TEE-M, an unsigned rock musician from Karachi, Pakistan, was the subject of an interview I conducted with him.

For the fifth consecutive year, TEE-M has been named one of Music Connection Magazine’s 100 Hottest Unsigned Artists. On WPMD’s “TEE-UNsigned M’s Music Show,” he co-hosts with Mike Stark and can be heard worldwide.

TEE-M has toured for Starbucks and is featured alongside Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Wayne Kramer (MC5), Tom Morello, Ice T, Steve Earle, and others in The Ultimate Song’s short film. Farm Aid and SXSW have both screened the film.

TEE-M recently completed his debut album, “EARTHIOTIC…songs from a one-room palace,” which premiered on WPMD.org’s “Rock 50” internet radio show. The CD has gotten rave reviews.

On YouTube, you can watch a current music video for one of EARTHIOTIC’s tracks, “Disappeared.” A video for another song, “Aao Aao Aao,” is also available.

TEE-M, I appreciate your time

I understand it’s an abbreviation of your name, but why did you chose “TEE-M” over, say, “Artist Formerly Known As…?”

Or simply “T”?

TEE-M: When I first came to the United States from Pakistan, I thought to myself, “How can I make things simple for everyone in terms of my name?” So I started using my initials, TM (Tariq Mirza), because it’s easy to remember. Still, when I began performing in America, I decided to make it more like a stage name, so I added two ee’s to the T, resulting in TEE-M. And now that I think about it, it perfectly fits my EARTHIOTIC…aspirations. TEE-M could be from any part of the world. Apart from Prince, “Artist Formerly Known As” didn’t exist until TEE-M was coined. (laughter)

Please don’t misunderstand me when I say that when I first heard about a Pakistani rock artist named “TEE-M,” I was blown away. I was scared you’d have a heavy accent, but you don’t have one in your music at all. In your English-speaking music, did you make an effort to lose your accent?

TEE-M: I left the thick accent in the speech because singing was a natural process for me, and I didn’t have to work hard to lose it. I also write and perform Urdu (a language spoken in Pakistan and India) songs. In reality, “Aao Aao Aao” (Suji Ka Halwa), one of my songs from the album EARTHIOTIC, is half in Urdu and half in English. It’s generating a lot of buzz throughout the world, and it’s a big YouTube hit.

What sources do you use to get your ideas?

TEE-M: I get my inspiration from everyday things like people, food, and life in general. For example, when “Spunk” was born, I was at a wedding in Los Angeles. There was a female out there with a lot of energy and a cosmopolitan vibe. The rest is songwriting technique and craft.

I was waking up in the middle of the night with a numbing sensation on my fingertips for two or three days, which gave me the concept of “Time To Wake Up.”

In this particular parking lot near where I used to work, I used to stroll by this car with newspaper covering the windows. I didn’t see the owner again until about two or three months later when the front door was cracked open, and a woman sat on a chair outside. This was in one of Los Angeles’ most affluent districts, so it just blew my head. That is how the song “She Lives In A Car” came to be.

Is it more fulfilling to compose songs or to sing them?

TEE-M:¬†They’re both rewarding in their way. Even though I prefer to perform overwrite, once an inspired song is completed, the greatest thrill is to record it, perform it live, and have it acknowledged. Once the fruit has been plucked, one must savor every bite.

A school of thinking holds that one should write every day. I have songwriting in higher regard than that. I wait for inspiration to strike, which is why I’m probably the world’s slowest songwriter!

Why haven’t you signed yet, or are you just waiting for the ideal opportunity, as I’m sure some major labels would jump at the chance to sign you?

TEE-M: I appreciate it…

You’d think so, wouldn’t you?

With an album like EARTHIOTIC…songs from a one-room palace, I reasoned, why would any major label have an issue signing TEE-M? I should have already had a worldwide multi-platinum selling album, be neck-deep in debt, and be out of the Betty Ford Center, rehabilitating, at this point in my career. But, I suppose, all of that is still to come. (laughter)

I’m enjoying this natural progression of my music career and where it’s going. Let the chips fall where they may; I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, and that’s what matters to me.

Folk music, indie, jazz, and reggae are all represented in spring music festivals in Los Angeles. Some of them have been going on for more than 50 years. The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and the Stagecoach Festival are the two most well-known large festivals in Southern California. Still, there are several less well-known options that are less expensive and closer to home. Two asterisks indicate festivals that are suitable for children.

Saturday and Sunday, June 16-17, 3-11 p.m., Playboy Jazz Festival.
This festival is on the list since it is still technically Spring until June 21st. Bill Cosby serves as Master of Ceremonies. The roster includes Robin Thicke, Sheila E., Ozomatli, Kep Mo, Chico Trujillo, Sharon Jones, the Dap-Kings, and some local high school jazz ensembles. Since 1959, the festival has included amazing music that you may dance to while wearing your skates from skates.com. Tickets start at $20 and include hefty service charges. There are undoubtedly more expensive tickets available. The festival is held at the Hollywood Bowl, which offers shuttle service from surrounding locations and public transit. Please visit www.ThePlayboyJazzFestival.com for additional details. It’s not exactly kid-friendly, but because the festival doesn’t start until 3 p.m., you may repent at church in the morning.

