With no shows taking place we’ve had to switch around our weekly music news just a little bit. However we will still be here every Tuesday with a Leicester music update for you in partnership with PPL PRS Ltd.
INTERVIEW: YASIN EL ASHRAFI
Situated in the heart of Leicester, HQ provides a relaxed and creative studio environment suitable for both up and coming and established artists, as well as being an artist management company and record label. HQ is run by Yasin El Ahrafi, who himself manages and mentors and a number of fantastic local artists. With a passion for developing urban talent Yasin also recently won the national award for Social Entrepreneur of the Year. We caught up with him following the huge achievement to find out more.
How have you found the last few weeks/months?
I’ve found it both amazing and frustrating to be honest. On one hand it’s been a great chance to reset, catch up with work, admin etc and to have some time to research and implement new online income streams, but on the other hand it has been a stressful time and not knowing what is coming next combined with people all trying to place blame onto others for what’s going on it’s not good for morale or mental health in general.
For those who aren’t familiar with HQ tell us a little about it?
HQ is a music and creative arts based businesses which comprises of HQ Recording LTD which is my own commercial business that I run, my HQ Familia record label and artist management company through, and then there’s HQ CAN (Creative Arts Network) Community Interest Company which was set up to help adults who are unemployed, suffering with poor mental health, ex offenders etc by providing music, arts and enterprise projects to help them to work towards whatever their goals may be.
You recently won a pretty special award, can you tell us more about it and how that came about?
The Award was ‘Social Entrepreneur of The Year’ which was part of the Citi Awards 2020 which celebrates entrepreneurship, impact, sustainability and resilience. I was really happy to win this one especially as it came with a £7,500 prize to use for my business!
Have you continued working with artists throughout the lockdown period?
I have continued to work with the artists I manage in a variety of ways including remote working sending files back and forth and also have been doing socially distanced recording sessions with them as necessary to keep to our plans and targets for the year.
How tough has it been from a creative standpoint for some of those artists?
It’s been really tough for the artists, they have had all their gigs for the year cancelled and some were massive bookings, so as well as losing the money they lost the chance to perform at big festivals etc which was a real blow. Some had writers block at times due to being stuck at home and feeling unmotivated and maybe even a little lost but then on the flip side we have collectively made more new songs than we would of in normal times so we are using the time wisely and making the most of the studios being closed to the public.
What music have you been listening to throughout lockdown?
I have been listening to my artists and the music we’ve been working on mainly and also a mix of playlists depending on my mood, shy fx if I need to get myself going, hip hop if I’m driving or chilling and feel good songs if I need to lift my spirits.
Who are some of your favourite local artists and top local tips for people to get listening to?
My favourite artists are the artists I manage, Alice Kübe, Ffion Rebecca, Flynny O’Flynn, Harri Georgio, Maniscooler, Phidizz & Tayo B, I also listen to Kamakaze, Jafro, Morgan Monroe, Lowpass Luke, Sane, Strizzy Strauss and Easy Life quite a lot, King Brasstards too, they all have great vibes!
How do you think Leicester rates as a city for musical development and opportunities?
To be honest Leicester has always been pretty poor for developing and providing good levels of opportunities which is why I do what I do, most of the things I provide have been created out of necessity as there is no real music industry infrastructure so I am literally building it as I go. There is a few people who do their bit like Vijay from 2Funky and there may be people who I don’t know but in urban genres there has always been a real lack of opportunity. I do think we can change this over time and as more people are making moves there is more chance of bigger and better opportunities being created.
A lot of the opportunities we have provided over the years have only been possible through support from The National Lottery Community Fund, without them we would of never been able to help so many people.
What does HQ have planned once this is over?
We are planning the next year of releases, have multiple projects on the go and are starting a publishing company and will be fully launching HQ Media too. The plan is just to keep pushing forward to pursue the dream which is going to the top of the music industry and to be the number one music alternative education provider!
Enjoy this week’s best of Leicester playlist! Each week we’ll be pulling together some of our favourites as well as recommendations to highlight some top local talent. This week’s list has a strong HQ feel to it as we showcase some of HQ’s top artists and our interviewee Yasin’s picks.
Have a listen and get in touch to tell us which tracks you’re loving.