Zain Alam ’13 talks with Wesconnect about “Humeysha,” a cross-cultural project, and the debut of his music video “Burma Between You and Me,” the fruit of collaboration between many, including several Wesleyan alumni. Zain, who spent time in India as an American India Foundation scholar, was inspired by “heritage and homeland” in his imagination of Humeysha, which means “forever” in Hindi/Urdu. His album will be released this Friday, October 2, through Camp&Street Records (headed by Wesleyan alumni Khalif Diouf ’11 and DonChristian Jones ’12).
WESCONNECT: What did you do after graduating?
ZAIN ALAM: Right after graduating I was awarded the William J. Clinton fellowship by the American India Foundation to work as a story scholar with the 1947 Partition Archive. My fellowship and the match with the Archive were a dream come true, considering how I much I’d wanted to return to India to continue exploring the history of Partition after I first visited for a month for research on my senior thesis titled “Dreams and Disappointment: India’s Muslims, the Muhajirs, and the Making of Pakistan.”
Traveling across north India and reliving the Partition through 150+ witnesses was a transformative experience, and in the little downtime I had I felt inspired to play with not only the sounds of urban India all around me, but also the old qawwalis and Bollywood songs I remember so fondly growing up with. I ended up leaving the fellowship with quite a few stories and songs inspired by thinking about heritage and homeland that were soon re-recorded and given life as the collaborative project Humeysha.
WC: Tell us about the music video.
ZA: Burma Between You and Me is the first song I wrote for this project. I’d always felt that there was some melodic and aesthetic affinity between the bands I love these days and much of the Bollywood and Hindustani classical music I grew up with. Being in India was the spark that set off my desire to explore this affinity. Burma had actually existed for years as a bunch of loops recorded on my computer; once the idea took hold, the song almost wrote itself in a way while I was in India, recorded on a very barebones setup in my little bedroom in New Delhi. When I returned to New York, I re-recorded the song—along with the rest of what became the debut album—in collaboration with Dylan Bostick ’13. In the spring we reached out to our close friend Ethan Young ’13 who was a film major and had recently completed a music video for another Wes band, UV Rays. Burma was the song he most wanted to shoot a music video for, and in the following months we fleshed out a script and, with a small tight-knit crew of friends, shot it in Timmy Lee’s (’12) studio—who also happens to be the artist responsible for Humeysha’s album artwork.
We felt that debuting with Burma and the music video was the best way to introduce Humeysha to the world and prepare for the release of the album. It will be released on Friday October 2nd through Camp & Street Records and available to stream on services like Spotify and Apple Music.
WC: How was collaborating with Wes people after graduation?
ZA: Collaborating with other Wes alums after graduation is very natural and rewarding in a way that almost feels like the logical extension of our time at Wesleyan, where at some point or another we were always together playing in bands, working on movies, and in general supporting one another in all of our creative endeavors. I’m very blessed to have friends from Wesleyan with a diversity of experiences and talents who joined me in helping birth Humeysha into a project that’s now come into both sonic and visual form.
WC: What do you know about Wesleyan that others may not?
ZA: It’s okay to not know precisely what you want from your time at Wesleyan. I think exposing yourself to as much as you can and soaking up the richness of your faculty and peers’ passions paves the way for good, often unexpected things to come later on.
Image: c/o Zain Alam
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- Fly high with Humeysha’s trippy “Burma Between You And Me”
- Zain Alam at the American India Foundation
- Camp&Street on Youtube
- Humeysha on SoundCloud
- Humeysha’s website
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