Glow. Vibration at a frequency that many of us have to practice to attain, yet Salima lives there at that frequency, effortlessly. It’s her spirit and the melody of her rhythmic soul that pours out with every word she speaks. And, her beautiful, infectious, deep down laughter! Salima is, at the same time, confident and shy; and the beauty of that shyness, I believe, adds that special glow to the works of art she brings to the world. It was an honor and a joy to talk with her. Catch a glimpse, and hear what Salima Rah has to say about being #BlackMuslimGirlFly.
Team BMGFly: #BlackMuslimGirlFly is defined as that “it” factor Black Muslim Girls & Women have that makes them amazing, dope, & fresh-to-death awesome. How would you describe your #BlackMuslimGirlFly?
Salima Sound: Just being as authentic as I can be in myself: rhythmic, and true to my art. I express myself the best through my art. My full name is Rahima Salima Karim. I took “Salima Sound,” as my company I created. So, anything I did under music, because I deejay, too. So, anything that I did under music, I put it under my company, Salima Sound, Now, people were calling me Salima, and I didn’t mind. That’s what I was known for, so I just went by Salima. And Rah, because Rah is my nickname, so I put there at the end so that other people, like, “Who the hell is that? Who’s Salima?” So, I have the Rah. It could be a spiritual thing, too: Peace and Mercy. I needed peace at the time, too. So, I don’t mind going by Salima. That’s what I want to find, that’s what I want to project. So, mercy is a blessing, Rahima. You know what I mean? So, I just put it together like that, a little creative, three syllables.
Team BMGFly: How did you grow into your Muslim identity? And, how does being a Black girl impact that? (Or, if you’re bi-racial, or of multi-ethnic heritage, how does that impact your Muslim identity?)
Salima: I grew up in Muslim school most of my life, until high school. So that’s everything who I am, that helped to mold me. Basically, when I went out into the world, after coming from a Muslim school, I had culture shock from the whole difference; seeing things I’ve never experienced. I think that helped me to stay modest, and to myself; and not try to fit in. It was understood, my Muslim identity, I guess because in Brooklyn there’s a large Muslim population. But, there were people who test you and act like they don’t know. I got that a lot from staff, just sometimes, to be a little mean. They’d make you explain things they know, just to put you on the spot. But, the students were cool. I felt like, okay they accept me. I’m just who I am. I was very quiet and very shy for a long time. I didn’t really communicate too much with people. But it was different for me; seeing, watching the differences between what they did and how we were raised.
I always felt out of place, even sometimes amongst my community, a little bit. I always felt kind of awkward everywhere I went unless I was doing music. I grew up in an artsy family, my mother’s a dee-jay. Everybody is a creative, and that’s the way that we express ourselves. I found that community and that’s where I belong and where I’m most comfortable.
I’ve been singing since I was small. I used to do little competitions, but with my mother mainly. My mother was in a singing group, so when I was little I used to see them practice in my house all day. I guess I picked that up. Basically, my mother trained me, and I went to a lot of different programs for the arts. And, I’ve just been singing ever since; I guess forever since I was born. Her singing group was called “Voices of Jannah.” It was a Muslim singing group. They had a few names, but that’s the one I remember. They were a part of UMRA, an organization where all of the Muslim artists would just come together and do different shows all around the country, and they were a part of it, including Sister Salima Omar, the great jazz singer in our community. She’s not here anymore, may Allah bless her. Abdul Muhsiy Khalifa, in Brooklyn, on Bedford Ave. is our community.
So, my mother would train me. I used to sing, and she’d say, “Nope, that note!” She would never let me slide or anything. I was told I have perfect pitch, so I know when I’m off and stuff, and that’s because my mother didn’t let me just sing any note. She was hard on me with that, and I’m glad. Now. I’m happy about that. Later on, in my life, I did go for vocal lessons, once every two weeks just to sharpen up, and get my breathing going, at the Brooklyn Conservatory of Music. And other people, like I had a lot of cool mentors in the jazz community, just growing up with that. All the time I would go with my mom. I wasn’t supposed to be in there because I was young, but I would go be in the jazz clubs, and I would sing. A lot of my mentors would let me come on after their sets, and sit in. So, that was a blessing to be a part of that community. I might not be singing, if I didn’t; if I wasn’t around that so often. But, it was something that I loved, it became natural to me to want to do that.
Team BMGFly: How do you maneuver the music industry as a Black Muslim Woman?
