By Pat Gunther
Dolo Jazz Suite, Baton Rouge’s most underground and hidden music scene, was born out of love and necessity. When Headset, a former Low End Theory-esque artistic installment ceased to exist, Amahl Abdul-Khaliq, aka AF THE NAYSAYER, took it upon himself to pick up the pieces of a promising, but short-lived project.
“When it didn’t work out, there was nothing really going on,” AF said. “I realized that if nothing else is happening, everything is dead. So I had to do this.”
Though it did not begin in Baton Rouge, from the start Dolo Jazz Suite has brought a sense of community to an underground scene teeming with creativity. “My friend Alyssa opened up a venue called Dharma in Lake Charles,” AF said, “and I wanted to throw my own event and learn from other people’s mistakes and make my own along the way.”
“She allowed me to run a night on certain terms so I thought if it worked in Lake Charles, it’ll work elsewhere, and we took it to New Orleans, and then eventually to our home base of Baton Rouge.”
Out of humble beginnings and private concerts at Dolo members’ homes came an incredibly unique and totally original project that has curated and cultivated some of the most talented and eclectic musicians the Red Stick has to offer.
“I want 100% original music with producers and different artists, or to even just have DJ sets from people with unique voices,” AF said. “I got a lot of love for my Dolo Jazz family, and vice versa.”
It may not be the most popular musical joint in Baton Rouge, but Dolo Jazz Suite is a family. Each artist that has come through the underground gauntlet has been welcomed with open arms, and the ability to grow as a producer and as a person in the process. “I just wanted to help my friends out, and give them the support they deserved,” AF said. “And I’m trying to do that with the locals in Baton Rouge. I want these promoters to understand our scene and the people who support it. We need people to come out and help each other.”
The sense of community created in Dolo Jazz Suite in unlike any other in Baton Rouge’s concert venues or recurring shows. More importantly, though, Dolo has allowed musicians to band together in an exciting and positive environment, conducive to personal satisfaction and achievement.
“A lot of my producer friends are Jazz musicians themselves, or people like me who kinda like to think we were bebop artists in our former lives,” AF revealed.
Though initially Dolo’s focus was heavily on the producers and musicians involved, it has grown into a full-fledged community of artists and devoted fans. “Our beats were originally for people who just made music, but now there’s other people who are checking it out,” AF said. “The fan base now is more genuine and loyal than it used to be when I think people just liked individual producers, and didn’t really care for like Dolo as a whole. Now, you’re enjoying everyone and no one’s truly a headliner. If you like one act you’re going to like them all, we try to think it’s more about the team than the individual.”
Though they all seem to have a similar vibe and cadence about them, AF THE NAYSAYER, a talented producer in his own right, prides himself on his keen ear for recognizing talent of different yet similar aesthetics.
“I’m very anal about Dolo,” AF said, “If two artists are similar they’re not playing back to back. So, one thing I learned at these different showcases is you can’t have a night with the same scene. People need contrast, and so like at Spanish Moon we try to use different guys like Hop Box, who’s more chill, to high-energy guys, then back to someone like Rez with that Houston Swing, and to Ganzfeld who’s the opposite of Rez. It’s kind of like a boxing match, you don’t know where the next punch is coming from.”
AF THE NAYSAYER’s articulation for music is quite impressive, and above all hasn’t flown under the radar entirely. He’s the official ambassador for Red Bull Music Academy’s New Orleans and Gulf Coast branches, and is currently coming off of a nationwide tour. An aficionado of nearly every genre, AF effectively employs minimalist and glitch aesthetics in his few releases, in addition to subtle nods to some of his favorite Jazz legends and hip-hop/electronic producers.
“My music’s an extension of my personality; it’s mood music for sure,” AF detailed. “It’s very atmospheric tones, and elements of glitch but also with some soul put into it. It’s an amalgamation of my influences blended together, things I liked as a child, adolescent and young adult combined.
“For me, liking certain groups to enjoying older jazz records, I pay tribute to a lot of people. It’s kinda like we borrow ideas and make our own thing happen,” AF added, “It’s like taking atoms, breaking them apart and putting them back together.”
Though AF has spent a lot of his recent time focusing on his own projects, including a long-awaited EP set to drop in August, he will always be the dedicated and passionate mind behind one of Baton Rouge’s best-kept secrets.
“What has happened with Dolo inspired people enough,” AF relayed over a grainy phone connection. “It’s great; it’s an awesome time to be living in Baton Rouge.”