Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Only the truly wise...

Hashim - Primrose Path

Hashim (it means pulverizer or destroyer of evil in Arabic) was the pseudonym for Jerry Calliste Jr, a Bronx-born electro producer best known for the seminal 1983 cut ‘Al-Naafiysh (The Soul)’, the first ever release for the classic Cutting Records label, of which he was also the Vice President. ‘Al-Naafiysh (The Soul)’ is Hashim’s best-known song – quite rightly too, it’s a classic breakers anthem, has featured on countless compilations and still sounds innovative and cutting edge to this very day. However, I am always drawn to the lesser-known ‘Primrose Path’.

Whereas ‘Al-Naafiysh (The Soul)’ was proper machine music, ‘Primrose Path’, its title taken from Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ (“Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads”), had a human heart, with instrumental backing from The Force adding a funked-up, live feel to the deep electro sounds. A fat rubber band bass line and atmospheric guitar stabs combined with pumping 808 beats, haunting vocodered vocals and Hashim’s trademark melodic orchestral strings to create a fantastically atmospheric and evocative song. It's harder to pinpoint the influence of ‘Primrose Path’ as you can with ‘Al-Naafiysh (The Soul)’, but it was definitely way ahead of its time and still sounds incredible to these ears. It was included on ‘Electro 11’ (released in 1986), which also featured cuts by 2 Live Crew, Roxanne Shanté and Stetsasonic, and later turned up on Dave Clarke’s belting 1996 ‘X-Mix – Electro Boogie’, alongside classic electro and techno tracks by Underground Resistance, Aux 88 and Model 500. Hashim also made his mark as a producer on a number of other seminal tracks, including the Imperial Brothers’ ‘We Come to Rock’ (which I wrote about here).

For such a gifted producer I’m always left with the feeling that Hashim didn’t leave the mark he could have done. He was hardly prolific, recording a total of four singles as a solo artist from 1983 to 1987, including the two mentioned above, and only recently resurfaced with an mp3 only release for his own company Bassmint Music in 2005. Not exactly a vast body of work, but certainly a case of quality over quantity, and his reputation as a true electro pioneer will never be in doubt.

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