Salima: Well, for example, last night I was at a recording session, and usually the producers that I work with most of them know Muslims, or they are Muslims themselves. But, I’m working with a whole new producer and he’s not Muslim. They don’t really know too much about Islam. So, I would stop and go to make salat, and they’re like, “What are you doing?” This is a whole new experience for me. And, to them, it’s like, “Wow, she’s so interesting!” But, no, I’m not interesting, I’m just Muslim and you just don’t know. They’ll say, “You just do different things, I just like how, you know, you’re not like everybody else. I said, “I guess, you know, that’s just because we were raised a certain way. And, we just got our own thing going, you know what I mean? We try to be as modest as we can. We try to just not be ‘of the world.’ We got our ways, I’m not perfect, but..you know what I’m saying. I just try to be conscious of the things that I’m portraying.
When I’m creating, I think about the younger Muslim girls, the younger generation. I always think about them because I didn’t realize that they were watching me so much. You know, they’re watching us. And, when they do say, ‘Oh I liked your video. I saw you, oh my gosh.” And, I think, “Oh wow, that’s nice. Then I think, “I hope they didn’t see that other thing.” I have to be mindful. It makes me conscious of what I do, for myself and my relationship with Allah. I think it helps, because sometimes we’re just living, and just maneuvering through life. But, then because of what I do, I have to be seen. It’s not about other people, I’m presenting this to the world, I feel like I’m giving da’wah. That’s always in my head, I’m giving da’wah. So if I put out something that I don’t really believe that, I don’t want that for somebody else, I don’t want that message to be out. I’m going to stop myself. I feel like it influences me a lot, just being Muslim in the industry.
Team BMGFly: What made you decide to take that leap of faith and go into music? What were the steps to creating your brand?
Salima: I started in high school. I used to sing jazz, jazz standards. I wanted to be a jazz singer. I guess that’s just what I was doing; I always enjoyed. I still do it, I still sing jazz. But, I also started exploring my writing, you know, I was a rapper to my core inside. I always thought, “I need to get this out,” because I was always a writer. And, I started working with Sharif Islam. He’s a producer, and he had a company called Hip-Soul Entertainment. And, I joined them and just started doing a whole bunch of music in the studio. Often just bouncing off ideas with the other artists. Always, I’m always the only female; the only woman. That was kind of cool, because the guys, you know, they like competition. It made me very competitive. I’m like, “Oh, okay.” It made me brush up on my writing skills. And, when you’re the only girl, you got to keep up, right? Or, actually we’re better, we’re better, we’re better.
From there, I did a few videos. I thought I was, at the time, ready to launch my career. I already know what kind of music I want to do. Basically, my voice was always kind of jazz and soul, you know what I mean. So, I knew the direction I wanted to go in, and I also rapped. So, I just went from there, and wherever God was taking me. I went through a lot of different phases, you know, a lot of different people and groups, and things like that. But, I always kind of knew really what I really wanted to do, the direction. I just kept going. My thing was, I would— if it wasn’t going the way I wanted to, I’d say, “I’m not doing this anymore.” That’s what I had to stop doing, I have to stay in the game and be consistent, and persistent as well. Alhamdulillah, I got to the point where right now, I’m finally making my album; that album that I always saw, you know, that I have on my vision board, that was in my spirit, and I couldn’t get it out. Any kind of frustration I had is because of that. I NEEDS to get this album out! You know, because it’s everything I wanted to say. Like I said, I express myself best through the music.
I’m very grateful and thankful for those different cliques that I was a part of. And, also Soul Science, Soul Science Labs, shout out to them. I still work with them. Recording with them, and being a part of that whole movement, was a blessing because I learned so much. And Hip soul entertainment, they allowed me to advance my style and further explore where I want to be as an artist. I feel like I’m there, I’m always learning, always trying to grow.
Team BMGFly: What’s your writing process for your songs? Are there stories behind them?
Salima: I always write from my experience. Always. I always write what I feel at the moment, like my anger, my frustrations, my happiness, my pain, my sorrow, all the time. Usually, my best songs come, when I wake up in the morning. I sleep on things, my little brain; like Allah’s working on me. So, I wake up and I have so much. That’s my process, and I’ll literally write the whole song that morning. It comes to me out of my sleep, my best stuff. Sometimes, I’ll write in the studio with a producer there, but I kind of like being alone. I write on the train. I get a lot of inspiration from that; traveling. I write songs quickly, because, usually, like I said it’s always kind of stuff that’s inside of me, and I just let it come out; melodies, everything.
