Muhsinah is an artist that has the unique balance of being scientifically imperfect. The Washington D.C. experimental singer/songwriter/producer/pianist/everything you can think of has an acceptance of herself, but also an endless pursuit of perfection. This is what I learned after my hour’s drive to see Muhsinah even though I had an 8am shift the next day. Intrigued by her Gone 2xEP, I wanted to know the next direction that this musical genius was taking.
Before I begin this concert review, I do have one confession. Though I was enamored with the synth heavy jazz Hip Hop styling of her previous albums, Daybreak 2.0, The Oscillations: Sine, and The Oscillations: Triangle, I sort of fell off the Muhsinah bandwagon. I became overwhelmed by her abstract lyrics and missed Muhsinah’s undulating synths in the rock leaning Gone 2xEP. Despite my opinions, I had a curious fascination that I could not ignore.
When it comes to a musical virtuoso like Muhsinah, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would she be one of those awkward musicians who never talk to the crowd and just play the whole time? From the very beginning, that was definitely not the case. After wishing Pierce Freelon a happy birthday at the night’s celebration, Muhsinah played the electronic symphony that is Gogh off her Daybreak album. But not until she taught choreographed steps to some eager fans (including artist Carlitta Durand) to get the party started.
Engineering her Mac and keyboard often at the same time, Muhsinah is an artist filled with endless inspiration. It didn’t just show in the songs she played, but in her transitions. Whether it was her beautiful chords seguing Gogh to Discovery, or her intro to Adele’s Someone Like You, Muhsinah’s brilliance shines in her spontaneous jam sessions. Her concert had the intimacy of watching a musician create a song for the first time.
Though Muhsinah has been a classically trained pianist since 11, her music is visceral just as it is cerebral. Her knack for industrial, inter-locking rhythms in the dougie whine inducing Stop & Go affects anyone with a pulse. In addition to her trademark percussion, Muhsinah can lock into a defining phrase, like Once Again or How Great, and score the sentiments of that song through memorable hooks and ambient vocals. She’s unafraid of being “repetitive” or “redundant” in order to get that feeling across, whether it’s optimism or disappointment.