Pasadena, make music. Saturday, June 16th, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
This free festival takes place on various stages throughout Pasadena. In downtown Pasadena, a part of Colorado Blvd. is closed. On the street, large stages develop, as do impromptu stages in rooftop cafes. This festival has it all, from renowned Indie rock groups who perform at the Coachella Festival to classical music. Kinky, Nortec Collective, Matt & Kim, Ra Ra Riot, Best Coast, New Villager, The Morning Benders, and Saint Motel have all performed on the main stage in the past. The cost of parking near the venues varies. If you don’t mind walking, street parking is available. At press time, the lineup for this year’s festival has not been posted on www.MakeMusicPasadena.com. Updates can be found there.

Festival of Jazz and Reggae. The 27th and 28th of May are Sunday and Monday.
The celebration takes place on the UCLA Intramural Field during Memorial Day Weekend. There will undoubtedly be directional markers erected throughout the campus. For $10, UCLA offers plenty of parking. If you don’t mind a little longer walk, street parking is available. Raphael Saddiq, Nas, and Damian Marley (Distant Relatives) have also performed there. In the coming future, more acts will be unveiled. A list of bus lines that stop in and around Westwood Village or the UCLA campus may be found on the webpage. There are hotels in the vicinity if you are coming from out of town. The days are unique, with Sunday being Jam Day and Monday being Reggae Day. www.JazzReggaeFest.com has ticketing information as well as other details.

Cajun & Blues Festival in Simi Valley. May 26-27, 10:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday are free days.
Angelenos and those in the neighboring areas enjoy a wide range of musical genres. Even if you didn’t know about it, those truly into Cajun, Creole, Zydeco, and Blues are aware of this enjoyable festival. These are also Grammy Prize categories that have suffered a significant setback, with numerous types losing their right to receive a pre-telecast award. Ignore that for a day and watch The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Candye Kane with Laura Chavez, Curley Taylor and Zydeco Trouble, The Bayou Brothers, The Mighty Mojo Prophets, Billy Lee & The Swamp Critters, and a band called Gator Beat, among others. The Blues Stage and the Cajun-Zydeco Stage are the two stages. A Muddy Waters tribute will also be performed. The festival’s other stars are the different food sellers selling Cajun-Creole cuisine prepared in their kitchens. Every day, there is a Mardi Gras parade for entertainment. The event caters to children, featuring activities such as specialty acts, talent shows, and crafts. They even have their stage for children. Directions to Santa Susanna Park in Simi Valley can be found on the festival’s website. Out-of-town visitors can stay in one of several hotels in the neighborhood. For additional information, go to www.simicajun.org.

Both the Topanga Banjo Fiddle Contest and the Topanga Folk Festival are held in Topanga, California. Sunday, May 20th, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
With adult tickets costing only 11 dollars, it’s incredible that the event is already in its 52nd year in Southern California. There are a plethora of competitions, performances, and clinics to choose from. Children under the age of ten are admitted free, and you won’t have to worry about what they’re listening. For the kids, there are crafts and contests. In between professional acts, contestants on banjo or violin, as well as singers, perform. There’s always something to do with sing-alongs, Hawaiian song workshops, and folk dancing. In addition to the music, there are several vendors selling folk crafts. Visit www.TopangaBanjoFiddle.org for more information.…

We weren’t looking for a certain band. We were, however, enormous admirers of Bob Marley, and it just so happened that his old band, the Wailers, would be performing. They’d have a dreadlock-swinging stand-in for Bob, according to the rumor. So, yes, it would be fantastic. Garth Hudson, one of The Band’s original members, would be there with his band of friends and family. Don’t forget about Phil Lesh, the Grateful Dead’s bassist. He’d be there as well.

And it was said that at some point during the night, there would be a massive Anyone can join in and play in a drum circle one of the many bongo drums. Please include me in your plans.

A get-together in the Poconos

My friends and I, who were all in college at the time (the early 2000s), used the yearly Poconos music festival as an excuse to get out of our dorms/apartments for the weekend and go on a little road trip. The Poconos Mountains in Pennsylvania are the destination. We weren’t quite hippies, but we loved music, particularly classic rock, and this festival promised to showcase “backing band” survivors from the 1970s rock scene. That’s sufficient for me. Some of the best musical events were believed to be held in the Poconos region.

Oh my, tie-dye, hemp, and pipes!

The festival had more than three stages, each with a different folk artist or jam band. The String Cheese Incident was performing that year, and their concert was the most well-attended of the evening. Dashes of forests and dramatic elevation changes nicely separated the three concert sites. And they were getting from one stage to the next included passing through small, congested villages of tie-dyed tents, where boney, bearded entrepreneurs sold everything from tie-dyed apparel to hemp necklaces to various bongs and pipes. The only item these small towns didn’t appear to have in supply was deodorant sticks.

Getting inside the drum circle

The distant sound of the drums had us enthralled. It’s a recipe for disaster when you add in all of the unnamed (but excellent) $5 beers. Colonel Kurtz appeared to be leading a group of countless people in a random bongo-drum prayer on the other side of those woods. “Oh, we have to go there, like, right now,” one of us mumbled, and off we ran, cutting through the tie-dyed village-like focused velociraptors on the hunt once more.

Drum circles, it turns out, are as dull as they sound. You either wait there bored as fifty people drum in relatively perfect time, or you awkwardly worm your way into the circle, find an empty bongo drum, and discover the hard way that you have no rhythm at all. “It’s harder than it appears,” I recall saying, blushing. It was all in good humor.

Garth Hudson and his band were, without a doubt, a highlight of the evening. Many of the people in my immediate vicinity had no idea who he was until he began playing classics by The Band, such as “Up on Cripple Creek” and “The Weight.” Everything was fine with a beer in hand and buddies nearby. It was growing dark at that point, and there was far less light pollution near the mountains to muddle up the night sky. The stars were shining brightly.…