For me, I think it’s simultaneous when I’m writing from scratch. If somebody gives me some music, I can just write automatically, because I already had these words inside of my spirit. And, I can create melodies, from beats very easily. That’s something that comes naturally to me, Alhamdulillah, and it’s really fun. But, if I come up with a melody by myself from the keys, I’ll just kind of hum… and then start mouthing, you know, my little words. But, the words are always in there. It just comes out, when I get the melodies going. And, then, you go from there: verse, hook, bridge, you know what I mean, and then that’s it. And, it’s like drugs, too. It gets you high! When I was younger, I was very, very quiet, so when I could get on stage I felt so good because all my frustrations and things I never really would express— it’ll come out, and I’ll feel so much better. And, it’s the same today, you know.
Team BMGFly: How would you describe your genre of music? How do you think it’s relevant to today’s generation of youth?
Salima: I always call my music “Hip Soul.” Hip Soul is actually the label that I was affiliated with. But, I always said, “This is my music, it’s Hip Soul.” Because I sing and I rap, and everything is very real soulful, and literally comes from my soul. You know what I mean, and just the undertone of hip-hop is always there, you know, the drums. So, that’s the hip part. I’m kind of young. I’m kind of cool a little bit. So, you know, Hip Soul. And, the soul can encompass anything because there’s elements of jazz inside. There’s elements of soul music, you know that old-school flavor, and a little bit of alternative. That kind of sums it up. I notice a lot of people are doing a lot of Trap music. Trap music is the thing, it’s everything right now, with the youth, with the black youth. I don’t have really have Trap stuff. I like Trap stuff. When you have some good stuff, and a good message, it’s dope. Because, it’s very African to me, by the way. Listen to it, the feeling. It’s very African. But, my music I feel like it’s kind of bringing back the old school vibe. When they see me, I look very young; probably younger than I actually am. So, I feel like what I’m bringing is like, “Oh, that’s different,” outside of the Trap style that’s happening. Mine is kind of like the soul, the melody. You might hear a little Anita Baker in there, a little Sade, but mixed with like, a Nas kind of situation going on. So, it’s just a blend of everything. So, I guess that’s kind of fresh right now, because the popular thing is like Trap music.
Team BMGFly: How do you keep aware of what you deliver, and what separates you from others in your industry?
Salima: That’s the thing, this album… I’ve put out different things, but this is… I’m always going to be progressing and changing. It depends on where you are as an artist.— I might do a trap record, I don’t know, it depends on how I feel! But, I feel like it’ll kind of sum up all of those genres into one. You know what I mean? Which is what I’ve always wanted to do. Because, people always want to know, like, “Oh, do you do jazz, I heard you had jazz tracks. But, then I heard some hip-hop tracks, so I’m like which one?” And I say, “No, it’s just like you going to hear it all, everything together!” I was trying to do a little alternative rock one time. Depends on how I felt. But, I feel like this will kind of blend it in nicely and really put me under, not one genre, but, just ME. You know what I mean? Just exclusive to who I am. That’s Salima Rah.
Team BMGFly: What’s the number one thing you hope people will gain from hearing your music?
Salima: I do know, from what people tell me, which is a blessing, is that I bring the energy! So, that’s pretty cool. At my shows, I really enjoy when people are able to move. Movement is very important to me because I love to dance. If I’m able to reach people with a positive message and the movement, that’s important. That interaction with the crowd, that’s something that I love. Because, again, that’s the way that I can touch people. I love people, and when I get there that’s my hug. So, I think people feel that. That energy is what I bring. I hope to get to some really big stages soon, so I get to hug a bunch of people. I also want people to take away from it, hope. I always write from a place of hope. I want people to feel good. We’re all trying to get in alignment, right, with our true selves; our spirit inside. And if my music can connect to that place, and help you to kind of go into that direction, and that’s basically that’s to God. In whatever way you can, right? Because Allah gives us inspirations, literally, through His teachings. So, if I can provide some kind of inspiration through my music, that’s my charity. I’m cool with that. And, make people smile and feel good; like other people, people who I love, do for me. I feel like that’s my job here, my purpose.
Team BMGFly: Who did you look up to while growing up? Who inspires you now?
