Spiritual Asteroid Field

One night back in 2010, I was working on music with my current housemate while visiting SF when a spontaneous attempt to circumvent a creative roadblock launched us raging into the street on an epic escapade. It ultimately entailed wrangling a pair of software engineers (who had long noticed each other but never hung out before) back to his home studio, where we wrote and recorded this track in a memorable fit of sustained delirium.

The lyrics riff on Star Wars, Burning Man, and the Mission district in San Francisco, which I've long considered my vibrational home. After we recorded the lyrics, the song gestated for five years until I moved back to SF and then, today, hatched as this:

I'm kinda amped about the name that Adam & I came up with to describe our collaboration: ¡PuhJAMA! It stands for "the Jewish and Muslim Alliance," inspired by a video we'd posted over the holidays of an ecumenical moonwalk home wielding a Christmas tree.

Getting back on the mic after a hiatus

Among the many aspects of working at EFF that I adore is the opportunity to help represent the public interest on so many issues within the digital rights arena.  For much of 2015, I took a break from talking to journalists about policy issues, but I got back on the mic over the holidays and have tried to wield it well in the new year.

While most of my writing and press appearances in January addressed various dimensions of surveillance and the constitutional crisis it has unleashed, this discussion offered a chance to explore some concerns about social media undermining civil society:

Read on for links to another dozen articles, quotes, and interviews from early 2016....

Bumpin beats for my colleagues

My office is so amazing that our staff holiday party started at a theater, where we all went to see Star Wars on the afternoon of its debut! I went to the theater straight after talking at a rally against hate at Civic Center, where I reflected on how being the targets of ignorant vitriol is (perhaps counter-intuively) making Muslims in the U.S. even more quintessentially American than we already were.

After the movie, we shared dinner together before I spun this set—which later reached #15 on Mixcloud's funky chart—to christen our new office. Having just watched Star Wars Episode VII together, I tried to honor the occasion by including the Cantina Band song from the original Episode IV, as well as Jamiroquai’s Use the Force. But my favorite part of the mix has to the mashup I put together as an ode to my colleagues.


Shahid Buttar live @ EFF’s 2015 holiday party in SF (12.18.2015) by Shahid Buttar on Mixcloud


Catharsis: like nothing I've seen before

While recently visiting the West Bank for an annual olive harvest festival with Code Pink and Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, I learned about Catharsis, an unprecedented event I described on the Burning Man blog as:

Equal parts vigil, symposium, occupation, fire conclave, effigy burn, and party-until-dawn-under-the-stars...combin[ing] playa culture, strategic location, and an explicit sociopolitical message resonating across the ideological spectrum. From Friday evening until Sunday morning, the event brought together thousands of participants from across the country to combine ecstatic celebration with activism, peer-to-peer learning, and private diplomacy to help heal from the Drug War.

My DJ set from Saturday night, just before the effigy burn, was among my most exciting highlights of the year. It's not often one gets to rock the spot across the street from the White House, mixing deep house and MLK Jr. samples for a few thousand of my favorite people!


A downtempo, then dreamy, tribal, funky, and conscious deep house mix recorded live at Catharsis on the National Mall in Washington, DC (11.21.2015) by Shahid Buttar on Mixcloud


Ferguson and the Second Amendment

This Sunday (at the same time as I was leaving Black Rock City), Truthout published my latest writing, examining what the Ferguson uprising -- and the paramilitary response to it -- mean for constitutional rights guaranteed under the Second Amendment. Side-stepping the conventional debate between gun control vs. gun rights, this piece explores how:

The contemporary gun rights debate misses the point of the Second Amendment. A crucial piece of our constitutional design, it is neither the relic dismissed by liberals nor the panacea praised by conservatives. Understood correctly, the Second Amendment is most threatened not by gun control, but rather by the militarization of domestic police.

[I also had a chance to discuss these ideas in this podcast a few weeks later]

One last hurrah

I spent this summer living out an adolescent fantasy, roaming the east coast playing music festivals between trips to Cuba, quitting my job, and moving back to Cali. It's been a wild ride, capped by a suitably spectacular week in Black Rock City for Burning Man.

Between camping with and playing music at Something Freaky This Way Foams, DJing with Tasty as part of a takeover of Darwin Fish Tank, and the spontaneous set that ensued, I played music for 15 hours over the course of the week. Here are two 150 minute sets that I spun back-to-back the night of Thursday, September 3 and morning of Friday, September 4.

This was my first time spinning with my Tasty family from SF:


funky, dreamy, jazzy, two-and-a-half hour mix recorded live in Black Rock City for Tasty at Darwin Fish Tank (09.04.15) by Shahid Buttar on Mixcloud


I spun this mellow, downtempo, jazzy, dreamy two-and-a-half hour mix for Camp Mega Mikoshi (referring to a traditional Japanese shrine) in Black Rock City at sunrise:


mellow, downtempo, jazzy, dreamy two-and-a-half-hour mix recorded live in Black Rock City for Camp Mega Mikoshi (09.04.15) by Shahid Buttar on Mixcloud


Remembering a dear friend

A few weeks ago, I mentioned the loss of my friend, Jay Marx. Today, the Burning Man blog published a memorial I wrote to celebrate his life and activism. 

It's worth a read when you have some time, and includes videos of Jay to preserve his legacy in his own voice. Here's a teaser:

I’m hardly the only person to whom Jay Marx offered a memorable introduction to Washington, DC. Jay passed through this world entirely too briefly, but he touched a great many of us and presented a powerful example of how to apply the principles of conscious counterculture beyond building community to help refashion a new default world.

Grooving across the United States

Moving back to San Francisco this month took me two weeks and all the way across the country. In addition to several stops along the way (read on), one of my highlights was visiting my hometown -- St. Louis, MO, where I had a chance to play my first hometown DJ & MC set at Upstairs Lounge in Tower Grove for Victor Levy's going away party.

A funky deep house set on a Saturday night in St. Louis at Upstairs Lounge (08.01.2015) by Shahid Buttar on Mixcloud

If this is what a midlife crisis looks like, I hope it never ends

I've known that the summer of 2015 would be epic, but little did I know what shape its memories would take. Having left my job two months ago, and with the benefit of one month remaining on my sabbatical-of-sorts, a few reflections worth sharing leap to my mind.

"Green out of the pockets of politicians..."

The PEX Summer Music Festival in July 2015 gave me a chance to break through a few personal musical milestones. My DJ & MC set at Meso Creso on Friday night better realized the vision that prompted me to start DJing in the first place -- fusing the lyrical spirit of conscious hip-hop with the funk and delirium of house music -- than any gig I've played yet. Fortunately, the inspiration struck at a good time.

A tribal, dreamy, funky, conscious, Latin, and sometimes techy deep house set mixed on the Meso Creso sound system at the PEX summer music festival (07.04.2015) by Shahid Buttar on Mixcloud


This 2:00 video clip shows me mixing between tracks, our fabulous and frenetic crowd celebrating the wee hours of Independence Day, and a single rhyme challenging both drug policy and money in politics.


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