Iska Dhaaf ready to ‘Let It Go’ at Cisero’s
April 15, 2014
The duo Iska Dhaaf, comprised of multi-instrumentalists and poets Benjamin Verdoes and Nathan Quiroga, culled its name from the Somali phrase meaning, "Let it go."
Verdoes said he and Quiroga have nothing to do with the song of the same name that is featured in the Disney animated-hit "Frozen."
"In the school district I work at in Seattle, there is a large community of Somali immigrants," Verdoes said during a telephone interview with The Park Record from the road near Grants Pass, Ore., "I started working with their children to help them learn English, and I found that while I taught them my language, I didn’t know any Somali words. So I decided to try to learn their language over the course of several years."
When it came time to name Verdoes and Quiroga’s band, Verdoes’ girlfriend, who is Somali, suggested the name.
"So that’s how it all happened," Verdoes said.
Iska Dhaaf will give Park City a little sample of its blend of beats, hip-hop, melody and words when the duo performs at Cisero’s on Thursday, April 17, as part of the Holy Bowly celebration.
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The Holy Bowly is a world-renowned snowboarding event that will come to Park City this week.
Verdoes and Quiroga are touring in support of their new album, "Even the Sun Will Burn," which was released last month by Brick Lane Records.
The duo spent almost three years working on the album.
"Half of the songs we had early on and began adding textures and threaded things together," Verdoes said. "Since we spent so much time editing the songs, we were very meticulous with them and we never got tired of them, even through the final process."
That helped the two shy away from making any last-minute tweaks on the older songs.
"We’ve both been in other bands and toured for quite awhile, so with this project, we have learned to be patient," Verdoes explained. "When we approach the music, we wanted to communicate and not be flashy or become a buzz band. So every detail of the songs we wrote is meant to become a connection with our audience. And that makes it become a more rewarding experience."
Verdoes grew up in Seattle in the early 1990s.
"I had access to a lot of different music," he said. "My older brother got me into Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins when I was a little kid."
At the same time, he got into hip-hop.
"I would listen to a lot of Dr. Dre, Tupac and OutKast," Verdoes said. "As I got older, I started to experiment and began listening to jazz and some gospel music."
Around that time, Quiroga, who didn’t play any instruments growing up, was into hip-hop freestyle.
"He listened to the ideas and melodies and how the words were put together," Verdoes said.
The two began playing together because they shared a love for hip-hop beats.
"I was interested in laying down some beats and the production of the band Nate was in at the time," Verdoes said. "He was in a hip-hop group called Mad Rad and I studied with a producer and played guitar on their record and played a few shows."
Verdoes learned Quiroga’s knack for coming up with catchy melodies on the spot.
"I also found he was more interested in writing songs," Verdoes said. "So we discovered the process of writing songs together."
In the course of two years, the two crafted songs that focused on communicating their ideas musically and lyrically to an audience.
"We became pretty diligent about playing together every day, and because we played together so often, it’s become like our own language," Verdoes said.
The two usually wrote songs together, but if they got ideas when they were apart, they would record these snippets on their phones and discuss what they came up with the next day.
"We found the songs would take on the life of their own," Verdoes said. "Sometimes we’d finish one and it will hit all the points we want. Other times, we’ll go back and see how it doesn’t fit with the larger body of songs for a record or just doesn’t seem right for the moment. So we’ll shelve it for the next time.
Sometimes the two would self-edit and let the song go.
"We’ll start rehearsing and play what we feel like playing," Verdoes said. "If there are groups of songs that sound good together, we’ll put them in little pods and intuitively follow that sort of path."
Although "Even the Sun Will Burn" has been out for only a few weeks, Iska Dhaaf has already begun writing new material for two future albums.
"Writing is one of the things that I really like and can’t wait to put these songs together," Verdoes said. "We’ve laid a foundation and we want to be present in the moment. I also can’t wait until after those records are done so we can travel and connect with our audience."
Iska Dhaaf will perform at Cisero’s, 306 Main St., on Thursday, April 17, to promote the Holy Bowly at Park City Mountain Resort. The show will start at 10 p.m. For more information, visit snowboarding.transworld.net/photos/the-2013-holy-bowly-recap and http://www.iskadhaaf.com.