’ Roll music and these sorts of spaces, that the Blues is going away. To me that was a tragic thing. So, I wanted to try to create an instrument, that tied to the root of where that music comes from. To re-energize the Blues elements of the modern music, that we hear today. So, I started to work with multiple designers, trying to build a 21st century version of those three instruments and combine their sound in one beautiful instrument, the golden Adjuah Bow.

And that’s where I see the connection between my creations and the BMW XM. To move something like the ultimate driving machine forward, it requires some rigorous excavation and evaluating what has happened in the past. Looking at what the benefit of changing some of the elements will be to future generations. When I took a first look at the BMW XM, I instantly got the feeling that the entire car was built in a re-evaluative moment. This is great.

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"I often heard that the trumpet was already perfect. But I wanted to take the elements of the three instruments that I thought were the best and house them in one instrument."
Chief Adjuah
"When I took a first look at the BMW XM, I instantly got the feeling that the entire car was built in a re-evaluative moment. This is great."
Chief Adjuah

What do you like most about the new BMW XM?

The attention to detail in this vehicle is staggering and mind-blowing to me. The overall movement-like design of the vehicle, that tightens up, when you get inside and you see all of these small, but incredible nuances. The triangular roof-liner, the lighting, the design of the lounge in the rear. I do love luxury cars. When I experienced the XM the first time, it gave me an instant feeling of that every element of the car looks like an update. This is the kind of energy, that we try to imbue in our creation of musical instruments. And just to be able to see it at that kind of level with what BMW is trying to contribute to the next generation, is beyond inspiring. So, I was honored and very pleased, to be a part of this process.

 

It was a pleasure, Chief Adjuah. Thank you for the interview!

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THE XMinded - BMW XM x Christian Scott

THE XMINDED – BREAK THE NORM.

The BMW XM

THE FIRST-EVER BMW XM

THE FIRST-EVER BMW XM

BMW XM: Fuel consumption in l/100km (combined): 1.6-1.5 (WLTP); Electric power consumption in kWh/100 km (combined): 30.1-28.9 (WLTP); CO2 emissions in g/km (combined): 36-33 (WLTP); Electric range in km: 82-88 (WLTP)

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  • The models illustrated include optional equipment.

    Official data on power consumption and electric range were determined in accordance with the mandatory measurement procedure and comply with Regulation (EU) 715/2007 valid at the time of type approval. In case of a range, figures in the NEDC take into account differences in the selected wheel and tire size; figures in the WLTP take into account any optional equipment. WLTP values are used for assessing taxes and other vehicle-related charges that are (also) based on CO2 emissions, as well as for the purposes of vehicle-specific subsidies, if applicable. Where applicable, the NEDC values listed were calculated based on the new WLTP measurement procedure and then converted back to the NEDC measurement procedure for comparability reasons. For newly type-tested vehicles since 01.01.2021, the official data no longer exist according to NEDC, but only according to WLTP. For more information on the WLTP and NEDC measurement procedures, see https://www.bmw.com/wltp.

    For further information about the official fuel consumption and the specific CO2 emission of new passenger cars can be taken out of the „handbook of fuel consumption, the CO2 emission and power consumption of new passenger cars“, which is available at all selling points and at https://www.dat.de/co2/.

    All vehicles, equipment, combination possibilities and varieties shown here are examples and can differ in your country. In no way do they constitute a binding offer by the BMW M GmbH. Visit your local BMW website or see your authorised BMW M Retailer for accurate details on the offers in your country.