HuDost Interview by Wayne Bledsoe in Knoxville News Sentinel promoting Sept.23 Pakistan Benefit

Pakistan flood relief fundraiser

  • With: HuDost, Laith Keilany and Friends and members of the Johnson Swingtet
  • When: 6:30-10:30 p.m. Sept. 23
  • Where: Relix Theatre, 1208 N. Central St.
  • Admission: free, with donations encouraged, food and refreshments will be available

KNOXVILLE — Over the past few years, HuDost’s musical journey has been waylaid by some serious medical detours. Just after recording the band’s album “Trapeze” in early 2008, lead singer Moksha Sommer underwent brain surgery to remove a tumor. After Sommer’s year-long recovery, during part of which she could neither speak nor see, she and musical partner Jemal Wade Hines returned to touring.

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In late July, the group had to abandon a tour when Sommer had a bicycle wreck that broke her collarbone into five pieces. It took more than a week before doctors decided to do surgery and set the bones with a metal plate.

“My health is really good otherwise!” says Sommer with a chuckle.

The group – which includes additional members, depending on where the group is performing – is going back on the road and finishing up a new EP.

The new songs stray slightly from the band’s earlier work. HuDost blends Western pop and rock music with elements of Eastern European folk music (including Macedonian, Croatian and Georgian music), as well as Arabic, Persian and Turkish traditional music. The group came together when Montreal-native Sommer and Jemal Wade Hines, of Gainesville, Fla., met at a Sufi gathering in Chapel Hill, N.C.

The duo clicked and, with possibly the widest variety of influences to ever combine in one act (from Bulgarian, African and Appalachian folk to Yes and Led Zeppelin), HuDost was born. The group put out its first album, “In an Eastern Rose Garden,” in 2005 and began gaining a reputation as one of music’s most unclassifiable acts.

“Unclassifiable,” though, does not mean less listenable. The band’s style is probably less exotic than it sounds.

“In some ways we’re trying to make more accessible some of the marketing about what we do,” says Sommer. “We play ‘normal’ festivals in front of ‘normal’ people. No matter what is triggering our songwriting processes or even what’s being created in the music, it is accessible. That’s what really matters. If the marketing has to be made more simple that’s OK.”

To that end, the group performed in venues that typically host country and Americana music, including Nashville’s Bluebird Cafe and “Woodsongs Old-Time Radio Hour” show in Lexington, Ky. And, on “Trapeze,” the group’s song “Waiting” sounds country except for some slightly unusual rhythms. However, the band also performs at World Music events.

The upcoming EP, “Waking the Skeleton Key” (which will be available at the group’s Knoxville performances), has a somewhat different flavor than the band’s previous efforts. Sommer’s songs are more clearly about certain subjects there’s a more contemporary feel to some of the music.

“And it’s very experimental, too, because I was learning a new software program while making it,” says Hines, who produced the disc. “There’s lots of soundscapey things going on. So it’s a mix of accessible and weird!”

“And you know we like that!” adds Sommer. “What’s slightly different is what people are hungry for – they just don’t know they are.”

By Wayne Bledsoe-Knoxville News Sentinel