Private Playlist: Qur’an Shaheed is revealing her inner truth through music

Qur’an Shaheed. Photo by Léa Cuvelier

Private Playlist is a listening session with Southern California’s most notable musical figures in their private creative environments.

Pasadena’s Qur’an Shaheed was born into musical greatness: her father Nolan Shaheed is a trumpeter and cornetist who has recorded with Earth, Wind & Fire, and Buddy Collette, while her mother Sharon is a jazz pianist. But Qur’an’s musical resume is formidable in its own right: she’s collaborated with Jimetta Rose, Ktown Oddity, and the Pan Afrikan People’s Arkestra (alongside her father). She recorded her debut EP, 2020’s “Process,” in collaboration with LA underground stalwarts Human Error Club and Black Nile.

For this edition of Private Playlist, Qur’an Shaheed shares the music that she’s used to find her innermost truth during quarantine, including Minnie Riperton and Duval Timothy.

Qur’an Shaheed: I'm actually in a really good place in my life. I'm 28, so I'm figuring out what life is in my late twenties. I'm becoming more of myself and accepting things. [Before] I was working at a coffee shop job; I was trying to do this piano competition; I was teaching ... there was a lot going on, so I just felt kind of scrambled. But once the pandemic happened, since everything stopped, I was able to hone in on, like, "Okay, since you can't do all these other things, the only thing you can really do is stay inside and get down to the truth of the matter as to why you're either unhappy, or..."It helped me break down these emotions that I was, unfortunately, suppressing through work.


At the beginning of the pandemic, I was listening to salami rose joe lewis's “Zdenka 2080,” and I was blown away with everything about it. I dosed myself an eighth of mushrooms and sat in my room. I had just moved into this space, so I didn't have a bed; I just had a mattress. And as I was going on this journey, I kept the album on a loop and wrote down all the things that were coming up for me, good or bad, just drawing and experiencing it. The next day, I looked around and I was like, "Wow, that was really powerful, and it's something that I really, really needed." Music hasn't done that for me in so long, and I'm so appreciative.


Just like salami rose joe louis, Xinxin’s Janize Ablaza has a really powerful connection to spirit. [She's] talking about something deeper, and I think that's something we need. Especially in times like these, when we're so driven by the outer world, but we're not really going inwards. And I think Xinxin's album reminds me that I have the power within myself to change my reality. 


Minnie Riperton's "Lovin' You" was a song I heard over and over again as a child, but I didn't really get into her until a friend was like, "You have to listen to 'Baby, This Love I Have.'" And when I was cleaning up my house and rearranging, I would keep listening and listening and listening to it. Minnie was so diverse, [but] radio only played that one song, which is normally what mainstream radio does. And [I've loved] going back through her discography, being able to hear full albums from top to bottom, and hearing how many styles she could do. It's unfortunate that she passed so early, but she gave so much. And listening to her through this quarantine, I've had a huge appreciation for her and her gift.


I started listening to Duval Timothy two years ago. His album "Sen Am" is really interesting for me. At the beginning of my music career, my writing style was all over the place. I was trying to cram everything I knew into a song. I didn't really know about song structure, because in the classical world, you're just playing other people's songs. So I didn't know how to explore that. But when I listened to Duval Timothy, I was open to a world of simplicity, but also saying so much in that space. And "Sen Am" was a really, really powerful album for me. It gave me a different perspective on music.

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