Poet and songwriter Mustafa has released his debut project, When Smoke Rises, via his own label Regent Park Songs. The project, which American Songwriter called “one of the most poignant, intimate and authentic projects of recent memory,” exemplifies a style Mustafa himself describes as “inner-city folk music” that finds musical inspiration in the folk greats such as Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan and Richie Havens but channelled through the contemporary lens of Mustafa’s modern-day Toronto.

The project features production from heavy-hitters Frank Dukes and Jamie xx, along with multiple contributions from similarly forlorn geniuses Sampha and James Blake. Also present on When Smoke Rises are the voices of longtime friends and Regent Park natives Rax, Puffy L’z, and both the dearly departed Ali and Smoke Dawg. They are the ones without whom When Smoke Rises would not exist. More importantly, they are at least some of the people it is for. “My entire plight, since I was young, has been in and around protecting and preserving the stories of my community,” Mustafa says. “It’s the reason that I began writing poetry. I’m like how am I going to preserve the stories that are not currently being told with any authenticity?”When Smoke Rises is our answer.

Mustafa was moved to release his own music following the loss of close friends to gun violence. Much of his music is addressed to those departed friends and to his Toronto neighbourhood, Regent Park; a vehicle to honour and affirm the concerns of his community while providing sonic solace for those looking to make sense of their own loss. The video for Stay Alive prominently features footage of Regent Park, one of the first housing projects in North America and one of the biggest redevelopment projects on the continent. Mustafa’s experience of seeing the blocks, community, and culture that raised him transform into something unrecognisable is a story that is playing out in neighbourhoods across the world – the inner city from which his folk songs are born.

Release: May 28th, 2021, Regent Park Songs/Remote Control Records
Words: Remote Control