What's up world, I recently had the opportunity to interview the beautiful and multi-talented Ihsan Bilal. We talked about her musical foundation, her influences, the web, business, the importance of giving back and her debut album "Big Red Box".
THE-O: Ihsan, it’s great to see you again.
Ihsan Bilal: Thank you for having me.
THE-O: So I want to talk about how you started.
Ihsan Bilal: I’m from a musical family. My parents, being from Gary, Indiana were in a band with the Jackson’s cousins. I have four younger siblings, so we started performing when were young. We were like the modern day Jackson 5, dancing and my dad making the music. It was really a great experience starting out that way. Of course my dad brought totally different types of music into our lives, taking us on road trips back and forth to Indiana.
THE-O: What types of music were you exposed to?
Ihsan Bilal: I was exposed to a lot of alternative music. A lot of bands like real, actual musicians like Steely Dan, Stereo Lab, Prince, and Chaka Khan. I also went to Duke Ellington, so I was exposed to opera and spirituals, although I didn’t grow up going to the church. Then also, my first vocal trainer exposed me to Afro Cuban and had me singing in different languages.
THE-O: That’s beautiful. You’re well rounded, so we haven’t even seen what you can really do?
Ihsan Bilal: Yeah, and I’m still exploring so I was actually on my way here working on a track for movie that’s going to be coming out. I can’t say the name of it but I’m going to be singing in French. Yeah, so it’s different for me and I’m just still exploring and especially in this industry a lot of times it’s not excepting of artists to do different languages but I think it’s really good to expose that to children and open up people ears and their eyes.
THE-O: Didn’t Beyonce have a Spanish album?
Ihsan Bilal: She did. She’s a big influence on me as well.
THE-O: When did you decide as a solo artist it was a go?
Ihsan Bilal: Well, since I started out performing with my younger siblings, which was a great experience. I branched out on my own around 14 and auditioned for Duke Ellington. After that I started to enter competitions and winning probably more than 50 percent of them. After that I was in Black Alley. That’s where I saw you at.
THE-O: WOW, you were in Black Alley?
Ihsan Bilal: Yeah, I was in Black Alley probably for about 6, 7 months.
THE-O: OK, Shout out Black Alley. How long has Black Alley been together?
Ihsan Bilal: They’ve been together since before I was with them going back to 2002-2003. They’ve been doing this for a long time, that’s why at their party where I met you, I was just so proud of Omar and the whole band because they’ve been doing this for so long. Then it really started to get serious. I went to school for business and I was like you know what, I want to definitely open up my own school of arts and this is the way to do that by being a singer.
THE-O: You said you went to school for business. So did that have an affect on you going the entrepreneurial route?
Ihsan Bilal: It was a great experience. I learned how to make business plans, marketing, things like that. Things that the industry thrives around because the whole independent route is much more easier for a lot of people because you can do it yourself and having that business background it teaches you to do that.
THE-O: Do you think it’s easier because you have so many tools?
Ihsan Bilal: I think so, Youtube is definitely a big help with that. Anything where you can show visuals where people don’t have to guess what you look like.
THE-O: What is your biggest challenge on getting viewers online?
Ihsan Bilal: Even though a lot of things are done online, actually DJ Gemini of 93.9 told me when we had a meeting with him and he was like the biggest misconception that people have is that just because it’s online you don’t have to do ground work. So you have to go out to different shows and parties. See people face to face and talk to people, give music away, generate word of mouth. It makes a big difference.
THE-O: So it’s been a year since the official release of the “Big Red Box” and you’re still grinding.
Ihsan Bilal: Yes, it’s been almost a year, July 26, 2011 and we’re releasing a remix of the album and that will be for free download. It’ll have different instrumentals by different producers and that we’ll be out July 31st. Yeah, we’re still grinding it out just because I’m independent and we can do things as independent artists. We can take our time. We don’t necessarily have to follow a format that’s why I like being independent.
THE-O: Are you the sole proprietor or do you have partners?
Ihsan Bilal: I am the owner of IB Muzik. IB, being the first two initials of my name, Ihsan Bilal and it also stands for I Believe which is more of an empowerment thing and that’s my whole thing. I have people that really support me. I have Team IB, so everybody is a part of it. Everybody believes in themselves and we’re all grinding. To Be Continued...
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