INTERVIEW: Kahli Abdu + VHS Safari


We at Couchsessions got a chance to virtually sit down with Kahli Abdu + VHS Safari, a DC formed (but now NYC based) band. The group is comprised of Nigerian artist Abdu and production duo VHS Safari consisting of D.C. natives David Muehlenkamp and Will Whitney. They flip a bunch of styles; from of course hip-hop to indie rock, dance, etc…basically what we all will be listening to in the future as styles and genre blur. They’ve got a few residencies coming up, one in NYC’s famed Knitting Factory and another in Milkboy in Philly.

How did the project come together?
The three of us have been friends and collaborators since Will and Kahli met each other in college in 2005. Kahli, an artist from Nigeria, put Will on to afro-beat king Fela Kuti and immediately impacted the artistic direction we have explored together since. Will and David, best friends since the age of 7 and production partners since high school, bring an equally-unique background of hip-hop and indie-pop to the group’s sound. This project started to materialize when the three of us lived together in Bushwick, Brooklyn a few years ago and started making what would become A.R.T Project. The group has continued to develop the sound and show and look forward to bringing our own brand of Afro-Electro to the world.

You guys all met in DC? Do you feel there’s something about that city that informs your sound?
DC is a very international city, so even if its not a direct influence it definitely helped shape the openness we all have as musicians and collaborators. If you know anything about DC music, you know it starts and ends with Go-Go, so rhythms and dance remain in our musical DNA.

How did the clip from Static come together? It’s gets pretty dark towards the end?

Yea, Kahli did that video with an awesome creative named Retji, also from Nigeria and based here. That scene at the end was unscripted but it manifested what the song and video is all about. It’s about that struggle in this city and feeling overwhelmed by it at times – and sometimes it becomes too much to handle. Shit was real.

Are you looking forward to your residency at Knitting Factory? Anything special planned?
Oh man, we’re gonna have some fun with it. We also have a January residency every Thursday night at Milkboy in Philly. We’re a new band so there are a lot of things we haven’t tried yet, and our creative juices are flowing with these opportunities. You will see lots of new things coming that we have never even attempted before. I can’t tell you too much more!!

What are you looking to do with your full length, A.R.T. Project?
We are looking forward to getting it out there. Outside of our circles and those who have seen us live, no one really knows about us yet. The crazy thing is this album is a collection of songs made over the last 4 years, so we’re anxious to put it out and see the reaction.

And since its about that time…Top five things you experienced this year?
Creating this band and playing our first shows and getting to where we are now has been a blessing (all since summer). Will and David had a song placement on a national Verizon ad. Our other band got signed to a record label. Meeting our awesome PR team, Siren Sounds PR, and our booking agent Gregg Little with New Frontier Touring. And of course, seeing the Yeezus Tour.

You can check them out in NYC during their residency during these dates…

Jan 6: Kahli Abdu + VHS Safari w/ Darling Din
Jan 13: Kahli Abdu & VHS Safari w/ Halfro
Jan 20: Kahli Abdu & VHS Safari w/ Max Swan
Jan 27: Kahli Abdu & VHS Safari w/ Odessa, Osekre, The Lawsuits