For years, a hidden jazz phenomenon has been quietly brewing within the vibrant city of Los Angeles, drawing fervent fans and creating an enviable underground music scene. The man behind this movement is Yousef Hilmy, the founder and creative director of Minaret Records. Hilmy’s journey and his dedication to preserving and advancing jazz culture in L.A. offer a unique perspective into the city’s electric music scene.
Hilmy’s commitment to creating a jazz community that thrives in the face of challenges like government policies, economic uncertainty, and inaccessibility has been the driving force behind Minaret’s success. Minaret Records, founded in 2019, has been on a mission to make jazz accessible to people of all ages and to ensure that musicians are compensated fairly for their performances. Hilmy’s hands-on approach to every show reflects his dedication. He takes care of everything, from adjusting lights to lighting incense and checking microphones. His friends and fellow jazz enthusiasts often join him, wearing Minaret merchandise and helping with various tasks to support the cause.
Hilmy is clear that Minaret is a community effort, and it’s not just about him. It’s about everyone who contributes to defining the sound and spirit of Minaret. The jazz label is more than just a record company; it’s a movement that connects people through music. The inception of Minaret Records was driven by a shared feeling of dissatisfaction within the jazz community. Hilmy and his peers believed that existing labels weren’t doing enough to support independent music and young artists.
The aficionado’s love for jazz developed gradually, with influences ranging from Miles Davis to Charles Mingus, hip-hop samples, and music from his Egyptian heritage. Growing up in Orange County, Hilmy often found himself at the center of a cultural divide, facing prejudice due to his Arab identity. Despite the challenges, he pursued his passions, eventually transferring to Brown University to study English.
The birth of Minaret Records came from a chance meeting with artist Takoda in an abandoned house in Santa Ana, California. They both envisioned creating a jazz label that represented youth culture and expanded the genre’s legacy. Hilmy’s tireless efforts and relentless commitment have made him a crucial figure in the jazz scene.
What sets Minaret apart is its sense of community. Going beyond the average record label, Minaret stands out as a collective of friends and like-minded individuals who come together to support jazz. Hilmy strives for more representation of women and queer individuals within Minaret and aims to participate in charity and education. The future of Minaret is promising, with plans for festivals, collaborations, and a growing backlog of demos. Hilmy’s boundless energy and passion continue to drive the label forward, making it an essential part of the L.A. jazz scene.
Unpredictability is part of the art form in jazz. Similarly, the intertwined fates of Minaret and Yousef Hilmy are part of a larger symphony of passion for the L.A. jazz scene. As the jazz community continues to grow, Hilmy and Minaret Records will remain at the heart of this thriving movement, fostering a culture of inclusion and appreciation for the timeless art of jazz.