Salima: I think just how my mother moves, she’s very independent. Everybody loves her, and she always said, “Allah says, spend out of what you love.” And, she loved music. She used her skill of knowing music to give service to the community. Forever, since she joined the community. She was in the Nation, and she transitioned over to Masjid Abdul-Muhsiy Khalifa, which they were still in the Nation when they transition and turned into Al-Islam she brought over the culture with that. They didn’t know they could do. They didn’t know if they were able to listen to music. You know, it was a whole new world. They were like babies. So, my mother was one of the people that said, “We have a culture and we can use it.” There was another brother, Sudan Muhammad, may Allah bless his soul, he passed away. But, they both came and said, “Listen, we love music. We come from a— We’re BLACK. This is our culture, and this is how we express ourselves. You know what I mean. It’s in our blood.” So, they were able to bring that and make people feel like, “Oh, yeah we can listen to music. We can dance, and be modest. But, be ourselves. And, worship Allah.”
I always appreciated her for that, because still to this day, she keeps the cultural enlightenment in the community; and that’s what’s she’s known for. It’s a blessing that she can keep continuing that. I feel like she’s leaving it to me, so I have to do my part.
For singing, some of my inspirations are Phyllis Hyman, (she’s my favorite singer,) also Natalie Cole, Roberta Flack; sangers. That’s what I was raised on. I love Luther, just the old school. Then, there are some artists today. My friends are really dope. I’m really fans of my friends in the local community. People like Asante Amin, you got everybody, even Alia Sharrief, all the people I just met them. But, it’s a blessing because they inspire me to continue; seeing them just doing their thing, so, many people. Shout out to everybody! ALL the artist, all the Muslim artists. all the local artists that are doing it. And, striving to do it because it’s not easy.
Team BMGFly: Do you have any upcoming events or music releases? What inspires you to create it?
Salima: InshaAllah, this year, I want to give you August, let’s say August! That’s what we’re working towards. At first, the album title I had was “Interstellar Dreams,” and that came from a whole love, and all that stuff… But, listen. I saw the movie, “Interstellar,” and it was very interesting to me. It was a long time ago, that’s how long I’ve been working toward my album. Basically, with ‘time’ and ‘distance,’ love is the only thing that remains. That theme, I took from that, and I said, “Oh, that is like everything to me.” You can’t do nothing— Everything else is fleeting. But, if you have love and keep love in your heart, in your soul, in any situation, relationships; even with yourself as well… That was it. We’ll see what will happen with that. I’m putting it out there, August! That’s my projection! Why not! Why not! It’s moving forward, and Allah is really putting me in a situation where it’s coming. I’m thankful and excited, too. Alhamdulillah. Oh, also, I’m always updating my Instagram and my websites. I just did a soundtrack for the web series, “Tough Love.” It’s up on my website.
Team BMGFly: What is the most important thing you want your audience to know about you and your music?
Salima: I want them to know, that we never stop— Allah… From the experience that I’ve been having in life. Everything that happens to us, everything that we’re going through, is a blessing. It’s a blessing in disguise. And, we’re always growing. You can’t see the ease without the difficulty. And, I feel like, that’s how right now, from experience, that’s what I can say. And, through my music, I feel like my music is an example of that. It’s the outcome of learning and growing into yourself, and growing into the best version of yourself that you can be. So, I’m always striving to be my best self. And, through my music, I feel like that journey, or whatever you’re hearing is the feeling in it because I’m a very “feely” person. You definitely get that vibe and that energy from that. You want to always try to progress, but we can’t beat ourselves up. Allah doesn’t want us to do that. Allah doesn’t beat us up. We beat ourselves up. But, we have to really embrace the journey. And, I feel like, through my music, you can feel that and take that with you. When you have it in your house, listen, “We’re moving.”
Team BMGFly: Can you describe a moment where you felt defeated, and how did you overcome that?
Salima: In 2016, I lost my job and I thought I was going to die! But, really I just felt— I think that was the point where I said: “Well, what am I going to do with my life?” I think that’s where I turned and I said, “I’m going to do my music full time because I want to do that anyway.” So, I saw it as a negative at first. Just like, “Oh, I can’t take care of myself right now, what am I going to do? And, blah blah blah.” But, then I saw it as, “Oh, this is a blessing. Because now I can do what I really want to do. And, I can’t escape it.” The was a door that opened. So, I had to see the positives in it. And, I had to see where the blessing was leading me to. And, it took me a minute, but I came out of it. And, I was really down for a while, and I came out of that. Just with my brand, I started building my brand back up. And, that wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t see it like that. A lot of different things were happening, but that’s the core thing where I felt like, “All right, I need help. And, just my identity and everything.”
