Kurtas Ganim: an albino champion of beat and soul

In a lifetime of soulful, mid-20th-century musical inspiration, here’s a very special birthday gift: a young man with a very modern accent who explores jazz, blues, pop and even hip-hop via a ’60s baritone that’s both raspy and sultry.

It may be a play on the term “Kurtas” — Swaim was born on December 25, 1990 to Clive Swaim of Smashing Pumpkins fame — but the artist, born Nyla Hasan Ganim, imbues his music with a beguiling soul that will blow you away with its ambition and fresh take on a classic art form.

The London-born turntablist stands in a musical lineage that also includes ’60s counterculture innovators such as Magic Sam (who, as we’ll see later on, has a touch of Kurtas in him as well), was once signed to the seminal hip-hop label Prodigy, and traces his musical education and training back to the progeny of Ahmad Jamal and Thelonious Monk (or, perhaps more appropriately, Park Hyatt or The Blue Note, which was where much of Kurtas’ cultural grounding occurred).

But for Kurtas, it was that elusive blend of the uniquely accessible and the timeless that truly set him apart from all the other turntablists out there, setting his sound apart from the noise of vaudeville and the straightforward cut-and-paste noise of the homies who made their living at gigs by dropping a chord here, a succession of repeating doo-wop syllables there, and a thick hip-hop bassline that would often carve through the air like a glass of water over the band’s heads.

Leave a Comment