Team BMGFly: Can you describe a moment where you felt like you defied odds or broke barriers?
Salima: I think… let me tell you something! I was in a situation where I was about to be signed. Then, they were looking at me, like, “We want you to…” They started talking about my clothes, and how I dress, and my image. And, I didn’t like it. I really just wanted to do me. I can’t take that. I said, “No, that’s not the direction I’m trying to go in. You’re trying to change me. I can’t do it.” I don’t want to be in that situation. Nobody wants you to try and change them. But, some people do in the industry. They don’t want to, but that happens. But, I definitely didn’t want to go down that road. So, I kind of left the situation, that I really wanted to be in. Just ‘cause I’m not doing it! I’m no dealing with that. I’m not compromising myself. And, I just kind of like, I didn’t know what I was going to do after that. But, to keep it general, I was out. And, that helped me after that. I feel like I felt good about myself, like, “Oh okay. I’m not going to take anything. I’m not an opportunist.” I’m not going to just go into any situation that’s going to compromise my integrity, and compromise who I am, who I want to be; as a Muslim woman, as a Black woman, as a Woman.
Team BMGFly: What would you cite as the foundation of your success?
Salima: Let me tell you, ALLAH! Girl, no cliche, this is the truth! For real! Because, every time, when I’m off, if I’m off on my prayers, or if I’m kind of like bugging out; and I’m not aligned, if I’m not centered, I don’t get nothing done. And, every time, when I’m on and I stop, and go pray; and meditating, and everything. Just spiritually keeping myself together, really is what helps me to get to every next level. I promise you. No matter what happens, even when things kind of go left, without freaking out and just getting— feeling defeated, when I don’t do that, when I do that, that’s when everything just goes even further down. When I still keep my faith, that’s what it is, my faith, really keeps me to get to every next step. Sometimes we say we have faith. But, when you literally, actively have faith… Our faith is always tested. Every situation tests our faith So when we actively are practicing that, everything gets better, everything progresses, literally. Because Allah always looks out, Allah always sees, “ Oh, she’s trying. Oh, look I’m glad you didn’t do that! You could’ve freaked out, but you didn’t. I’m gonna help you, and I’m going to give you something better.” And, I can testify. That’s what’s been my life like recently, so I’m just staying faithful. That’s what it is. That’s my core. That’s my foundation. And, then too, family and stuff. That company, that encourages you, “Don’t stop.” I have a lot of people who encourage me to keep going. That helps me to get to every next level that I need, the success.
Team BMGFly: #BlackMuslimGirlFly is an empowerment brand created to uplift and remind Black girls that they are FLY in many ways. What advice would you give all the Black Muslim girls out there, worldwide, to cultivate their own individual #BlackMuslimGirlFly?
Salima: I would say, “Don’t be afraid of yourself.” You know? There are so many different personalities out here, there are so many different things to see. The world is new Social media. We’re in constant contact with each other. We’re constantly watching each other, what we’re doing. And, first of all, I feel like sometimes we have to step back and get out of this whole matrix thing. And, really sit with yourself. If you’re creating a brand and doing something, sit with yourself. And, sit with God. Align yourself, and find out… make your plan, watch your affirmations, do what you need to do to keep your… Whatever your creative thing is, whatever you’re doing, do it. Don’t look at what other people are doing. Don’t rush yourself. And, don’t feel like you are not enough of this, or too much of this, or anything like that. Everybody has their lane. Everybody has something amazing that they can do. Everybody has that thing, that special thing. We’re all stars. We’re literally made of the same stuff as the stars. That’s where I get “Interstellar Dreams,” too.
Team BMGFly: What’s something you haven’t done yet, but would like to do next?
Salima: There are so many things! I’ll be here for an hour! I would like children. I’m corny! I want to travel. I want to get out of the country. I’ve never been. I want to see the world.
Thanks again for sharing your story with us and the rest of the world. I believe it’s very important for us, Black Muslim Girls and Women, to stand up and speak up and let the world know we are here and we’re making things happen. For far too long, we’ve been made to be invisible.
Visit Salima’s website: WWW.SALIMASOUND.COM
**Check out her latest: ”Freedom” EP Coming July 4th
Something people can rock to for the summer and fall,
while you wait for the album!**
Social Media: @SALIMASOUND